Seek God

“…as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
Romans 3:10

I am not perfect. It is amazing how difficult it is to actually write and to say these words even though I know they are the truth. Yet day after day I find myself condemning myself for falling short of an unspoken standard–for falling short of perfection.

That attitude I shouldn’t have had. Those words I shouldn’t have spoken. That show I shouldn’t have watched. That perspective I hadn’t considered before passing judgment. Whether society considers my sins large, small–or in some cases, acceptable–anything short of God’s standard is indeed sin.

God is perfect; and His standard is perfect. Yet I am not–and I never will be. All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). Even being a believer doesn’t make me perfect in the here and now. Yes, Jesus has clothed me with His robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10). Yes, He makes my sins as white as snow (Psalm 51:7). Yes, he removes my sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). But my sinful nature still strives for control. Every moment of every day I must choose life or death, love or hate, good or evil; I must set my mind on things that are pure and lovely and take every thought captive (Philippians 4:8; 2 Corinthians 10:5). And although I know what is right, I don’t always choose wisely. In fact, I often, like Paul, do the exact opposite of what I will to do (Romans 7:15). I want to speak truth, but a lie or exaggeration pours forth from my mouth instead. I want to encourage, yet I tear down. I want to help, but my will refuses to make the effort. Day after day my actions prove contrary to what my heart knows to be true. Why? Because underneath that robe of righteousness is a sinner saved by grace. I have been wiped clean spiritually, but I am not perfect. And although I must always identify and confess my sins, I must also be like Paul and rejoice that through Jesus I am free from condemnation and death. No, I am not to celebrate my imperfection. No, I am not to use my sinful nature as an excuse to keep sinning. God’s Word is clear that those who remain in sin do not truly know Him (1 John 3:6). I am, however, to celebrate that perfection put on imperfection for me. God became flesh in order to pay the penalty I could never pay myself.

Jesus died so I can live.

But I’m still not perfect.

And neither are you.

Seriously. I know this may not sound like encouragement, but it is. No one is perfect. So it’s time we stop seeking perfection, stop condemning ourselves and others every time we or they miss that elusive mark of perfection. Rather, it’s time we begin seeking the Perfect One. It’s time we extend the grace God’s shown us to those around us and to ourselves.  Instead of striving each day to meet an unattainable standard–and expecting others to do the same–we should strive to know our Savior more. Yes, doing so may expose more of our insecurities and impurities–after all, the more light we shine in the darkness, the more dirt we’ll see–but doing so will also allow the Righteousness One to skim that dross off the top, to wipe away the dirt from our lives.

No one is perfect. We all need Jesus.  And the more we seek Him, the more we’ll see Him;  and the more we see Him, the more we’ll recognize our desperate need for Him and for His righteousness.

God is holy.

We are not.

So I encourage you today–I encourage myself today– to stop trying to be something you’re not. Stop trying to be perfect. Rather than allowing your imperfection to keep you from drawing near to God, let it propel you into the arms of our Father.

Seek the One who will never fail. Seek the One who saved you before you ever realized your need for a savior. Seek Him and you will find Him, when you search for Him with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).

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Let Us Rejoice

Open to me the [temple] gates of righteousness;
I shall enter through them,
I shall give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord;
The righteous will enter through it.
I will give thanks to You,
for You have heard and answered me;
And You have become my salvation [my Rescuer, my Savior].
The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone.
This is from the Lord and is His doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
This [day in which God has saved me] is the day which the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
PSALM 118:19‭-‬24 AMP

Salvation isn’t man’s choice; it’s God’s. Look at the above passage from Psalm 118. The gates are to God’s temple. The gates of righteousness are God’s gates. God is the One who opens them. God is the One who foreknew and answered our need of a Savior. God is our Rescuer. God is our Healer. God is the Cornerstone.

Salvation is from the Lord and is His doing.

We must remember this today. Salvation is God’s idea, God’s plan, God’s doing. The gospel is “the power of God” (Romans 1:16). Man could never save himself. All our righteousness is as filthy rags before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6). This is what makes salvation marvelous: God loved us first (1 John 4:19). And because God loved us first, God sent a Savior before we realized we needed one; God redeemed us knowing we could never redeem ourselves.

The reason we can celebrate this day is because this day is one of salvation–salvation brought about by God through God.

Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

 

Bear the Seed

He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.
Psalms 126:6 ESV

Suffering. Grief. Despair. We despise them. We run from them. Yet inevitably, they settle in at the seemingly most inconvenient and often unsuspecting times.  Our loved one succumbs to cancer; our friend suddenly dies in a freak accident; we find ourselves burying the child who should have lived long enough to bury us; or instead of growing old together with the one who vowed “till death do we part,” we find ourselves alone, hurt, and wounded. During these times of grief, we often ask ourselves such questions as: “Why him?” “Why now?” “Will my heart ever mend?” “Will the mourning ever cease?” or “Will I forever be enveloped by this suffocating fog of darkness?”

Grief is excruciatingly real; it is profoundly painful. And no one on earth could ever fully comprehend the chasm it creates in the soul forced to confront it. True despair is as unique as the people walking through it; no two people walk through the valley of the shadow of death along the same path.

For those of us on the outskirts of suffering, we tend to encourage those within its grip by speaking the words of Psalm 30:5: “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” And this is true; our weeping won’t last forever. It may last a long time; it may last most of our lives, but it will not last forever. After all, eternity awaits, and eternity with Jesus ushers in with it hope, joy, and healing.

Nevertheless, there is indeed more than just the promise of an an eternity without tears. As my friend, a friend who has walked that dark and lonely road more than once, shared with me the other day, there can also be joy within the mourning. No, I’m not saying we will be able to rejoice at every moment during a trial or a tragedy that comes our way. Nor am I saying we should stifle our grief and hide our tears. Even Jesus wept at the sight of Lazarus’ tomb. When we find ourselves standing by the graveside of the one we loved, we will mourn. We will weep. We should. Grief is a process; it is a path we must walk. Attempting to avoid it will only lead us astray and make the journey through longer and more difficult.

Nevertheless, what I am saying is while we mourn, we can mourn with hope. We can mourn with purpose. Instead of allowing our tears to fall onto fallow ground, we can sow them. We can sow those tears in the fields of our heavenly Father. And when we sow in God’s field, the harvest will come.

As I’ve said before, God does not promise a life free of weeping–there will be death, there will be pain, there will be sickness, there will be sorrow. Yet He does promise a harvest; he does say we will reap–if we do not lose heart and if we are willing to bear the seeds, even the seeds of affliction and despair.

As I’ve journeyed through life, I’ve seen two kinds of weeping: worthless and purposeful. The former weeps in despair at what’s lost, at what will never be; it sees only darkness.  The latter weeps at what’s lost while also knowing that new life often requires death. Even an earthly seed must die before it blooms.

Worthless weeping views despair as a deep, endless cavern–an abyss that draws us farther and farther from the light. Purposeful weeping views despair as a tunnel, a tunnel that, although dark and dysmal for a time, will eventually end. Whether that tunnel is long or short, it will definitely end and we will definitely see the light.

When we weep with a purpose, we weep with an attitude of worship.  In doing so we are in actuality “bearing the seed for sowing.” The King James version calls this “precious seed.” And it is indeed precious. It’s the seed of despair, the seed of turmoil, the seed of tribulation and trial. None comes easy, yet each seed carries within it something precious. The seeds of affliction bring with them God’s amazing grace, God’s sovereignty, and God’s harvest.

In 2015 I embarked on a journey to healing. This journey was filled with heartache, with pain, and with many tears.  Yet all this despair was not in vain. For each tear that fell, fell into the hands of my Father. He gathered every tear I cried before Him; not one fell on fallow ground. I didn’t understand at the time the purpose of the pain or the purpose of the weeping, but I did know God had a plan. As my mentor often encouraged me, it was important I trusted God to be God and know there was a purpose in the pain.  Even in despair I had hope–hope that the seeds I planted in the ashes would indeed grow into something beautiful.

Difficult journeys are often emotional ones. They are often painful and incomprehensible by those on the outside. Yet God knows. God sees. And God has a plan. Remember this today. Be encouraged knowing the weeping is not forever. Be encouraged knowing when you weep before God’s throne, you are sowing a heavenly seed. The seeds don’t fall by the wayside; they fall onto holy ground. And God takes those seeds. He gathers them into His garden and allows the hard, earthly shell of human frailty to fall away and die in order that new, eternal blooms may grow. Remember today, my friend, the flowers of God’s garden are forever fragrant and eternally beautiful to behold. So as you go through this journey of yours, don’t hide the despair.  Don’t stifle those sobs. But rather sow in the weeping. Keep seeking, keep searching, and keep chasing after the heart of God. For as you do, you are bearing those seeds as in Psalm 126. And in God’s hands, those seeds will produce an abundant harvest–a harvest of joy, a harvest of peace, and a harvest of hope.

Manna from Heaven: a Prayer

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Matthew 6:9‭-‬13 ESV

As I prayed the above this morning, God brought to mind a prayer I wrote for a friend over a year ago. And as I read it, I felt like someone else needed to hear it as well.

So read the prayer below. And as you get to each blank, insert your name.  For this prayer isn’t just for me. It’s not just for my friend. It’s for all God’s children. It’s for you.

My Gracious Heavenly Father,

I lift up ____ to you this day.  As I place her before Your throne, I thank You for providing for her Your daily manna from heaven.   As You supplied sustenance from heaven for the Israelites, so You provide sustenance for ____–the spiritual sustenance necessary to walk through this life victoriously.  Thank You for giving ____ this day Your perfect portion of manna for her–the portion that is just right for what she’ll need.  And as she daily gathers this manna, no matter how large or small it may look as she gathers, may she know confidently that the manna You provide for her will always be more than enough to accomplish what it is You have set out for her to do.  May she not live by bread alone, but by every Word which proceeds from Your mouth.  May she continue to hide Your Word in her heart so she may not sin against You.  May You send her daily reminders of Your love for her. May You allow her to see things through Your eyes. Grant her wisdom beyond human understanding.  And as she rests her head each evening, may she lay down in peace and sleep knowing You are watching over her, You go before her, and Your mercies are new every morning.

Jesus, You are ____’s living bread.   You are ____,s living water.  As she trusts in You, You fill her to overflowing.  You satisfy her with Your goodness.  No, life is not always easy; in fact, it is often contrary to what we’d expect.  Yet it is often in the darkness Your light will shine. It is in chaos Your peace is known. It is in hardship Your grace gives strength. It is in doubt Your faith gives hope. It is in mourning Your joy is made full. You did not promise ____ a life of ease. Yet You did promise her life… eternal life. And You promise to never leave her nor forsake her. You promise to never let her go. Never. No matter what. So may ____ cling to the Rock. May she hide under the shadow of Your almighty wings.  May _____ continue to rest in the knowledge You are God, and she is Your child.  You love _____ with an everlasting love.  And You provide for her.  You give her the grace, the strength, and the wisdom to handle every moment of every day.   And as she faces each and every moment, may she know she doesn’t face it alone, for You are with her, leading her, guiding her, and protecting her.

Thank You, Lord.  Thank You for Your faithfulness to Your children.  Thank You for Your faithfulness to ____.  May she rest under the shadow of Your almighty wings this day and forevermore.  May she not hear nor listen to any other voice but Yours.  For You alone are the way, the truth, and the life, and no one else has ____ in heaven but You.

You, Lord. It’s all about You.
Amen.

God Always Answers

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
Psalms 34:1

“God is answering our prayers!”

We often proclaim this joyfully when what we’ve asked for by faith is coming into sight. Our sick relative is getting better. Our once empty womb is now sustaining new life. The job we’ve always dreamed of is now our reality. It is amazing to see and to experience the blessings of God. Praising Him during moments like these is not only easy and appropriate but also necessary to give God the glory He deserves. For we must remember, “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).

Yet there is another side to answered prayer:  prayer that at first sight appears unanswered. The relative is getting worse instead of better. The job went to someone other than you. Your womb is still pining for new life. You’ve prayed, you’ve sought, you’ve searched, you’ve surrendered, but the answer you long for has yet to arrive. Or maybe the answer has come, and it is unexpected and undesirable. Your loved one is now gone. You are now unemployed and uncertain where the money will come from. Your momma’s heart is mourning the lack of life within as you watch your friends placing their hands on their bulging bellies.

Regardless of what our eyes may see and our hearts may feel, however, we must remember that God always answers our prayers. Always. He may not answer them the way we had hoped or in the way we had expected. His answer may be completely opposite of what we had requested. But He always answers.

And regardless the answer, He still deserves the glory.

Now before you stop reading believing I’m an insensitive Christian whose never struggled a day in her life, I want to remind you of two things. First, God does not cause evil; it’s against His nature. Nor does He make bad things happen; bad things happen because we live in a fallen world full of fallen people. God does not tempt us; nor does He lead us astray.  His intentions are always pure and always just. And second, I am in no way minimizing your pain. Your pain is real. Your grief is real. Your struggle is real. Even Jesus suffered physical and emotional agony as He walked out His Father’s plan.

Evil, heartache, and pain exist; and they will remain until Jesus returns.

Yet regardless how we feel, how we hurt, or how we struggle, God is sovereign. And we must bless Him for His sovereignty. He has the power to use that sick relative to lead a nurse to the Lord. He has the ability to use your testimony at that relative’s funeral to reignite the passion of those present. He has the foresight to know that seemingly perfect job may not have been what was best for you; and another, more perfect job is on its way. He understands that while your womb may be empty, there is a child born to another woman–a child who desperately needs a family of his own–who will soon enter your home and ultimately your heart.

Or you may never see the purpose of your pain on this earth. You may never understand why your child has that disease. You may never know why you didn’t get that job. You may never understand why you remained without a child of your own.

Yet God is still God. And God is still good. As the popular song by Tree63 goes, “He gives and takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Now my dear fellow soldier, I do want to say it again: your pain is real. The heartache and uncertainty are not illusions. Nor can they be switched off in an instant. I am not asking you to ignore the hardships or bottle up your grief. What I am reminding you is that even when all seems lost, we must remember God always hears our prayers, and He always answers. God holds the entire world in His hands. He holds our past, our present, and our future. Although “now we see in a mirror dimly” and “know in part,” one day we will “know fully“(1 Corinthians 13:12). One day we will look back at our lives and see the hand of God moving through it all. Even the dark parts will be as light through the eyes of eternity.

So I encourage you today to thank God for answered prayers. Thank Him for the yeses. Thank Him for the nos. Thank Him for the not nows.  Thank Him even when it doesn’t make sense.  Thanking Him may not lessen your pain, and it in no way negates your grief, but it will magnify His name. And God calls us to praise Him. To praise Him continually. So whether you are walking through the valley, climbing the mountain, or standing victoriously on the mountaintop with arms open wide, God is always worthy of praise. God is worthy of praise even when His will is not our way. And I dare say God is worthy of our praise especially when His will is not our way.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18