Monday, November 26, 2012

Blessings, Not Expectations

One thing I realized during the Thanksgiving season...we have 365 days to be grateful for all that God is given us. Unfortunately, we don't use all 365 days. If we are honest with ourselves, we can admit that we often think we are entitled to the things in our lives. We think we deserve what we want, when we want it. And the saddest part? We have taken our blessings and turned them into expectations. Our health, our money, our happiness - rather than seeing them as gifts from God, we see them as things we deserve. Why?
This year with Matt's siblings, instead of doing a Secret Santa, one of my sister-in-laws suggested we give the money to charity. Together, we were able to give $100 to World Vision. We bought a goat and two chickens for a family in desperate need of basic life necessities. The recipients of our goat and chickens probably have a much better grasp of how EVERYTHING is a gift from God and that they are helpless without Him. We, on the other hand, have a false sense of control and an even falser view of entitlement. We begin to believe that we deserve and expect blessings.
How do you know that's you?
When you are robbed of something - happiness, material thing, relationship, health - does a part of you get angry and think you deserved that blessing?
So when we know God's truth, when we know what living out His will for our life looks like, when we know all of this and yet we look God in the eye and tell him NO are we surprised when we feel distant from him and his blessings? When we live like this and when we tell God no, I believe two things happen.
1. In our disobedience - we miss out on the blessings God had in store for us.
2. In our disobedience - we walk away from God's protection.
Just look at Jonah chapter 1. It's an incredible story.

(v. 1-3)The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”
But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish.

(Note: Jonah's audacity!!! Looking God right in the eye and saying: no. And yet, how often are we Jonah? How often do we know God's will and God's truth and we look at Him and say: no.)

(v. 4-8)But the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart. Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship.
But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold. So the captain went down after him. “How can you sleep at a time like this?” he shouted. “Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he will pay attention to us and spare our lives.”
Then the crew cast lots to see which of them had offended the gods and caused the terrible storm. When they did this, the lots identified Jonah as the culprit. “Why has this awful storm come down on us?” they demanded. “Who are you? What is your line of work? What country are you from? What is your nationality?”

(Note: In Jonah's disobedience, what do we see here? He walks away from God's protection and God's blessings.)
Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”
The sailors were terrified when they heard this, for he had already told them he was running away from the Lord. “Oh, why did you do it?” they groaned. And since the storm was getting worse all the time, they asked him, “What should we do to you to stop this storm?”
“Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.”
Instead, the sailors rowed even harder to get the ship to the land. But the stormy sea was too violent for them, and they couldn’t make it. Then they cried out to the Lord, Jonah’s God. “O Lord,” they pleaded, “don’t make us die for this man’s sin. And don’t hold us responsible for his death. O Lord, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons.”
Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once! The sailors were awestruck by the Lord’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him.
Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.

(Note: After the storm, God not only rescues Jonah, but he also brings people to Himself. Sailors rescued spiritually, Jonah rescued physically. Our gracious God is in the rescuing business.) 

So which are you? Praising God and thanking Him for our blessings or looking at the gifts in our life as expectations?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

To Know, Love, and Follow Him - My Thanksgiving Prayer

John 14:15 - "If you love me, show it by doing what I've told you." - Jesus.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about why people choose to live out God's will or to ignore God's will. Why do some long to please Him, long to shine brightly for Him, long to witness for Him, long to grow in His truth, long to bring others along with them to Him? This is a desire God has given me. The last one is the strongest for me. I desperately want to bring others along with me in my pursuit of Christ.

Yesterday, a friend of mine had an interview and she said one of the questions was to tell of your passion. I started to think - what would have been my response? The only thing I've been able to think of ever since...
My passion is to know Jesus Christ, to follow Him, to love Him with my whole heart, and to bring others along with me.

I am not perfect. I mess up daily - hourly, really. There are times when I am selfish and want to do things MY way. But when He brings me back, when He rescues me from my selfishness, at the heart of who I truly am, this is me. My passion is to know Jesus Christ, to follow Him, to love Him with my whole heart, and to bring others along with me. Not to do this alone, but all through Christ's power and strength working in me.

So as I think of friends of mine who aren't living for Christ - I often wonder why? It really is life at its best. Everything else, chasing after anything else, leaves us empty. For me, it really leaves me restless. I am restless until I find rest in you alone, Christ.

So today, I think I've found the answer to the question I've been asking consistently for six months. Why do some intentionally walk away from God's truth and God's way of living? And some of these people are exposed to his truth. Exposed to his truth often.
Because they don't love Jesus.

Isn't that it always? If we truly loved Jesus, if we truly believed that His way was the best way, if we truly believed that He is enough - all of our choices would be in line with His truth.

God, you are big and you are good. Rescue my friends who don't know you and allow them to see this Thanksgiving that all blessings come from you. Rescue me from my selfishness. May I be so permeated with truth that I never doubt your goodness. The greatest blessing is the gift of your Son, our Savior. When we truly see that, when we truly see what has been done for us, how can we have a response other than love?

John 14:21, 23-24 - "The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that's who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him...Because a loveless world," said Jesus, "is a sightless world. If anyone loves me, he will carefully keep my word and my Father will love him - we'll move right into the neighborhood! Not loving me means not keeping my words. The message you are hearing isn't mine. It's the message of the Father who sent me."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

That Was Me

Sunday night, I had the honor of watching over 50 teenagers assemble Boxes of Hope for Metropolitan Ministries. These boxes provided a Thanksgiving meal for families who would have otherwise gone without. $500 in gift certificates to buy turkeys was collected along with 50 boxes of food. How amazing it that?!

Our scripture reference was Matthew 25:34-40. 
 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’
“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

I have a friend who has this passage on her heart. A friend who carries it with her everywhere she goes. She has more than once shared that verse 40 shapes her attitudes and actions. I want to be more like her. I want to be transformed into the person Jesus created me to be. Sometimes I think of this passage just in terms of a service project with homeless people. The thing is - the overlooked and ignored - are all around us. It's our sister, it's the girl in our bible study who we don't click with, it's our teacher, it's our friend. Think about that person's eyes. You know how you can always see the hurt and the confusion in the eyes of those who are overlooked and forgotten? The eyes say it all. Whose eyes have you looked into lately and known they felt overlooked and forgotten? How can you love them? How can you serve them? How can you care for them? When you love, serve, and care for them here's what Jesus has to say to you - That was me. You did it to me.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

CS Lewis on LOVE

Love is hard. Love of friends. Love of family. Love isn't safe. But to love is to live. The name of this blog: living life loved - that's exactly what we are. Loved by the Creator of the universe. Loved by the Savior of the world. When we realize how much we are loved, we live life differently. Until we let that love transform us, our hearts are hard.

Monday, November 5, 2012


It's who you are and the way you live that count before God. Those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. John 4:23
Worship doesn't have to be fancy. Worship doesn't have to look a certain way. Worship doesn't have to happen in a certain place. Worship is acknowledging that God is God and we are not. Worship is surrendering ourselves to our creator, savior, redeemer, and rescuer. In the midst of the chaos, we admit that we aren't in control and rely on the one who is in control. I am grateful for God's goodness last night. I am grateful that God was God, in control. I am grateful that I was able to call out to God in prayer and worship him with praises and songs along with a room full of people. It was a picture of how life is intended to be lived here on earth. It is a picture of how we will spend eternity in heaven.
Romans 11:33-36
Oh, the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, how unknowable his paths. "Who knows the mind of our God? Or who can bring counsel to him? Who has given to God, that God should repay?" For from him, through him, to him is everything. To God be the glory forever and ever. To God be the glory forever! Amen.