You Were Right!…Or Were You?

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3 words everybody loves to hear: “you were right.”

We like to be right. Many of us try to do the right thing. In fact, our desire to be “right” is so strong and deep that we have opened its meaning up to include ideas like:

  • Do whatever feels right
  • Do whatever seems right
  • Do what is right for me might be wrong for you
  • Do the right kind of wrong

So warped is our idea of righteousness (the word which “right” is the root of) that we can live blissfully ignorant that our idea of right is absolutely wrong. This isn’t just a secular issue eluding functional logic and philosophy.

In our Christian circles, we’ve become deadset on “right” and “wrong.”

Churches divide over “right” and “wrong” decisions, big and small. Marriages end when one person is right and the other wrong. We examine Scripture to determine what we feel is right. In prayer, we sense what is “right” in our hearts. As we listen to and encourage our spouses and loved ones, we make determinations about what is “right” and push for it.

For many of us, pursuing righteousness encroaches on sin. We try to be right in order to:

  • Assuage our fears
  • Earn a good name
  • Prove ourselves trustworthy
  • Make ourselves wise
  • Build up our pride
  • Guide others
  • Get to where we want to be

In all of these things, the goal of being right is ultimately about us. Ourselves, our loved ones, our futures. But righteousness only exists in relation to God. There is no such thing as truly being “right” apart from Him.

Psalm 16:2 tells us that “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”

When we separate being right from pleasing God, we diminish the purpose of being right in the first place. We place our goals in the sin of self and this world instead of glorifying Him. As a result, being “right” is no longer a good thing –or a righteous thing.

Instead of seeing righteous as a part of following and glorifying the Lord, our twisted concept of righteousness is reward-based.

We “save ourselves for marriage” because it’s right…because it leads to healthier relationship and whatever other reasoning we’ve been told. We submit to our husbands because it’s right…because of the benefits and the way it makes him feel. We serve others on missions trips because it’s right…AND because we’ve heard so many times that when it’s over, WE are the ones blessed.

It’s not wrong to receive blessings from the Lord, even as rewards. All good gifts do come from God.

But sometimes our idea of being “right” is a lot like the idea of the kid who shapes up right before Christmas so that Santa will think he is “good.” That’s not righteousness.

Hear and recall the words of Romans 3:

“This RIGHTEOUSNESS is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…

and all are JUSTIFIED FREELY by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Righteousness is all about our standing with God. It has nothing to do with works, but rather the position of the heart. Regarding our eternal relationship with God, we are saved. Sealed. Guaranteed because of the grace of Christ.

In regards to our relationship with the Lord right now on earth, we are to be:

filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:11.)

When we want to be right or try to be or do right, we must stop to remember why it matters at all.

Remember that being right is all about the glory and the praise of God. Is an eternity of close relationship with Him, praising Him, not our reward in heaven? Let it be our reward on earth, too. Be right by Him, and righteousness won’t be  so selfish after all. 

This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday #Faith-Filled Friday, and #DanceWithJesus.

You Didn’t Need to Make It Right

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“And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” –James 1:4

Gosh. You read all that Scripture has to say about being perfect, being loving, and acting like Christ. The Words are great. The aspirations are high. But you and I always fall short. We’re always lacking in something. That’s how it feels.

We mess up. We fail.

Whether in our relationships, our attitudes, our work, our hearts, or anything else, it seems we’re always having to “make it right” even when really we haven’t done anything wrong.

Do you know this feeling?

It’s the sense that maybe you ought to apologize, even though they probably didn’t notice. Or maybe that you’ve missed out because of a poopy attitude and now you’ve got to overcompensate. You try to “make it right” just because it’s clear that something that you did or said didn’t have the outcome you expected.

…Didn’t have the outcome you expected. That’s it, isn’t it? That’s a primary cause of our culture of over-apologizing and relativizing until reality is revised to suit the desires of whoever we’re dealing with.

The resulting version of “making it right” tends to have nothing to do with right or wrong after all.

So often when we attempt to make things right, we’re attempting to make things more comfortable or easier. We’re attempting to feel better. We’re not so concerned with the “right” aspect.

That’s a problem.

Instead of trying to get it right by going to the one who makes all things right, we live Romans 10:3,

Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”

Believers know the righteous of God deep in their hearts, but we don’t always know it in our lives. We often think that things that are awkward or uncomfortable are wrong. We try to “fix” that which God broke for a purpose. Though there are times when we need to apologize and compromise, there are also many times when that works against the Lord’s will. But it doesn’t feel that way. We often feel that our feelings are the enemies we need to defeat instead of sin.

We know He saved us from sin –but He has also saved us from the need to be comfortable and feel better. Further, He has saved us from having to figure out “good” and “right” for ourselves.

God is the one who determines what “right” ultimately means. Our attempts at “making it right” are often better stated as our attempt to “make right our own.” We don’t have to. We have Jesus. We have the Bible. We have the Holy Spirit.

Yes. We fail. We mess up. We aren’t perfect. Even our best intentions can result in difficultly, mistakes, and pain. But the thing about His righteousness is that it stands in our stead. Jesus is our righteousness, making us faultless in the sight of the one who matters most.

Before we try to correct what we think is wrong in ourselves, our relationships, and more, we must ask if it’s wrong in the sight of God. If it’s not…then we need to let Christ’s righteousness be enough to make discomfort, pain, and mistakes fruitful.

Hands off “making it right” when it isn’t wrong. Instead, let’s try making it His. He can take care of the righteous part.

This post is being shared on: #LifeGivingLinkup #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, and #TellHiStory.

What Hope Can a Broken Heart offer?

How can our brokenness be useful to others? Offering our broken hearts to the Lord as a sacrifice and a praise is one thing. But, giving ourselves to others when we’re messy and vulnerable is another.

Though we shouldn’t recklessly hand over the reins to our heart or carelessly welcome anyone’s influence into to our hurts, there is a place for being broken among people. Scripture allows for this, explicitly and implicitly:

“Mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.” –Romans 12:15-16

We are to share in other’s sufferings and grief. At the same time, sharing even in Christ’s sufferings, we are to be those who mourn and who need others to mourn alongside us. That’s part of living in harmony. According to Christ, it’s part of living in this world:

“In this world you will have trouble.”John 16:33

Recognizing that fact and admitting to broken-heartedness is part of witnessing to others, Christian and unbelieving alike.

Unfortunately, there are two lies we believe that stop us from living and proclaiming Him to others even when we’re a mess.

The lies?

  1. To make anyone want the Gospel, we have to make it attractive by having it all together.
  2. No one else will understand anyway. Our comfort isn’t in this world.

Half-truths are deceptive lies, aren’t they? That anyone understands, and cares, and has been messy and broken and vulnerable –that’s what we need to hear. That’s what the unsaved and the struggling believer needs to know before they can live the end of John 16:33:

But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Living as those who know that He has overcome the world, our brokenness is a testimony to the Lord and to the realities of this world that many people deny. It means that in our brokenness, we still have hope to offer because:

  • We can be broken but not destroyed.
  • Our brokenness does not cause us to be useless and abandoned, but loved and sufficient in weakness because our strength is in Him.
  • The stream of living water in you and me doesn’t cease to flow when our persons of clay pottery shatter. It flows all the more freely.
  • Defenses down, hearts exposed, the honesty of being broken is something this world doesn’t admit or acknowledge -not with any hope.

BUT in our brokenness, we continue. We fix our eyes. We smile. We pray. We offer ourselves to others anyway, because our worth isn’t found in the all-together we have to give. Our worth, to others and in our innermost being, is bound up in the one who was broken for us.

That’s why our brokenness offers hope. His body and Spirit were broken, separated from God Himself, rejected. Offered as a sacrifice, as our broken hearts are to be. God uses that sacrifice, raw and messy in our lives and others’ to help restore life, revert perspective, and bring us into a more intimate reliance on Him.

Imagine- when your broken heart is sacrificed to the Lord, He uses the mess to let others know the truth, His presence, and the hope He has to offer all of us. The hope we need. The hope even we as believers ignore when we pretend that brokenness doesn’t come before redemption.

This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday #Faith-Filled Friday, and #DanceWithJesus.

What Your Broken Heart is Worth

Photo from: Pixabay

I’ll admit, this idea hit me when I misheard the lyrics to “First” by Lauren Daigle. I thought she was singing: “before I bring my need I will break my heart.” The line didn’t quite make sense, but I was convinced that’s what she was singing, and then I read this verse:

“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.”
Psalm 51:17

Could it be that the Lord values our brokenness? That a worthy sacrifice in His eyes is our hearts –broken? It sounds sinister, but we know our Lord is good.

It follows then, that the Lord’s desire for our broken hearts is the same as the Lord’s desire for our good. A broken heart can be a blessing. A broken heart can glorify God.

Earlier, in Psalm 51:10, we read the much loved line:

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Could it be that this heart is one in the same at times?

David exemplified this as he wrote this Psalm. It was written when David was confronted about his adultery with Bathsheba. Convicted and mourning his sinfulness and its consequences (like his son’s resulting death,) David chose not to turn from God. He chose not to mend his grief with proof that he could be worthy again if he tried.

Instead, David offered the Lord his broken heart. It was through that sacrifice that David’s heart was made clean again and that His joy was returned. Through that sacrifice and brokenness, David was given a willing spirit again and could experience and witness the Lord’s true forgiveness.

When our hearts are broken, something is exposed and made vulnerable. What’s inside the heart (though formerly fortified) becomes available for change, healing, and growth. In fact, the healing work of redemption is nothing without there first being a need for the healing and the redemption.

When we break open our hearts (or have them broken and hand them to the Lord,) it is a sacrifice on our part. It’s a sacrifice of dignity, of a sense of control, and of our pride. To sacrifice our broken hearts to the Lord is to say: “I won’t try to fix this my way, but I will it to you for your glory and your glorious work.”

It is praise to the Lord to offer Him our broken hearts as sacrifices, because we’re offering for Him to freely correct, clean, and rebuild us as He pleases, to His glory. It is a putting aside of all the gunk we have in our hearts to return our hearts to their maker. When your heart is breaking, let it be a blessing and a praise.

This post is being shared on: #LifeGivingLinkup #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, and #TellHiStory.

Being Empty Versus Being Emptied

photo from: mymorningmeditations.com

Who hasn’t reached the end of a day exhausted, empty, and totally wiped out? We all have moments like that, and sometimes they come after we’ve done good things. It’s often after VBS, the big retreat, or an amazing series of conversations about the Gospel that we find ourselves feeling drained.

Paul understood this feeling and alluded to it in his epistle of joy, saying:

“But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you” Philippians 2:17

All that comes from faith comes as a pouring out, a giving up. Romans 12 refers to this as “offering ourselves up as living sacrifices.” This was true of Christ. In His earthly ministry, Jesus lived a life of emptying Himself out. Even in the beginning, He:

“…though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant.”Philippians 2:7

He emptied Himself for the crowds, forsaking the appearances of wisdom and righteous reputation. In the eyes of this world, He gave up His high stature as teacher and prophet to mingle with the sinners and the poor. He gave of Himself to heal others, to raise the dead, to teach those who never listened. His heart was constantly poured out on those who He knew would betray Him.

Jesus even emptied Himself of His life on the cross.

BUT, Jesus was never empty. Likewise, Paul, in the earlier passage, said he was “poured out” yet just two chapters later explained that he is content in every situation. That’s because he knew the secret to contentment.

Indeed, Paul, imitating Christ, knew the secret to being emptied without ever being empty: To be filled with the joy and hope of the promise of God. To live as one who believes and acts on the truth that:

“He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior”Titus 3:5-6

See, the Holy Spirit is always with us. Present and working, dwelling in us, the Holy Spirit fills us, constantly renewing us in the Lord. Jesus promises that:

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:38.)

Living water doesn’t dry up. The Holy Spirit doesn’t flee. The Word of God never fails to refresh. Christ’s transforming work in us never dries up. We can be living sacrifices. We can pour ourselves out in faith. Because we can rely on the maker of water, the multiplier of all we need, and the well of life to keep us full.

Drink deeply of Christ. Be filled. As He pours out generously, so can we.

This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday #Faith-Filled Friday, and #DanceWithJesus.

The Faithful “If”

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In Philippians 2, Paul explains what the “ifs” of faith can amount to. We read the words “if any” over and over again. Paul explains how the “ifs” we desire can add up to joy. Sometimes it helps to read Scripture backwards.

Those “ifs,” for instance, are based on the presuppositions that follow:

  • Have the same mindset as Christ
  • Look to the interest of others
  • Value others above yourself
  • Do nothing out of selfish conceit
  • Be united in one Spirit and Mind

Before listing these presuppositions, Paul says that these “make my joy complete” (Philippians 2:2.) Paul was not speaking merely of people doing things in faith to make him proud and happy.  He was explaining not just his joy, but the joy of those who read the Word and listen, resulting in a life that glorifies God.

These presuppositions set us up for the “anys” we long for in life. They fulfill the “if” of faith needed to move us from speculative belief into faith assured by the reality of Christ at work in you and me.

What are these “anys?”

  • If any comfort
  • If any encouragement
  • If any common sharing in the Spirit
  • If any compassion and tenderness
  • If any working out of our own salvation
  • If any of God working in us to fulfill His good purposes
  • If any shining like stars

IF we desire any of these in our lives then we need refer back to those presuppositions. And don’t we desire these?

In His grace He gives us every good and perfect gift. By His mercy we are saved without doubt after trusting Christ. But He doesn’t promise to break through our every barrier and buffer. The Lord doesn’t say that we will feel His presence and have His complete joy when we don’t walk with Him.

He certainly doesn’t promise to make us feel supported and cared for when we act for selfish reasons. In fact, Scripture says that “even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong–you want only what will give you pleasure” (James 4:3.)

So often when we wonder why He doesn’t seem near and or isn’t clearly working in our lives, we are also choosing not to live near to Him or open to His working in our lives. We live “fists closed,” as Ann Voskamp says.

On the days of exasperation and desperation that we cry out “Lord, give me anything” or “Lord, I’ll take anything!” these are the things we desire. These “if anys” are what our hearts long for as we seek to live lives that glorify Him and are filled up and overflowing with His presence.

But it’s also on those days that we tend to be willing to open our hands only to collect and hold possessively close. Our hands aren’t open to giving or to clasping palms with others in the body of Christ. Our minds aren’t open to the mind of Christ or the interests of others.

We live like one way, dead-end streets to “me-ville.” At the same time, we wonder why the love of Christ doesn’t roll on in. (tweet this!)

Longing for these “if anys” but missing the point, we change our hearts to say “if only.” If only Christ were here. If only I could feel His love. If only others showed me compassion. Then…then we could get to the pre-suppositions. But that’s not the order God created.

Start with “if any” and obey. Start with Christ first and others above myself.  Draw near to Him, and He will draw near to you (James 4:8.) You won’t have to say “if only.”

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” –Philippians 2:1-5
This post is being shared on: #LifeGivingLinkup #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, and #TellHiStory.

Praying After Has a Purpose

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We pray before we eat. Before our days begin. Before we go to sleep. Often, we pray before big events and decisions. We pray as loved ones face difficulties. But we don’t have to stop there.

Keep praying after.

In our limited sense of time, that can feel futile.

Why pray about something that has already happened? Can the Lord change even that which is in retrospect? Is He sovereign over history when it’s already been written?

Yes.

History, it is often said, is life’s greatest teacher. To build better futures, we look at the past. So praying in retrospect makes sense.

Unlike “changers” in sci-fi movies that erase and replant memories, the Lord is in the business of changing hearts. And while that may not change history, it changes our perspective of it. That makes all the difference.

After you complete that nerve-wracking conversation, pray. Turn to the Lord. He can work in your heart to use that conversation for good. He does, after all, work all things together for the good of those who love Him according to His will and great purposes (Romans 8:28.)

He can also change the heart of the one you spoke to. Or the loved one who faced the tragedy. And even the course of that decision you made that you’re not so sure about.

It’s never too late with the Lord,

…and that should effect how we live in this world and how we relate to others. Forgiveness is all the more possible when we live in the truth of that fact: grace has no expiration date. Not between the Lord and any of us, and not between any of us at all.

So pray after it all goes crazy, it all goes well, and you have no idea how any of it could go anywhere. He remains faithful and above all.

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.”1 Chronicles 29:11

This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday #Faith-Filled Friday, and #DanceWithJesus.

Pray First

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I remember when these words sounded limiting –were you ever in that place? Praying first…or really before anything at all, seemed so restrictive. It took up valuable time and energy. Praying first meant either doing something obligatory and then continuing in my own way or having to sit around and wait while time was a-wasting.

But these words have become sweet. Praying first is a blessing the Lord provides. When we really turn to Him in prayer, laying all before Him, there is a peace unlike any other that permeates our lives.

  • What if you never had to guess about the right answer?
  • What if you never had to wonder if you were doing the right thing?
  • What if you didn’t have your plans messed up because you waited to make them until the timing was right?
  • What if you never looked back in regret, believing you really disobeyed God in a decision?

These things happen when we pray first, and when we pray in line with His will. Think of all the verses the Lord gives to show us this truth.

To name a few:

 “…in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 4:6-7

Scripture knows it, too. The peace of God, the kind of peace that guards us, keeps us, and changes our lives and hearts, that fills us when we present ourselves in prayer to the Lord.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” -1 John 5:14
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” –1 Thessalonians 5:6-7

Put these two verses together. God hears us (indeed other verses say will give us anything) when we ask according to His will. God’s will for us is that, for one thing, we pray continually.

To be in His will, we need to be praying. To pray in His will, we need to be praying. (tweet this)

When we really pray –as in, going before the Lord and doing so to give His thoughts, Word, and ways priority in our lives- we hear Him. We get closer to Him. We find ourselves moved and led because we are in closer fellowship with one we can go to always. He’s also the best one to go to always. He’s God.

There’s a reason prayer gives us peace that transcends. It’s in prayer that we are nearest to Him, and He defines peace. He is eager to fill us with it and keep us there (Isaiah 26:3.)

Praying first puts the Lord’s will first. (tweet this)

It puts Him above ourselves, which keeps us where we ought to be- at the feet of Jesus, following Him along the perfect way. That makes it hard to get lost. It removes worries of missed turns and bad timing, replacing them with the perfection and grace of our Savior.

Pray first when you:

  • Get up in the morning
  • Face difficult tasks
  • Make decisions
  • Eat a meal
  • Enter a conversation
  • Spend time with someone you love
  • Get the feels (anger, joy, excitement)
  • Think you’ve got it handled
  • Begin routine tasks
  • Consider your relaxation and entertainment options
  • Start to worry
  • Make plans
  • Say yes
  • Say no
This post is being shared on: #LifeGivingLinkup #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, and #TellHiStory.

Love Others

photo from: everydaywild.com

Love your neighbor as yourself. This, we know well, is the second greatest commandment:

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” –(Matthew 22)

All other commandments are encompassed in these two. So, loving God and loving others can take a ton of different forms. Not lying is one form. Being generous is another.

But the love which Scripture tells us to have for one another is deeper than our “doing.” Truly loving others depends on our loving God, as the second commandment follows and hangs on the first. The first- love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind- is about how we are. It’s with our whole being that we are to love Him.

When we love others, it’s to flow out from that all-encompassing, defining love that we have for God. Our ability to have that love at all comes from His loving us (1 John 4:19.)

Do you see the inter-dependency here?

To love others well, we must love God with our whole being. For our whole being to love God, we must love others. For us to love at all we must experience the love of God to have love defined for and instilled in us, uprooting our corrupted version of the concept.

It’s the love of God, forceful as the ocean surging through us and shaping us like a rocky shore, that allows love to change things.

When we want our loved ones to change their minds or hearts or ways…

During the times that are tough when we long for others to grow and heal and find worth in life…

As we rejoice with others…

While we cry out in loneliness, suffering, clinging to hope…

It’s that real love that really takes affect and changes things.

We can follow endless strings of advice and wise reasoning. Our book shelves can be filled with literature on strengthening relationships, reaching those around us, and becoming more selfless. In discussion we can adopt amazing, effective strategies. When others frustrate and hurt us we can do our best to forgive and to see the good in them.

But what we really need is the love of God. What we really need, to love others, is to love the Lord and to be loved by the Lord.

His Word doesn’t say “noisy clanging cymbal” for nothing. All of our doing and trying and striving can get other’s attention. It can make noise in their life, waking them up and making waves. Without love, it never turns to music. It never gains rhythm, direction, or purpose. There is no harmony with the heart that is hearing it –without the love of God.

Start there.

As you look at others, trace your steps backwards. Step back to loving them as you do yourself, not as your style permits. One foot further, step into loving them because you love the Lord. Look to Him for the welling up inside of a more perfect love. And as you open up to be filled, step back further. Make the space for His love to be for you, too. Love because He first loved you, and that love will carry through.

This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday #Faith-Filled Friday, and #DanceWithJesus.