Thirsting For God

Psalm 41:1-2 To the chief Musician, Maschil, for the sons of Korah. As the hart panteth after the waterbrooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?

The years have come and gone and I see myself not much wiser than I was when the Lord first brought me to Himself compared to actual years of a person. For instance, I was saved 25 years ago and yet I have to wonder about my spiritual growth. As I’ve contemplated life and it’s difficulties, I’ve also contemplated why it seems I’ve hardly grown in that amount of time. Yes, there have been times where I’ve been fervent and desired change but was it for the right reasons?

Not too long ago, Sony Elise posted about sin and holiness. In it she said, “I feel like, in many churches, more emphasis is placed on God’s forgiveness as opposed to His holiness. I am so grateful for God’s mercy and forgiveness, but there are often still consequences to the fleshly decisions that we make. This is one reason that it is important to walk in the Spirit so that you do not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).” This can also be said about each true believer within their personal lives.

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Why is holiness so important? It’s because God hates sin. If we love Him then we should love what He loves and hate what He hates. How can we pant for the Lord and long after Him if we are willing to entertain sin within our lives? Is it easy to get caught up in daily living and forget the Lord is sovereign and in control of each situation we are involved in? Yes! Is it easy to live as if we were atheists and completely shut out the Lord except for Sunday? Yes! Is it easy to get angry at those who hurt us and aren’t willing to make things right? Yes, again! And it’s so easy to fall over and over again!

We are all sinners but if we are true believers then we should seek to make things right! What if they aren’t willing to do so or even listen to us? Then we must forgive and move on! We can mourn over what happened but there comes a time when the Lord says, “It’s time for you to love me even more! Who do you have in heaven but Me? There is none on earth that you should desire except Me. Your heart and your flesh fail continuously but I am the strength of your heart. I am your Portion forever.”

My heart should respond with, “Yes, Lord! You are all that and more! My heart pants for You as the deer pants for the water and even more than that! My soul thirsts for You and I cannot be satisfied unless You fill me to overflowing with You! I want to do Your will no matter how hard it is, no matter what persecutions and sorrows I will go through, no matter who stands with me or doesn’t because I love You beyond life itself!” Yes, it will still be easy to fall and live that life without the Lord but let those of us, who are true believers, beg for God to give us such a love for Him that we hate what He hates and love what He loves.

Let holiness and grace reign in our hearts so completely that when people are around us, even though we sin regularly, they can say, “He or she has been with Christ!” They may not like us for the conviction within their hearts but we need to be like Him.

I long to be like the Lord Jesus but I fail miserably on a daily basis and yet…I want to be holy as He is holy. I want to thirst for Him to fill me in such a way that I seek to love Him and do what He wants in every way!

Let me see my sin, dear Lord,
as though I were looking through Your eyes,
My heart and the blackness that is within,
the sin for which You died
Let Your horror of sin be my heartbreak
Blur mine eyes with tears of agony
For if once I could see my sin the way You see
I would seek to hate my sin for love of Thee.

Change my sin sick soul, dear Lord,
so that I will become more like Christ
Make me pure and white within, dear Lord,
give me strength to follow You in this fight
May I stand for truth whatever happens
Give my heart holy tenacity
For Your death on the cross is what gave life to me
Now I want my life wholly given to Thee.

Contentment

Contentment…this can be a difficult subject both in learning and in life. This is something the Lord wants each of His children to learn, it is also something we should be willing to take great pains to learn. What is even harder but should be concerning to each of us who are the children of God is contentment in the midst of trials. You see, contentment in the Lord seems to be simple enough.

The Lord uses each situation for us to learn dependence on Him and a desire to fulfill His will. Yet, in the midst of that, as the backdrop of life, the trials we face are there for us to learn to be contented in the midst of that specific trial knowing Who is in control and the plans He has or us is not only for His honor and glory but also for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

The Lord clearly told His disciples that the servant is not above the Master and if the world hated the Master and treated Him horribly then it would treat His servants just as bad, if not worse. As we grow in the grace of the Lord we find that life does not get easier but harder. Each trial or tribulation we face is that much harder than the last but, for each one, we are given the grace and strength to get through.

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When we fight the Lord, instead of gracefully letting Him have His way, we find that the way is so much more difficult than it should be. Fighting only brings anger and frustration our way instead of the peace that passes all understanding. It becomes easy to fume and fret about what we have to face in life. Instead of having a quiet spirit that comes from the Lord, we then have a complaining and fretful spirit. This brings us to a point of having to be disciplined by the Lord.

As the trial or tribulation comes into our lives we begin fretting and fuming that we don’t want it to happen. We were content for things to be as they were and yet it takes those trials to make us more like the Lord Jesus Christ, to grow in faith.

Many times we are like the child that grows impatient and demands their own way when things are not done exactly the way they want them. They sulk and throw temper tantrums because they think that all should be exactly as they would have it, not as the parents know is best for them. They want the candy, the fruit, the dessert, the sweets, the play time, the whatever the case may be instead of spending their time studying, or wanting to eat the proper and healthy foods the parents know they should have so they will grow up strong and wise.

The Lord knows exactly what we need in our lives to make us wise and strong believers. To fret against His wise bestowments (wise even in the midst of our trials) tells Him that we love this world more than Him. How can we desire the world above Him? Is wealth, comfort, life, health, friends, entertainment, sports, family, or anything else more important than Him? To put anything before Him is to worship the created thing more than the Creator, who gave His only begotten Son for our worthless souls.

As each trial comes into our lives let us be willing to thank the Lord for what He taught us already in the past trials and be willing to trust that “God is good all the time and all the time God is good.”

Are You Resting?

This morning, I was reading Hebrews 4 and it got me to thinking about rest. What exactly is rest and am I doing it? Are you doing it?

On the seventh day, God rested from creating the earth and He called the Sabbath day holy and told His children not to do any work on that day. In today’s society, it seems people don’t get the rest they need and, because of that, we have depression, sickness, anger, frustration, etc. God knew what His people needed but sometimes we think we know better than God.

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For myself, more often than not, the best rest I can get is sleeping in or lying down during the day after a long, stressful week. But rest is more than that. If I’m not able to shut my brain off from the cares of this world, I am not really resting. And, honestly, that is hard for me to do, but I am fighting to discipline myself to do just that.

If you’re not able to get much sleep, you can still draw near to the Lord and rest in Him. This is something I am still learning. I am not always able to sleep but I enjoy lying on my bed and praying and focusing on my Savior. I wouldn’t trade those times of feeling His arms around me for nothing!

During the times I am not able to rest like that, I still look for times that I can turn my heart and mind to the Lord. If I don’t get that time of prayer and/or worship, it affects me negatively. I am so grateful for the fact that no matter what I’m doing or where I’m at or who is around, no one else can control my mind.

It is also important to rest in the Lord during times of trial. We need to get to the point where we can honestly say, “For I know whate’er befalls me, Jesus doeth all things well.” When you can sing that with all your heart, you will truly be able to rest in knowing that God has a plan. Your job is just to trust.

I often speak to myself when I write, and this is no exception. I have a hard time accepting things that I don’t want to accept, but I can attest that I grow more through the hard times than at any other time.

My question to you today is: Are you resting? Forget everything that is going on in your life and surrender to Jesus. That is where you will find the greatest rest for your soul.

Blessed Are the Pure in Heart

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8, emphasis added).

As I was reading the Beatitudes the other day, this verse especially jumped out at me. It seems like the verses on purity and holiness are the least-quoted verses any more, but I am challenged by this verse.

I wonder how many people on earth are truly pure in heart. It is a rare person who doesn’t at least struggle with lust, jealousy, anger, etc. Yet, these are some of the things that can keep us from seeing God.

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Despite popular belief, we have no reason to be proud. We should be constantly asking God to search us and try us and show us those impure thoughts and motives. We should be daily drawing closer to Him and becoming more and more like Him.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be blessed. I want to see God. I want to be pure so that I don’t stand before Him full of shame and disgrace. I want to hear Him say, “Well done, My good and faithful servant.” I expect that I will be more aware than ever before of how holy He is and how wretched I am. But I praise Him that He saved a wretch like me, and I will continue singing, “More like the Master I will ever be. More of His meekness, more humility. More zeal to labor, more courage to be true. More consecration for work He bids me do.

Are You Resisting Sanctification?

sadness-man-in-the-shadow-1368461366ES7 I have been noticing a pattern of sin in my life that I know has always been there, but I never really recognized it for what it was. When God redeemed and made me a new creation almost 13 years ago, He gave me a new nature. As part of that nature, God made me aware of my sin, not in a generic sense, but in a very specific one. No longer did I feel bad about coveting, lusting, lying or hating just because bad consequences occurred. I actually began to hate my sin because I saw it for what it was, a rebellious act toward a kind and loving God. A God who mercifully redeemed me by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. And instead of just trying to find someway to justify my sin, I now wanted to repent of those things because I loved my Savior.

That battle to repent from my sins and to live a life that is pleasing to God has never been an easy one. In fact, one besetting sin stuck with me for over three years before God helped me to see just how wicked it was. Today I struggle with that sin, but I no longer dive head long into it. I make great efforts to never again set my feet anywhere near the path that leads me there. I rejoice when God gives me victory over sin, but I am ever aware that this wicked flesh is always waiting to find reason to transgress God’s law for its own satisfaction.

However, as of lately, I have become aware of multiple areas of sin in my life. Perhaps it is because my family and I have been going through many trials that I am more sensitive to His working in me. We certainly have had to rely on the Lord far more than ever before. As a result of that, I am becoming more aware of His working in our lives. And perhaps that is what has opened my own eyes to the sins I had previously ignored. Yet, it is my reaction to these areas of sin that is an even greater problem than the sins themselves. It is this area that I desire to share with you in hopes you can be edified and strengthened.

I have noticed that whenever I have begun to see an area of sin in my life that God is exposing, my first reaction, almost without fail, is to become upset, despondent, sad or depressed. I will practically shut down and begin to focus solely on myself and my failure to live up to the perceived standard I am supposed to live up to. I then complain about what a terrible Christian I am. I begin to seek comfort with family and friends, telling them about how bad I realize I am in the eyes of God. When they console me and tell me I am being too hard on myself, I feel refreshed, thinking I clearly have misunderstood what God was showing me. I then proceed on with my life as if nothing had ever happened.

Did you catch the sin? I see that God is showing me an area, or even areas, of sin, but rather than admit it and repent, I become introspective and complain to others. That is the sin. As a Christian, I am one time sanctified, made righteous in the eyes of God through the propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In other words, my rebellion and wickedness is placed on Jesus at the cross, His perfect righteousness is accounted to me through repentance and faith. From that moment on, I am seen in God’s eyes as perfect, because all my sin – past, present and future – was punished at the cross. So no matter how often I stumble into sin, I am secure in the Father because I was purchased by the Son.

However, it does not stop there. Throughout my walk as a Christian, I am sanctified by God. That means that He is continually working to make me more like His Son. He is ever growing me through the reading of His word, expanding my understanding of the richness of His grace. He leads me in deeper prayer and worship, causing me to love Him more, and in turn, loving others around me. He causes me to care less about myself and to desire to serve Him alone. And He is also constantly exposing areas of sin in my life, leading me to repentance. God is purging me of my sins so that I may reflect my Savior in my thoughts, words and deeds. This process of sanctification is ongoing, never ending, right up until the day God calls me home. On that day, I will be glorified. I will be made perfect and will sin no more. But until that day, God sanctifies me and every other Christian He has redeemed in Christ. So the process of sanctification should be welcome in the life of every Christian. After all, God is refining us in the fire, removing the dross which is the sin for which Christ died. Yet, I find that rather than embrace sanctification, I am actually resisting it.

When I become morose over an area of sin in my life I am actually doing a couple of things. First, I am actually denying my own sinfulness. By acting shocked that God has revealed more sin in my life, I am claiming I should be able to not sin. If I am in fact, as the Bible describes me, a wretched sinner deserving nothing but judgment from God, then I should not be surprised that everything I do is tainted by sin. I should expect, daily, God to be showing me areas from which I need to repent. I should express concern over sin in my life, because sin is wickedness against God; however, I should not become distraught over it. By succumbing to emotional turmoil, I am actually stating that I believe I am capable of not sinning. I am ascribing to myself a kind of sinless perfection that exists only in God Himself.

Secondly, when I become this despondent over my sin, my inclination is to seek comfort in the eyes of others. By seeking their comfort, rather than repenting before God, I am actually trying to deny that sin which God has revealed. As I described above, I have personally complained to family and friends when I start seeing new sins in my life. I seek their comfort because I secretly believe that they will dull the edge of the sword which God used to expose me. When we run to others, asking them to reaffirm our personal image of ourselves, we are asking them to actually act in God’s stead as our judge. We value their opinion over God’s word because we believe their personal relationship with us will prevent them from saying anything too harsh about us, even if it is true. We are further sinning because we are setting up men in the place of God to judge us. And if you doubt this, check your reaction when a loved one doesn’t affirm you, but rather points out that sin God is revealing. If you are even more hurt by what they say, then you know that you were not asking for the truth from them, but a lie which would make you feel better.

So by ascribing to ourselves a kind of pseudo-perfectionism and getting others to affirm it, we are actively resisting God’s work of sanctification. We are denying that we need to repent before the Lord and submit to His holy work in us. This is utterly sinful, yet we can submit to it so easily. We can justify this mindset because we know that we should not sin, especially because we have a new understanding of how evil sin is. So we make the mistake of setting up personal, legalistic standards that we can then judge the progress of our Christian growth by. In doing so, we actually are falling back on idolatry because we become the judges of ourselves rather than God. In God’s eyes we are completely sinful and only the blood of Christ makes us righteous. In our own eyes, if we can reach certain benchmarks, we can declare we are righteous by what we do. When God exposes sins that we were previously unaware of, it deals a serious blow to the idolatrous view of ourselves. Wanting to reassert that view, we can easily fall into the trap of resisting God’s work of sanctification.

So what are we to do? The first thing is to remember who we are in Christ. Before we were redeemed, we were rebellious and wicked sinners bound for Hell. There was absolutely nothing good about us. By recognizing this, we can do away with the absurd notion that we are capable of not sinning at all. We will sin, even as new creations in Christ. But because we have been bought by His precious blood and have been made new by the Holy Spirit, we have been set free from the bondage of sin. We no longer have to sin. We will be tempted because our flesh is weak and longs to be satisfied. Because of that, we will fall into sin. Yet, because the power of the Holy Spirit resides in us, we can trust in God, being slaves to Him, to give us a way of escape when temptation comes. So we recognize that we are not capable of perfection of our own accord, but only in the power of Christ can we resist temptation and sin.

The other thing we can do is embrace sanctification. Rather than retreating into ourselves and grumbling over newly discovered sins (or the discovery that we are still struggling with the same ones) we should rejoice that our heavenly Father is at work in us. By revealing this area of wickedness, God is seeking to make us more like His Son. He is refining us into a tool fit for His use. If I am overly concerned that I am still sinning, yet I do not repent, it is like I am refusing to sharpen the blade on a dull axe. Instead of making the tool fit for use, I am demanding that God use the tool in its busted condition. It is a ridiculous notion to think that I am already a tool that is perfect in design and will never fail. But if I yield to the sanctification of God, He takes me as that busted and worthless tool and makes me into one that is perfectly designed for the job He has in store.

My encouragement to my brethren is to examine your own heart when it comes to sanctification. If you are angry at your sins, depressed and begging for affirmation, then you are denying the need for God’s perfect work in your life. If this is happening, repent, turn from that wickedness and yield to God. It is part of His perfect plan and will that you be made into a tool fit for His use and His glory. Therefore, I urge you to submit to and rejoice in His sanctifying work in you.