Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Take Vs. Partake

Have you ever been so busy that you forgot to eat? Or perhaps you didn't necessarily forgo a meal altogether, but instead of sitting down at the table to enjoy nutritious & satisfying foods, you simply chose to grab something quick & convenient from a package while on the way out the door?

I've been there! This past Spring was a particularly busy time for me! In the midst of it all, I was asked to speak to a group of women I was working with organizing & planning a retreat. During this time, I had managed to keep a lot of my commitments afloat (or so I thought), but while preparing what I was going to say to them that night, I became keenly aware of how I had been allowing my family, my home, and mainly my time alone with the Lord to sink.

When I was originally asked to share with this group, my mind immediately dug up an old word picture the Lord had given me in the past, and decided it was the one I would use. But as I sat down to write it out, I felt the Lord impress upon me to "feed them fresh bread."

Due to the aformentioned lack of a regular "quiet time" with Jesus, I didn't know what this "fresh bread" was supposed to be or where it was to come from; and I certainly didn't have the time to sit & figure it out! Like the rest of you, I had a schedule to keep, appointments to uphold, friends to help, a family to take care of, and on & on it goes. The morning I was set to speak, God began putting all the puzzle pieces together for me, revealing the delicacies He had prepared. His timing, although perfect, certainly isn't mine! However, He is faithful, and I pray that what He fed me will also help nourish your soul.

The week before I was set to speak, I had prepared & taken a dessert to our weekly Monday night meeting. After the meeting was over, I went to throw away the disposable pans I had brought the desserts in, but saw the trash had already been taken out. I just decided to take them with me & throw them away once I got there.

As I was about to toss them into the trash after walking in the door, I noticed there were actually a couple bites left in one pan, so I thought I would save it & offer it to my daughter. But as I laid it back down on the counter, & noticed the crumbs left inside, I felt a twinge of guilt (and even embarrassment) that I was planning to offer these meager leftovers to anyone! It was in that moment I felt the Lord convicting me of feeding my family & my Lord scraps. Scraps of energy & creativity, scraps of attention, & scraps of time. Ouch!

In John chapter 13, as Jesus was having dinner with his disciples the night before he was crucified, it says in verse 27 that Judas "took the bread." Again in verse 30 it says, "As soon as Judas had taken the bread..." Notice he didn't eat the bread. He was simply going through the motions. Like me, have you ever been guilty of doing the same?

We've all heard this verse out of Matthew 4:4, "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." I've heard it so often, it seems to just skim over my brain without really allowing the full meaning of it to sink in. It doesn't mean we're simply to grab a quick bite out of our Bibles every day & go on about our business. We need to sit & dine with Jesus, allowing His words to penetrate our souls, transforming our minds & ultimately our hearts.

Jesus calls Himself the Bread of Life (John 6:35). In the same way we cannot live physically without eating food on a regular basis, it is impossible to thrive spiritually without daily ingesting the Bread of Life. We're not simply reading words on a page, trying to fill our minds with information. When we open our Bibles & indulge in His Word, we are actually partaking of spiritual food that will lead to transformation!

Psalm 90:14 says, "Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love..."

Psalm 103:5 says, "Praise the Lord...who satisfies your desires with good things..."

Psalm 81:10 says, "Open wide your mouth and I will fill it."

Jesus, our sustenance, our source of strength & life, the One who maintains our very existence is the only One who can truly & fully satisfy us. Food can't. Attention, fame & fortune won't. A prominent social circle & full calendar refuse. All these things we try to stuff onto our plates will ultimately leave us with nothing but an empty heart, and a gnawing hunger for more.

We have a choice. We can choose to rush into our days filling ourselves with mindless activities & busyness, or we can first fill our souls with the Bread of Life; but not both. I want to feast on the Bread from Heaven, our Manna. Will you join me?

Let's not trade eternal, heavenly treasures for simple, temporary, earthly pleasures

Monday, May 15, 2017

Learning to Love Like Jesus

Recently I heard someone say that if they could ask God for any one thing they would ask for a heart that always obeyed the Lord. Although there wasn't anything "wrong" with his answer, I want more than just a relationship built on rules & obedience. I want my obedience to stem from my love for & relationship with Him. Love is the highest goal. It is also the foundation. The motivation...of everything we do. The only thing that matters. A couple of years ago after having this realization stir in my soul, I began praying that above all else He would teach me to love like He does.

"If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing." -1 Corinthians 13:1-3

"All that matters is faith, expressed through love." -Galatians 5:6

The longer I walk this path, the harder it becomes at times. Especially when the hurt comes from someone you assumed would be...should be...on the same side as you.

It's so easy to love those who love you. But there is no growth in that...nothing learned.

"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them." -Luke 6:32

But to love those who ignore you? To love those who dislike you? To love those who gossip about you & slander you to others? To love those who don't want anything to do with you? To those who just tolerate you? To those who take you for granted? To those who oppose you? To those who seem to intentionally resist your efforts at every turn? To those who continually hurt your feelings? To those who choose others over choosing you? Who assume the worst about you? And on & on it goes. There are so many other possible scenarios.

"Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." -1 Corinthians 13:4-7

So instead of getting my feelings hurt & giving in to the temptation to retaliate, sulk, or nurse my emotional wounds, I must allow Him to love them through me...regardless of their motives (which are unbeknownst to me), & remember that:

1. They are not my enemies. "For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places." -Ephesians 6:12

2. To bless them & continue to pray for them regardless of their behavior. "Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you." -Luke 6:28

Easier said than done for sure.

But another thing I know and am sure of...

"Love never fails." -1 Corinthians 13:8