Obstacles to Closeness with God

I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.
I spread out my hands to you;
I thirst for you like a parched land. Psalm 143:5-6 NIV

Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear.
But your iniquities have separated
you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear. Isaiah 59:1-2 NIV

Sometimes we struggle to get it right in life.

The Prophet Isaiah said the same when he’d returned from time spent hearing God. Either knowingly or unknowingly, we do things that frustrate and anger our Creator.

Things like doubting his greatness or power.
Things like refusing to worship.
Things like being greedy, proud, or selfish.
Things like refusing to go where he tells us to go, or do what he tells us to do.

Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, but…

But…our iniquities, our sins, our refusals and our delays build a wall between us and God. Either willfully, or as a result of us not taking pains to maintain our closeness with God, that wall gets taller and taller every day. With each new brick laid we find God further and further from us. What do we do in times like these?

The Psalmist gives us some suggestions:

Meditate on all God’s works. Provisions he’s made for you.
Consider what His hands have done. Blessings that have come your way.
Remember when God reached out to you in the past. You and He have a history.
Think on His consuming passion for YOU; He loves you!

If you’re having a hard time finding the good in your faith after doing these things—for surely, hard times make it harder to see God’s goodness—then reach out to someone you respect for their faith journey and ask for his or her counsel. Don’t be afraid to do this, for God has put it in the hearts of those close to him to be a help mate to others along the paths of faith.  If they love Jesus, they won’t ridicule you for your feelings, and they won’t shame you for them either. They will listen, they will read Scripture with you, they will pray for and with you, and they won’t stop doing these things until you find relief and the closely that you had at the first moment of taking Jesus’ hand.

Today, remember God’s goodness to you. Open your heart to Him, and be renewed!

What do you think are the biggest obstacles to trusting God?  What have you found helpful for moving closer to Him?

Advertisements

Unfailing Love–Miserable Moods

…those who hope in me will not be disappointed. Isaiah 49:23c NIV

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. Jeremiah 31:3 NIV

If you’ve ever goofed up, fallen down on the job, or sinned boldly (either in the absence of wisdom or in rebellion to it), read on and know you are not alone!

I have loved you with an everlasting love! –The King of Angel Armies

We humans have a hard time understanding how God could love us on our worst days.

When we have failed Him so miserably, how can He still love us?

When we have been mean, miserable, and impossible to get along with how can He love us then?

When we have deliberately refused to pick up His Word, the Bible, and find solace there…how?

HOW CAN GOD LOVE MEAN, MISERABLE ME?

How can God love sheep who insist on getting themselves in ditches, or shoving their brains into brambles? How can He go on loving us, when all we do is fail Him and ourselves?

There! Right there, is a clue.

in the midst of our blackened moods, we forget and/or don’t realize that God is not like us. He is not constrained by mortal thinking and reasoning. His ways are higher and his thoughts different from ours. He doesn’t love in the same way we love, and aren’t we glad of that? Because God’s love is different, He can love us with a burning passion even when we show little concern for Him.

Hallelujah, what a Savior! Hallelujah, what a King!!!

When, despite your claim to be a believer, have you felt like a mean, ole miserable, me?  How have you seen God’s love for you break through the darkness of your mood?

Three Things…Trust

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; on all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

trust 2

Some days it’s hard to trust the Lord completely. We might dare to trust him with part of our day, part of our plans, or a portion of our sufferings but being human it’s our tendency is to hold back. We don’t give our all easily,  and we do reserve some or part of our days, plans, and even sufferings for ourselves alone.

Why do we do it?  Why do we forfeit the comfort, healing, guidance, and peace that comes of letting go and allowing God to have all of us?  As a wise mother once said, “Only God knows these things!”

Only God knows why we hold back, what’s behind our resistance, and why we would choose to go on suffering when relief could be ours. Maybe it’s that we have an agenda firmly in place in our minds and to veer from that feels unsafe.  Maybe we’re just out of practice regarding surrender. Maybe we have been hurt and the scar keeps reminding us not to make that mistake again. Maybe.

What I want to share today is three things I do when I need to move into a more trusting position in my life.

THREE THINGS I DO WHEN I NEED TO TRUST 

1 – I pray.  Prayer can open the door to many blessings and in my experience it is the only thing that will help me put my guard down and rely more fully on God.

2 – I accept the fact that my understanding will only get me so far and no further.  This is something I’m unwilling to admit when in full-on self-protector mode, but realistically, I have only so much power in this world, whereas God has all power. If I’m going to trust in anything, it’s probably better it be Him, than me.

3 – I ask myself the question:  “If you do the next right thing, do you believe that God will take care of the rest?  If so, what do you have to fear?”  For me, fear is at the bottom of every trust issue I have.  Can I trust God to not let me fall this time? Can I trust Him to speak to other hearts, and soften them on my account? Can I trust Him that if this is not the answer, the answer is something better?  Can I trust Him to know what I need and provide what I want?

Struggles with trust are part and parcel of what it means to be human.  We live in a society and culture where no one trusts anyone, any more, and that just makes trust harder.  It helps if we have a circle of friends who we can go to with our fears, ones that have proven themselves trust-worthy in the past.  But even then, if I’m going to risk putting something valuable in God’s hands, it may not matter what my friends have done or will do in the future.  The truth is, trust is hard and to do it consistently I need to practice.

Do you have trust issues?  What is one thing God has done for you that you could focus on as you prepare to trust Him today? 

Feed on Christ and live your life

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10 NIV

Feed on Christ, and then go and live your life, and it is Christ in you that lives your life, that helps the poor, that tells the truth, that fights the battle, and that wins the crown. Phillips Brooks

The following is a devotional taken from Inspiring Faith: 365 Days a Year and is entitled, God’s Strength.

I wanted to share this devotional today for two reasons.

1-I’ve been struggling through a few emotional days this week and this devotional spoke to my heart.

2-I believe that hardship can be the path to peace, and this devotional spoke to my heart.

“It’s true that God is mighty, that He can do anything. And yet, Scripture also tells us that God often uses humble means of exercising His power. In 2 Corinthians 4:7, Paul tells us that God can use imperfect people to do His will: ‘We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us’ (NKJV). And Jesus taught us that if we want to be great, we must serve. Philippians 2:7 tells us that Jesus Himself ‘made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant and coming in the likeness of men’ (NKJV).

So, if you’re feeling not-so-powerful or unsure of what contributions you can make, take heart. God in you is more powerful than you could ever be on your own, and He has prepared great things for you to do.”

Maybe you’re not like me.

Maybe you haven’t spent a lot of time reputation-building.

Maybe you’re not still trying to impress [fill in the blank].

Maybe the most important thing to you is being authentically you.

What I love about the devotional I’m sharing today is this: Feed on Christ, and then go and live your life, and it is Christ in you that lives your life, that helps the poor, that tells the truth, that fights the battle, and that wins the crown. Phillips Brooks

Feed on Christ, and THEN go and live your life, assured He will direct you.

FEED on Christ, and THEN go and live your life, assured He will direct you.

FEED on CHRIST, and THEN go and live your life, assured He will direct you.

FEED on CHRIST, and THEN go and LIVE YOUR LIFE, assured He will direct you.

FEED on CHRIST, and THEN GO and LIVE YOUR LIFE, ASSURED He will direct you!

Are you feeding on Christ?

Are you doing that first, then going your way?

Are you living your life as a bondservant, or are you serving self more than others?

Lori, Are YOU feeding on CHRIST and then going and living your life, ASSURED Jesus will direct you?

Feed on Christ.  Go. Live your life. BE assured…HE WILL DIRECT YOU! ALWAYS!!

Gratitude Lists

Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Psalm 71:17 NIV

No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks. Saint Ambrose

The following is a devotional from Inspiring Faith: 365 Days a Year, and is titled: Count Your Blessings. Enjoy!

How many ways have you been blessed by God? Relationally? Materially? Spiritually? Physically? His blessings are all around us, but we too easily get distracted. Consider an activity where you write in your journal or on a sheet of paper all the different ways God has blessed you. Not only can you divide it by category, but you can also do this for different stages of your life: childhood blessings, teen blessings, young adult blessings, and so on until you hit the present. If this sounds too simplistic, remember that many people have started a gratitude list with skepticism, only to be delightfully surprised by how much the list brightened their outlook.

King David said, “I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds: (Psalm 77:12). Another psalm echoes “Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me” (66:16). Whatever God has done for you, stop to remember His blessings in detail. And say a word of thanks.

Lord, when we look back, we can see that you have been with us all our lives. Thank You for Your goodness to us. Amen.

Do you write gratitude lists to help you focus on the good things in your life?  How detailed are your lists?

Standing on the Promises

Standing, standing.
Standing on the promises of God, my Savior.
Standing, standing.
I’m standing on the promises of God.
–lyrics from “Standing on the Promises of Christ, My King” by Russel Kelso Carter

Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled. Joshua 21:45 NIV

I’ve been reading and meditating in the Old Testament book of Joshua for the past month or so.  I love this book because of it’s theme of boldness and courage.  I also love it because of the type of man Joshua was: one who wasn’t afraid to admit he was fearful, but who listened when God said, “Hush, be still. Trust Me!” [my paraphrase.ljh]

As I was finishing up the book of Joshua this week, I was drawn to the final chapter, and the important information that is relayed to the reader there, about land ownership. I’ll admit it was dry reading at times, partly because we don’t know anyone named in lists that go on and on, and partly because the land that is being spoken of there has changed hands many times since it was first noted in God’s book.   The record seems irrelevant today, but what doesn’t seem quite so irrelevant  is the statement made at the end of Joshua 21.

Not one of the Lord’s good promises failed his people, Israel!

When the Hebrew nation departed the desert and began to take possession of the land the Lord had given them, things got rough fast! Their first fight was with their own fears. Again and again God had to remind Joshua to be courageous, strong, and brave. Again and again, Joshua had to lay his fears on the altar and ask God to work through a man such as him—one with faith–but not boundless belief. Land grabbing is nasty business, and Joshua’s enemies did not give up easily, so you can understand the level of anxiety that goes along with being a conqueror in those times.  Or any times, for that matter.

What does all this have to do with us today?

Just this: Joshua’s story is so closely intertwined with God’s story that is it practically impossible to divide the two. Boldness, courage, trust, and dependence on a mighty, mighty King is what Joshua needed to possess the promises God made to him. God said so.  These traits are also what we need to claim our promises, today. We need to understand that and encourage each other in this way every day!

How well are you doing at encouraging yourself or others to be bold, courageous, and strong?  What is your greatest character trait? What is your weakest?

In the Beginning

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1 NIV

The Word.
The Living Word.
The Word that was “in the beginning.”
The Word that was “with God.”
The Word that was God!

There once was a man, whom God sent to the world, whose name was John and who was loved of the Father. He came as a witness. He testified to the Light. His life was about sharing compelling evidence. He, himself, was not the light but all his days, from the moment he first believed, this man pointed to the Light at every opportunity.

He shared the Light’s message.
He confessed belief in the Light.
He lived in a way that the Light was known and honored.

Some didn’t understand what this man was doing with his life.

Why he’s wasted it in incessant talk of another man and his journey.
Why he could think of nothing else to talk about.
Why he was consumed with thoughts of holiness.
Why he altered his before-hand plans and dropped everything to follow the teachings of this Man.

Why was John willing to be…

Shunned,
Disowned,
Mistreated,
Disenfranchised,
Relocated and punished because of this Man.

Think about it for a moment.

If your “friends and associates” told you that they wouldn’t run with you any longer unless you left your “love,” what would you say, do; how would you react? If you’re like me, you’d think about that for about one second and say, “Okay, if that’s the way you want it, I’d have it no other way.” In other words, “SCRAM! I’m done with you. Do you know what my Love means to me, what he or she has done for me, how he or she has changed my life, saved me, rescued me from myself? If you think I’m trading all that for time with you, you are sadly mistaken. No, I won’t leave my love, to have you. Ridiculous!”

Not really, but you get the gist.

[Insert your own words of strength here, to affirm your resolve in your relationship with Jesus]

Sometimes people have a hard time understanding how Jesus could have been in the beginning and yet always here. Many struggle with Him being God. Still others struggle with Him loving them enough to make the ultimate sacrifice for them. I understand, but as for me, I want to be like John. I want to believe. I want to defend. I want to testify. I want to live in assurance. I want to tell others of Jesus and what he’s done for me. I want to be renewed day, by day, and transformed into the image of Christ. I want it all, every bit, and if it means I have to give up the whole world to have it, that’s what I am determined to do. What about you?

Do you believe that Jesus was at the beginning, that He is now, and that He evermore will be? What does that mean for the living or your life and the relationships you establish?

Overwhelmed in the good way

There’s a peace I’ve come to know.
Though my heart and flesh may fail.
There’s an anchor for my soul.
I can say “It is well.”

Jesus has overcome.
And the grave is overwhelmed… I Will Rise, Chris Tomlin

When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it. Mark 16:9-11 NIV

Belief.

It’s that gift we have within, that powers every decision we make about Jesus, good or bad. If we believe that Jesus rose from the dead and is alive to help and save us today, even after a times of doubt or wondering, we have salvation in Him. Sin is overwhelmed in that state of believing, which means Jesus overcomes those things in and against us that we cannot deal with through willpower alone.

What are you asking Jesus to overcome for you?

Shyness?

A self-powering bent on life?

Struggles with your health?

Pride?

Resentment?

Fear?

An inability to love others deeply?

Hurts of the past that are still stinging today?

Our God is a way-maker, and a peace-shaper…a fortress for our faith. You can trust Him to overwhelm even the biggest hurts, scars, and sins with his love, but we must remember that faith without works is dead.

Act, ask, obey, and believe—He will overcome for you!

When have you given a problem to Jesus and been awed by the results?  What problem are you still struggling with and need His help to overcome?

Relent, Lord!

Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.
May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands. Psalm 90:13-17 NIV

How many times do we cry out to the Lord for his love, compassion, and mercy to fall on us instead of his firm hand and punishing correction?

I do. A lot!!!

We want things to go well with us and when they don’t, we begin the blame game.

Oh, guilty again!

Sometimes it is God who is making life difficult for us.

Sometimes it is Him who is sending us in a direction we do not want to go.

Sometimes it is Him allowing the hammer to come down, but there are also those times when our difficulties are of our own making.  Let me repeat that for emphasis: Sometimes are grief is of our own making!!!

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, Lord!

We cry out to God for goodness and peace, and we should.

He is the ultimate Decider of our days.

He is the One with all power.

He is the Director of our lives and if we will allow it, the Lover of our souls.

He is the God of Angel Armies; the Alpha and the Omega; the Holy One of Israel; the Amen!

Today, let’s open our hands and let anxiety melt away. 

Let’s be full of the realization that God is in command and in control.

Let’s bow to His direction and His purpose in our lives.

Let’s be constant in our devotion to Papa, and let’s pray only to Him for the love, mercy, compassion, and grace that we need to be helpers to our fellows and worshippers of the Most High King—our everything!

If we will let go, God can direct, but let’s be real–He will not grab the wheel of life out of our hands. He’s not that guy. We have free will; we need to exercise it to our benefit.

Are you someone who has a hard time letting God lead, but not so much when it comes to blaming Him?  Can you set aside everything you think you know about God and His plans, and let Him lead?  

I’m in a Funk

Excuse me while I process things for a moment…

funk

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes fall into a funk.

Lori Funk: A place where Lori is trying really hard to keep her head above water, emotionally and spiritually, while others around her seem to her to be doing just fine. A Lori Funk can include, but is not limited to, feelings of isolation, jealousy, regret, manipulation, kindness, meanness and a general sense of malaise.

Lately, I’ve been taking on other people’s stuff!

This is dangerous territory for me. Territory I know I should not enter. I know I shouldn’t practice this greedy habit of trying to control outcomes. I know…

This happens whenever I listen to a tale of woe told by another-real or imagined-and decide in my unconscious mind that it is my job to make everything alright for them. I say in my unconscious mind, because I like to think that I would not consciously push God aside and take his work from Him or put myself in a situation that I know will be untenable and impossible for me to solve. Like burdock, other people’s problems and dilemmas that I take on as my job to solve make me miserable, mostly because I’m powerless over 98% of life, and 100% powerless over situations I do not understand or dynamics I cannot comprehend.

RECOVERY DOES!

So, what does recovery girl know to do in a Lori Funk?

I write.
I pray.
I surrender all that pent-up energy that I’ve been trying to apply to solving other’s dilemmas, to God.
I admit that I’m wrong in trying to flip the table and make me Director in life.
I ask God for forgiveness.
I make restitution if I’ve harmed anyone.
I repay what I owe; in God’s case, honor, respect, duty and service.
I get busy helping someone else.

When I do these things, balance is restored. I feel better. Lighter. Relieved, if only for today.  And here’s the thing: None of us have a promise of tomorrow!!

Let me repeat that: NONE of US has a promise of TOMORROW.

We need to do the hard work of reconciliation today, especially as it applies to God. We need to act today! If we want things to go well in our world today, we need to be willing to work by God’s methods, TODAY!!

Do you sometimes find yourself in a self-imposed funk? What do you do to escape it?