Tag Archives: loving god

A Prayer

Lord,

Give me the patience to wait when you say, “not now;”

The courage to charge when you say, “I am giving you this victory;”

The wisdom to know the difference;

And the humility to praise you in either circumstance.

 

Give me peace when you are silent;

Fill my lips with praise that overflows my heart.

Make ready my feet and hands for your open doors,

And embolden my spirit to do your perfect Will.

 

Lord, may I know when to rest and when to work,

When to bow my head and when to lift my eyes,

When to speak and when to listen.

 

Soften my heart,

Open my eyes,

Unstop my lips,

Free my hands,

Unshackle my feet,

Engage my mind,

Fill my ears with songs that anticipate my eternal life in your presence.

 

Make me ready, Lord, for the works you have prepared in advance for me to do.

May your strength always be made perfect in my weakness.

 

Amen.

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Proclaim!

“For I proclaim the name of the Lord;
Ascribe greatness to our God!
The Rock! His work is perfect,
For all His ways are just;
A God of faithfulness and without injustice,
Righteous and upright is He.”

— Deuteronomy 32:3-4, NASB

If the greatest commandment is to love the Lord Our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and the second is to love our neighbor as ourselves, then perhaps the greatest calling any of us have is to proclaim the name of the Lord and ascribe greatness to Him.

This was my reading this morning–the last three chapters of Deuteronomy. In some ways, Deuteronomy has a profound poignancy to it. God–who has already given Israel chance after chance to obey–tells His people that if they forsake His commands, they will be under judgment. Of course, He already knows they will break faith with Him–they always do–and yet He continues to promise ultimate fulfillment of a divine plan that will one day exalt Israel.

But that’s not the point of today’s meditation for me.

My mind kept coming back to those two verses, wherein Moses proclaims the greatness of the Lord. And I kept thinking about how this ties into the greatest commandments that Christ gave us.

How do we love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength? By PROCLAIMING His greatness and glory with passion, knowledge, wisdom, and commitment. By ASCRIBING to Him greatness–acknowledging that His works are perfect, that He is unchanging, faithful, and just.

How do we love our neighbor as ourselves? The same way, except that we alter our verb tenses and pronouns a bit.

I certainly acknowledge the need for the church to serve the poor, the widows, the orphans, and those in need through offerings of our time, resources, and gifts. We are obliged to feed, clothe, and visit the least of these.

But ultimately, the best expression of love we can give our neighbors is to tell them about the greatness of God.

To PROCLAIM through our words, deeds, actions, lives that He is unchanging, faithful, just, righteous, and perfect.

I think it’s easy in modern Christendom to focus on the action part of that–to believe that we should only proclaim through our works.

But Moses wasn’t just proclaiming through works.

He proclaimed LOUDLY for all of Israel to hear.

Think about that for a moment.

Moses, with his unnamed speech impediment.

Moses, who was certain he could not go back to Egypt because he was a wanted man, because Pharaoh was too strong, because because because.

Moses, who was denied entry into the Promised Land because of his disobedience.

Moses PROCLAIMED.

How can we do less?

Is this not the heart of evangelism–to proclaim the name of the Lord to all the nations? To share that He Is, and that He is so great that He hurled Himself into our time as one of us so that we could eventually meet Him on His turf and be made like Him?

We are called to proclaim. Whatever gifts, whatever wisdom, whatever strength we have, we are to use it all to proclaim the name of the Lord and ascribe greatness to our God!

What a calling!

 

Resolved

I surrender all, I surrender all,

All to Thee, my blessed Savior,

I surrender all.

— I Surrender All, Judson W. Van DeVenter

Once again, I find myself driven to my knees before the Throne of Grace, begging for forgiveness. This time, though, it’s different from the last time–the time when God pried my writing out of my clenched fists.

This time, I have begged forgiveness for depriving the Body of Christ from something I am uniquely qualified to give.

Once again, I have been prideful and arrogant. I thought I knew best. I thought God was a fool for giving me the desire to write and the gift of the written word. I thought He made a mistake. I thought I could stifle this gift (or curse, as I often considered it) and these stories by serving, by engaging in other hobbies, by focusing on any one of a hundred other things.

But this week–this time–I have realized that I was wrong.

So, here I am with open hands and heart, resolved to take and to give whatever He wishes. I am tired of fighting Him. I am tired of giving the enemy a toehold in my heart–a way to keep me distracted and unfocused on the Savior. I am tired of my pride, fear, busy-ness, and all the rest coming between me and what my Lord wants me to do–how He wants to use me.

Only a fool would fight the Living God and assume she could win the argument.

I have been meditating this week on how often the Bible mentions fear and exhorts the members of God’s kingdom to put aside fear and trust that God is for us. God knew how weak-willed we would be–how fearful we are. I asked myself this week–what is it that I fear in God’s Kingdom?

Death? No. I don’t fear death.

Missions? No. I intend to participating in some kind of foreign mission at some point–just waiting for the right open doors.

Serving? No. I serve Him daily, weekly, at American Heritage Girls. While my position was terrifying at first, I’ve sort of settled into it–and indeed, have rested upon the assurance all along that His strength is made perfect in weakness.

Being called a fool, a bigot, a liar, a moralizing prude? Yes, a bit. But while such words sting, they are only words. Christ was called worse. I can stand it, given a bit of time.

Failure? Now we’re getting closer to home. Yes, I fear failure. But if I am obedient, then am I ever really a failure? If I trust God with the outcome, then I have to trust that His outcome is the successful one, whatever form that takes.

Sharing my writing? This is the fear that paralyzes me. And this is where I had to open my hands and realize that I was still clinging to my writing.

Still. After all this time. After all this pain. I was still holding onto it.

A hard truth.

So, this week, I am resolved.

I am resolved to trust God. Right now, He’s only asking me to write. I can write. I can be faithful with the gift He has given me. And if I am faithful in this small thing, then perhaps I will eventually be trusted with bigger things.

I am resolved to ignore the whispers of the enemy in regard to current literary trends. It does not matter that much of modern fantasy is trending dark with dark antiheroes. It does not matter that the self-publishing trend has flooded the market with a plethora of truly awful, yet successful, books. It does not matter that editors at major publishing houses said my work wasn’t worth buying. The publishing trends don’t matter. They don’t affect what I write. I will just write the stories God has given me to write.

I am resolved to make good art–to write the best stories I can write, using all of the tools at my disposal, and actively work to improve my craft.

I am resolved to move forward with a spirit of courage, putting aside a spirit of fear and kindling afresh the gifts that God has given me. As Craig Groeschel recently reminded in his sermon series on Fear, we are responsible to be obedient; God is responsible for the outcome. I can be obedient.

I am resolved to believe, actively, on a daily basis, that God has given me a gift, and that to squander it is as disobedient as idolizing it.

My hands are open, Lord. Place in them the story you want me to tell, and I will give it back to You daily as a sacrifice. Do with it as You will. And when it is ready–when it is told to Your satisfaction–I will share it, if that’s what You ask of me.

I surrender all, Lord.

No Greater Love

“Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers.”

— How Deep the Father’s Love for Us, Stuart Townend

How Deep the Father’s Love for Us is my current favorite hymn. I love the depth of truth contained within it, the complete admission of guilt–of complicity in the death of Christ. I love that I didn’t know this was a modern hymn until I looked it up. It would fit in any book of traditional hymns.

I heard this hymn today, and the above lyrics stood out to me. While the entire hymn is profoundly meaningful, this was the part that hit me today. I think most of us, on some level, believe that we would have been on the side of truth on that ugly day in Jerusalem when Pilate asked a crowd who he should release. We all want to believe that we would have sided with Christ, that we would have stood against the crowd and asked Pilate to release the beloved Rabbi. Yes, we would have been the smart ones, we think–we would have been wiser than the crowd, wiser even than the men who had followed Jesus for three years.

But the truth is that we are all Peter.

We proclaim that Jesus is the Christ when it’s easy, but when confronted with pressure, we say, “I don’t know Him.”

It was reassuring to me to discover that the writer of this beautiful hymn had the same thoughts. He writes,

Nevertheless, I’d been meditating on the cross, and in particular what it cost the Father to give up his beloved Son to a torturous death on a cross. And what was my part in it? Not only was it my sin that put him there, but if I’d lived at that time, it would probably have been me in that crowd, shouting with everyone else ‘crucify him’. It just makes his sacrifice all the more personal, all the more amazing, and all the more humbling.

It’s worth it to read the entire story of how he came to write this song.

We live in a time when it is easy, convenient, and even expected to deny Christ. We may soon live in a time–even here in the U.S.–where our very freedoms and lives depend upon us denying the Savior.

May we never again find a time that we stand with the crowd.

May we stand, rather, in the shadow of the Cross that gives us life and boldly proclaim that His wounds have paid our ransom.

 

Treasure

All these toys were never intended to possess my heart . . . my true good is in another world, and my only real treasure is Christ.

— C. S. Lewis

I recently had dinner with a dear friend I’ve known for more than 30 years. The last couple of years have not been kind to her. I won’t divulge her personal troubles specifically except to say that she is now divorced and raising a child as a single mother.

But this woman is a woman of strength, dignity, and faith. And when she was at her lowest point during this horrifically painful time, she said God kept prodding her with one question: “What is your treasure?”

Interesting. Because His question for me has been, “what is your idol?”

I started thinking about that. What’s the difference between a treasure and an idol? Both can be hidden. Both can be fed or starved. Both can consume us. Both can hold our hearts.

My writing was an idol. As I mentioned, God had to pry it from my hands. I had to humble myself and bow before Him again, not before the altar of my fictional worlds.

When we’re consumed by idolatry, we perhaps don’t have room to treasure anything. I didn’t treasure my family. I didn’t treasure my friendships. I certain didn’t treasure my Lord. The idol consumed my vision. It prevented me from seeing anything else.

A treasure, on the other hand . . .

I struggle with how to follow this analogy. I keep coming back to the idea of a retirement account.

Bear with me for a minute here.

A retirement account is, in many ways, a treasure on earth. We feed it. We manage it. We check it regularly. We trust that it will sustain us in our golden years. While we don’t necessarily crow about it to outsiders, we know that the treasure house is there to keep us from becoming a burden to our children.

So what do I have that can sustain me spiritually in my golden years–that is, my eternity?

Only the promise of everlasting life through the blood of Jesus.

One of the reasons many writers give for pursuing their art is the hope of some kind of immortality. There is something immortal about the written word. Writers hope that our words will be read in the future. We put down our words in active trust that someone, somewhere, sometime will find those words compelling, artistic, meaningful.

But if this has been my treasure, I have striven in vain.

Words are no more immortal than those dollars and cents we’ve invested in that retirement account. I can’t take ’em with me.

I am convicted that there is only one treasure I should be feeding–the One that can sustain me for eternity.

Does this mean that writing is sinful? No, of course not. But counting on it to sustain me eternally? That is the sin. I would never consider that retirement account adequate to sustain me for eternity. I know I can’t “take it with me.” But I have certainly considered my writing eternal in some measure. I have counted on it to give me some measure of immortality.

I have idolized my writing.

And herein lies my difficulty.

Christ longs to be the treasure I feed, the account I check, the hope I rely on for everlasting life.

I have been so foolish. I have idolized an art–something temporary and fleeting. I have neglected the real treasure–the One who bled and died to give me everlasting life.

I treasured my writing to the point that it became an idol. But the thing about treasuring Christ is that He is the One and Only Thing worth treasuring. And when we treasure Him, it spills over into everything else–writing included.

“My hope is built on nothing less/than Jesus’ blood and righteousness,” the song says.

My idol was my writing.

My treasure is my Lord.

Till next we meet . . .

J M

Loving God “Sometimes”

One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”

And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:35-40, NASB

I had an opportunity to discuss the greatest commandment with three of my kids this morning. I asked them if they remembered the two greatest commandments according to Jesus. All of them remembered the second–to love your neighbor as yourself. I suppose I should be grateful for that much. I hope they are learning to treat others the way they want to be treated.

Unfortunately, no one remembered the first–to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Daughter #1 came the closest when she remembered the first of the Ten Commandments–“you shall have no other gods before Me”–but as I told them all, that’s really the same commandment, in a way. If we are truly loving God with our whole being, then we are putting him above all other gods and idols.

I asked Son #1 if he could truly say he loves God with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength. He said, “yeah, sometimes.”

Perhaps he didn’t understand the question.

You can’t love anything with that depth only “sometimes.” It’s an all or nothing proposition. But I think we assume–or perhaps just live as if–it is possible to turn that depth of love off and on.

It occurred to me–what if I loved the people in my life the way I have been loving God? If I told my husband I loved him and then turned around and flirted with other men, he would have no reason to believe my profession of love. If I told my children that I loved them and yet constantly sought out my own interests and never made time to hear about theirs, they would soon believe that my declarations of affection were mere noise designed to make me feel better about my parenting. If I claimed that my best friend was dearer to me than my own sister and then spread gossip and rumors about her, she would very quickly stop being my best friend. If I assured my mother that I care deeply about her and enjoy spending time with her, but I never called or stopped by for coffee or shared a holiday with her, she would grieve our missed time and wonder if I had any affection for her.

Is this not how I’ve been loving God these past years? I’ve claimed to love him, yet I’ve flirted with the gods of convenience, entertainment, pleasure, and career. I’ve declared that his interests are important to me, yet I’ve made idols of my own desires and pursued those things that are important to me and not to God’s kingdom. I’ve assured him that he is dear to me, but I’ve used his name in ways that grieve him and lied about him by keeping silent when I should have spoken. I’ve promised him that I would make time to read his Word and spend time in his Presence, but all I’ve managed are the prayer equivalents of random, infrequent text messages.

I have not loved God with anything close to all my heart, mind, soul, and strength.

I love Mr. P for who he is, not for what he does or has done or has promised to do for me. I love him because he is strong, kind, steadfast, loyal, intelligent, funny, interesting, and on and on.

What if I loved God for who he is?

God is strong. He is kind. He is steadfast, loyal, intelligent, funny–all of those things that I love about my husband and more.

I should not love God because I have a house, or because I have had a relatively tragedy-free life, or because I live in the United States, or even because God sacrificed his own Son on a cross to offer me the chance for reconciliation with him. I can be grateful for all of those things, and certainly I am, but what if I loved God–really loved God, truly pursued God–with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength?

I do not want to love God only sometimes. This is an all or nothing proposition. And as for me, I want to be all in.

Till next we meet . . .

J M