Lent

Giving Up Thinking that God Has Limits

Omnipotent … all-powerful. God has supreme power in the universe, He has power even over water and gravity and physics, etc.  His power is limitless.

Omnipresent… all-present. God is capable of being everywhere at the same time.

Omniscient… all-knowing.  God knows everything there is to know and all that can be known… past present and future.

These are just a few of the things in my head that I “know” about God.  He truly has no limits.  Sometimes it takes a while for my heart and emotions to catch up.

It’s hard for me to think of a specific situation, though I know it often happens that I forget these things about God.  I think about God through my human lens (how else could I think about him?!?) and in doing, so I put unfair mental limits on Him.

I see a challenge before me and say… IMPOSSIBLE.

He replies: NOTHING is impossible with God! (Luke 1:37; Matthew 19:26)

I feel overwhelmed by a situation in my life and feel… alone.

He replies: I am with you ALWAYS! (Matthew 28:20, Joshua 1:9)

I remember something I’ve done and think… He couldn’t still love me, right?

He replies: NOTHING can separate you from my love… NOTHING! (Romans 8:38-39)

I look around the world discouraged and think… this place is out of control!

He replies: In MY hand is the life of EVERY living thing; I’ve gotcha! (Job 12:10)

In our world “always”, “never”, and “every” don’t really work very well.  We let each other down.  We don’t ALWAYS remember.  We can’t promise to NEVER do something.  And very few things apply to EVERY thing.  Yet, our God has NO limits.  He can make promises like these and keep them.

It’s time for me to give up the limits I put on God.  His ways and thoughts are FAR beyond mine and the things He has planned are beyond even my imagination.

You have NO limits, God. That’s hard for me to grasp.  Help me give up the felt need to put limits on you to understand you and instead be able to just be overwhelmed by your indescribable, undeniable, always-and-forever presence!  In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

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Bekah's Heart

GOD=LOVE ~ I=LOVED

“Love is not what God does.
Love is who God IS.

This phrase from Pastor Chuck’s sermon this week had stuck with me. What’s so amazing about this truth is that it takes away all need to perform or “do” something to gain God’s love.  His love can’t change because it’s who He is.  For example, an apple is an apple no matter what.  I may really want an orange, but not matter what I do to that apple, I’ll never make it change into an orange.  Or, another example, I have almost close to 100% German heritage.  No matter what i do, I can’t change that truth about myself.  I am who I am; God is who He is… and God IS love. (1 John 4)

So, no matter what, that remains true.  I can’t do something to make Him love me more and I can’t do anything that would make Him love me any less.  This amazing truth about God leads to an amazing truth about myself.

If God is love,
Then Bekah is loved.

And not only in the sense that “Jesus loves me” (though that is true)… by God’s grace, that’s my identity!  No matter what I do or what’s been done to me, I will forever be: LOVED.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. (1 Corinthians 15:10a)

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31 Days of Imperfection, Bekah's Heart, Books

Until God’s Love is Enough… {31 Days of Imperfection – Day 24}

Maybe you’ve been there-I know I have-getting ready to settle in and have some “date” time with Jesus but then, you just don’t.  You know it’s good for your relationship.  You actually enjoy it most the time you spend with him.  You even miraculously HAVE time to interact a little.
And yet…

You check your e-mail one more time.
You grab a snack or a drink.
You take a nap.
You run an errand.
You glance through Facebook.
(You write a blog post????)

(And these are only a few of the distractions I’ve personally used today.)

As I’ve mentioned before, these Sabbath moments each Monday have become a place to remember Whose I am and therefore who I am. I NEED some Jesus time… especially after this last week, a truly holy week, but also, especially in the life of a church worker, a busy week.  It’s a week filled with emotion and passion as we journey, and help others journey, through the most crucial days of our Savior’s life.  As I had the chance to share God’s resurrection power in my own life on Thursday, walk to the cross to lay down all our burdens on Friday, and celebrate together the joy of Easter this weekend…  I’m overjoyed, content, grateful, and at peace.

I’m also tired.

As I said before, I need some Jesus time.  And yet, for some reason, on these days when I need it most, I am the most distracted and distant.  I’m ever aware of my imperfect relationship with God… and unlike human relationships, the fault is all one-sided… me.

On about the fifth attempt of the day to settle in and let God remind me who I am, I read something that helped me understand a little more of why I had been struggling so much.

“Until God’s love is enough, nothing else will be.”

This quote from Renee Swope’s A Confident Heart hit me.  With each glance at Facebook, snack made, or errand run I was unconsciously seeking it to be enough.  I thought if I’d just get those things out of the way maybe THEN I’d be able to settle in and see God’s love for me.  But that way of thinking is seriously flawed and backwards of the way in which God’s kingdom works.  You would think after a week of so many reminders, after attending SIX Christ-centered, love-focused worship services, after living and breathing the life, death, and resurrection of Christ at home, at work, with my friends for the last week, after all that you think I would remember this simple truth:

God doesn’t love us because of what we do. He loves us. Period.

That great love came long before anything we do.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

The things I need to do each day, the relationships in which I want to invest, the duties as a worker, a family member, a housekeeper, and more will still be there.  I can’t get those all done and THEN come to Jesus; I come to JESUS so that I can get all of those done.  I can’t get rid of all the distractions in life; I must come to Jesus and let him focus me in on what’s most important.  I can’t try to fill my life, I must give Jesus access to my heart and let him fill it.

“Our schedules are full, our minds are full, our stomachs are full, our refrigerators are full, our closets are full, our lives are full.  Yet, we find ourselves… empty…. Why? Because the wells of our hearts were created to be filled by God alone. The deepest thirst of our soul can only be quenched by Him.” (Renee Swope, A Confident Heart)

And so I shut down the computer, put away the snacks, turn off the phone, and open God’s Word.

Ready or not, He’s here waiting, and He is more than enough.

31 Days of Imperfection

(Im)perfect Love {31 Days of Imperfection – Day 14}

This morning I found myself thinking more about yesterday’s post about looking back at times when our past keeps us from action in the present or future.  I think one of the biggest hindrances for almost every single human is remembering times when they were hurt in relationships before.  Maybe someone did something that betrayed you, or a loved one died, or someone had to move away.  Whether the loss was intentional or not, these situations often keep us from wanting to love again.  We’re afraid that if we love again, we’ll just be hurt again and we’re not so sure that’s a risk we want to take.

I’m learning a lot right now in my personal devotion life about the truth that if there is fear involved, then it can’t really be love.  See what I mean in 1 John 4:18…

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 

As I said, I’m still learning about this and don’t have it CLOSE to being figured out, but I think it actually has something to do with being okay with imperfection in relationships.  If we could figure out exactly how to be in relationship with other people, if we could discover a way to take away all the risk, I don’t know if those relationships would be worth it.  Isn’t that why God gave us free will in the first place?  He loved us so much but if love was forced into this perfect risk-free box, it wouldn’t really be love at all.  Despite the risk of us turning our backs on him again and again and again, He desired perfect love, which is messy love and risky love.  He wanted real love even if it mean he’d have to die for us.

While there is risk involved, we somehow, by God’s grace, must learn to step past that fear because, as the passage says, “one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  Fear and love can’t reside at the same time because if we’re living truly in the love God’s given us, it drives away all fear.

My perfectionistic personality then wants to “figure it out” to “make sure” I’m loving the “right” way.  Yet what I hear God saying in this passage and the ones before it is this: Don’t worry about if you’re loving “right” just let me love you and it will all flow out of that.  Here is the above passage more in context:

“And so you know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him.  In this way love is made complete among us so that we have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:16-19)

Love is worth the risk.  Not only do we need other people, other people need to see Jesus’ love through us.  It’s not about figuring out how to love or if it’s okay to love it’s all about KNOWING and RELYING ON the love God has for us.  If we’re drowning in God’s love, we’re going to be okay.  If we’re drenched in it, other people will take note.  If it’s overflowing in our lives, they’ll get covered in it too.

Perfect love drives out fear. 

We love because He first loved us.

We don’t have to figure out how to get rid of that fear on our own, we just have to seek Love Himself and fear will pack its bags and disappear.

Even if we do get hurt again, God’s love… his PERFECT love remains.  We can trust in that truth and let our hearts rest in that when fear wants to creep back in.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. … This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us.  For God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.”  (1 John 3:16,19-20)

31 Days of Imperfection, Music

What if? {31 Days of Imperfection – Day 7}

I found myself at the kitchen sink last night, finally giving in and doing the dishes that had been staring at me all night long.

Music always makes cleaning more exciting, but in breaking out itunes for a little inspiration, I never expected it might break me. Not in a bad way, but more in the “I think God just punched me in the gut” kind of way. If it hadn’t been for that “revelation” earlier in the day the one about fake imperfection and living in God’s dreams for us rather than the expectations of the world (yea, this one) I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought.  itunes confirmed that I had heard the song before, but as these words came out of the computer, I think they bypassed my ears and went straight to my heart:

What if you lived like you were loved?

What if you did all the things Your heart’s dreaming of?

What if you sang your song at the top of your lungs?

What if you lived…

Like you were loved?

It struck me…  that’s all I’ve been called to do:

To live loved.

And yet, I complicate each day with so many other things.  The question never was, never is, and never will be, “What if I were loved?”  Because WE ARE LOVED.

Yet, we make it the question as we compare ourselves to others…”What if I were like her? then would I be loved?”
We make it the question when we seek approval, we long to be noticed, “What if I wear this outfit or do my hair that way? Then would I be loved?” 
We make it the question when we long for more, “What if I got that new toy or what if I made a little more money?  Maybe THEN I’d feel loved.”

And we forget that WE ARE LOVED! In forgetting that, we struggle to live out the dreams God has for us, we struggle to sing the unique song he’s created our lives to sing.

Dream for a minute, just what might life look like if we truly lived loved?

What kind of chances would you be taking?

What sort of difference could you make?

Would you let go of the secrets that you’ve been keeping,

If love was your shield and strength?

What are you waiting for?

There’ll never be, never be a better time.

No one could love you more than He who gave His life

Join me today in answering these questions.  In the comments below, in conversations with your family and friends, in your journal… wherever… answer the questions and then ask God to give you grace to understand YOU ARE LOVED and strength to live like it!

What if you lived like you were loved?

What if you did all the things Your heart’s dreaming of?

What if you sang your song at the top of your lungs?

What if you lived…

Like you were loved?

(What If? by Scott Krippayne)

31 Days of Imperfection

Fake Imperfection {31 Days of Imperfection – Day 6}

One of the things I’ve found I love about doing a series like this is learning new things about whatever is the focal point.  Both in this series and the one focused on hope, I set out with a few ideas of things I’ve been shown that I feel compelled to share.  However, the greatest joy comes in walking into each day with open eyes.  Some days, God blows me away with a new ways of looking at the topic. Today is one of those days.

 

So far, most of the posts in some way have danced around the idea of accepting our imperfection… of being okay with it… of living in it so that we might live also in God’s grace.  Today, though, God’s convicted me of an imperfection He never wants me to be okay with… one I struggle with a lot: the FAKE imperfection we imagine and create through comparison.

 

From the time we are kids, our sinful nature tells us to compare people:

Look at that guy, he’s so weak! Why’d coach even let him on the team?!?

You better work harder if you’re going to get good grades like your sister!

Why can’t you be more like Jack?  He gets his projects in to his boss earlier.

Even worse, in my opinion, is the comparison that takes place in our own minds:

I’m better than her because I have 48 crayons and she only has 24. 

Hannah wears a size 3 and I wear a 13.

I wish my house was always clean like Jill’s.

 

Whether the comparison is put upon us by others or ourselves, it’s all around us and it creates a sense of imperfection.  The other imperfection we’ve talked about in the blog has been true imperfection, times when we sin… when we don’t live up to GOD’S standards for our lives.  That is true imperfection for which God said, “I’m perfect, I’ll step in and make you perfect again.  However, not living up to our standards or the standards of people around us creates a false sense of imperfection that is harder for our souls to battle with.

I’ve found that when I’m simply living in the gifts, talents, passions, and experiences God’s given me, I feel complete… I feel whole.  I feel anything BUT imperfect.   Only when I begin comparing myself to others or seeking their approval do I start dwelling in imperfection.  That’s because we weren’t created to be able to do what Jack, Hannah, and Jill were created to do.  It’s like comparing apples and oranges. It seems that a great deal of anxiety, stress, pain and hurt could be avoided if we’d just remember this truth:

We’ve been created perfect by a perfect God.  He loves and accepts us just as we are and expects nothing more, nothing less, nothing else

Chris Seay, author of A Place at the Table, says it this way in his book:

The Scriptures declare that my value comes from my Creator, not my love of self or accomplishments. … when our actions are motivated by this truth, we can finally breathe.  Can you imagine a life without the continual comparison to one another?

I know it’s difficult to imagine that kind of life, but I challenge myself, and all of you, to just dream for a minute… and then do it… breathe… give up false imperfection… give up comparison.  Remember, you are created in God’s perfection and deeply loved JUST AS YOU ARE!   Now if that doesn’t bring a smile to your face, I don’t know what will.

Blessing

BLESSED!!!

No words of my own right now, but a few from others I’d like to share.

 

 

First, this paraphrase of Matthew 5:3-5:

You’re blessed when you are out of options, and all you can do is lean on God.  Because when you realize your need for God, it is only then that you tap into His immeasurable greatness and goodness.  You’re blessed when you’ve been stripped of that which is most precious to you.  Because only then can you be tenderly embraced by the One most precious to you.

 

Also, this passage from a devotional book quoted in a blog post I read this morning. 

“Be willing to follow wherever I lead. Follow Me wholeheartedly, with glad anticipation quickening your pace. Though you don’t know what lies ahead, I know; and that is enough! Some of My richest blessings are just around the bend: out of sight, but nonetheless very real. To receive these gifts, you must walk by faith–not by sight. This doesn’t mean closing your eyes to what is all around you. It means subordinating the visible world to the invisible Shepherd of your soul.”

 

And lastly, this beautiful prayer that was used in the traditional worship service at First Trinity last night and this morning:

"O most loving Father, You want us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing except losing You, to follow You faithfully, and to lay all our cares on You.  Protect us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, and give us confidence in Your merciful love given to us in our Savior Jesus, in whose Name we pray. Amen.”