Wanna Stop Swerving?

DSC_0253It’s a bit earlier than I planned to get up, but up I am.  Thanks to one pain in the rear Labrador Retriever….and, I think, thanks to the Lord.

As I lay on the sofa trying to get my mind to stop moving so I could fall back to sleep, I decided maybe this was an answer to prayer.  I’ve missed writing so much.  Missed looking more deeply at my life…my thoughts….my Savior.

It’s been a whirlwind lately.  Although, I can’t think of an extended amount of time that it’s been anything but a whirlwind…and I guess to some extent I’m okay with that…for a little bit.

I’m kinda tired right now.  Sick and tired.  No, actually sick.  Strep throat.  Can’t kick it.  Probably a key factor is a significant lack of sleep.  My mom is concerned I’m going to have a heart attack.  I’m just worried I’m going to pass out.

Right now, 2 hours before my alarm will sound, I feel quite good (except of course the sandpaper that is my throat.)

So this dark and early morning…what does God want me to learn about Him?

Lately I’ve been studying Hebrews…one of my favorite books.

I have a new Bible and nothing is underlined…I feel like everything is new.  It is funny, but part of me is embarrassed by my perfect new Bible without anything written in it…looks like I don’t study it.  I believe that’s called pride. Ugh.  The other part of me loves that it’s a new start…a chance to look at things in a new way.

I’ve been studying faith.  It’s made me think about my own faith…how sometimes I have such great confidence and other times I make choices that prove I don’t.  I live my life in fear…fear of what?  You know, I don’t know that I can even answer that question, really.  I mean, what do I fear?  Nothing…and maybe everything.

That lovely verse, “Perfect love casts out fear” comes to mind.  God loves me perfectly there is no need to fear…anything.

And yet…

I fear.

I’m anxious.

I’m twisted in knots.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is his body, since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10:19-23

How do I hold unswervingly to hope?

What does that look like?  Practically speaking.

I love the words God uses to encourage us, but often I’m unsure of what it looks like as I’m dealing with my children, my students, my friends, my family, myself.

What does holding hope look like?

I think maybe the answer is in some of the verses that follow those:

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.  For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” And, “But my righteous one will live by faith.  And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”  But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” Hebrews 10:36-39

And…

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  Hebrews 12:1-3

It’s easy for me to look at those verses and see the do’s and don’ts…but I think, at least for me, what God is showing me…again…that it isn’t about ME.

What God is revealing to me is that it isn’t about what I do or don’t do, it’s about Him.

Both of those passages begin with imperatives…”Do not throw away your confidence” and “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” and “run with perseverance” and “fix our eyes on Jesus.”

The key is that last one…

I’ve tried to be confident in many things…without fixing my eyes on Jesus.  I either stumble from pride or fear.

I’ve tried to throw off things that cause me to stumble and sin…without fixing my eyes on Jesus.  I can only walk forward a few steps before I find myself stumbling and falling yet again.

I’ve tried to run with perseverance…to live hopefully and faithfully and graciously…without fixing my eyes on Jesus.  I fail at it every time.  Every. Time.

I’m unable to be the woman I was made to be without fixing my eyes on Jesus.

I just can’t seem to do it.

Holding unswervingly to hope seems very similar to fixing my eyes on Jesus.

When things get wonky in my world (which they are A LOT), do I choose to have hope?

Maybe I’m looking too much for the seven steps to holding onto hope…when maybe there is just one.

  1. Choose hope.

I know that sounds trite…maybe a little naïve on my part.  But believe me, I am not naïve of the difficulties of life.  Been there, done that.

So much of survival…of thriving survival…is where I focus.  Choosing to take my thoughts captive to Christ.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  2 Corinthians 10:3-5

On what am I focusing?

Lately, if I’m honest, it’s how difficult this place God has me in…this place that is decidedly lacking in joy and grace.

And instead of choosing to bring the joy and grace to the situation, I’ve chosen to focus on the difficulties and what’s lacking.  Ugh.

I can see it in my children.  They are beginning to show the signs of strain…the joylessness of a life that doesn’t look for the things to be grateful for in the midst of difficulties.

I’ve not modeled well.

It’s a war for hope.

It’s a battle to choose hope over heartache.  But IT CAN BE DONE!

God wouldn’t tell us to hold unswervingly to hope if it wasn’t possible.

On the darkest days of my life, there was always hope.  Sometimes those days seem easier than these…these days of hectic, harried, stressful busyness.  These days of just wishing I could be still for a minute.  Still and quiet.

But I am!  Right now.  I’m probably gonna be a bit tired later, but how very worth it!  How very much I’ve enjoyed this quiet time with my Bible and laptop open.

The focus on those darkest days was Jesus.  I didn’t have anything else to cling to…no person beside me, no inner strength reserve, no wisdom, no powerful perspective, no provisions, no nothing…all I had was Jesus.

Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith…Jesus, my shepherd.

The complexity of who Jesus is in my life strikes me right now…He creates, sustains, strengthens, and guides my faith…He is my hope.

So if I’m fixing my eyes on Him…I have hope.

I have hope that I can indeed walk on the water while waves crash, thunder echoes, and lightening crashes…just like Peter did.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  Be when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.  “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:29-30

I have hope that I can endure the challenges of life…just like Paul did.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  Romans 8:18

I have hope that I am forgiven…again…just like, well, everyone.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9

I have hope that God has a plan for my life…and my future is secure.

Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD.  There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.  Proverbs 23:17-18

Will you fix your eyes on Jesus with me?  Will you hold unswervingly to hope…even when everything seems a bit hopeless?

I’m going to pray that we can do it.  That God will enable each of us to hold firmly to hope…to focus intentionally and intently on Jesus.

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 

Hebrews 13:20-21

So Loved

lillyI feel kind of silly because I so wanted to write daily and that lasted about a week.  Best laid plans… I’m determined to get in the habit because it helps my focus.  Hopefully, tomorrow?!?

This week is my last of graduate class homework!  Yippee!  I really don’t even have time to write right this minute, BUT I just had to give God a shout out!

Last week was one of those weeks…you know the ones so I don’t have to go into great detail, but discouraging would be a good adjective to describe it.  Enough said.

Anywho.

I’ve been part of a women’s Bible study since the fall.  I’ve been able to go only a handful of times because of family issues.  It has been a very discouraging thing to me.

I NEED FELLOWSHIP!

Tonight is Bible study, and I texted all the ladies about 2 hours ago and asked them to pray that everything would go smoothly so I can join them.

They’ve all been praying.  I so appreciate it.

I just received a text from a lady in the study who barely knows me, and this is what she said,

“Praying that we will see you tonight.  Do you have a favorite tea?  I’ll pick some up for you.”

I read that and tears sprung to my eyes.

Just a simple act of loving friendship, but what an indication of faith that God will provide a way for me to be there!

I love it.

I’m afraid lately I’ve been less than stellar in my faith.  It used to be that I felt faith for the big things, and faltered with the little.  Now it’s just everything.

I think after a while it’s easy to assume that nothing is going to go smoothly…mostly because the record of smoothness has been pretty abysmal.

My life has gone more like a ride through a ravine full of rocks that jolt and branches that whack.

And yet, God IS faithful.  I do know it to be true.

I think I have always taken fellowship for granted.  I’ve always had friends nearby.  I’ve always had support, encouragement, and love from people around me.

Now, not so much.

And those precious few who live in my vicinity…poor ones…they get to be near the neediest of women.  I could probably suck the life out of anyone at this point.

I have found that in the moments when I feel desperate or just down, the One I must turn to is God.  As much as I want a friend to listen, encourage, help, and hug…God really does answer the needs of my heart better than anyone I have ever met, near or far.

Interesting.

I think I have had all these same feelings with regard to a husband.  The longings to be a wife again…the missing of daily care and love of a husband…real things.

Real things that can be answered by a real God.

Amazing as that sounds.  It is true.

I do not need to be afraid of loneliness, because my God understands.

In fact, He knows sorrow, grief, and loneliness much better than I ever could, or ever want to know.

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  Isaiah 53:3-4

Sometimes (although I wish all the time…

All

The

Time)

I am in awe of what Christ did for us…for me.  I cannot wrap my brain around it.  This perfect man…this loving, kind, gentle, wise man…

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.  Isaiah 53:5

And this is how awesome God is….

We have been studying Hebrews in our Bible study and tonight’s lesson is on Hebrews 9-10.  These chapters are beautiful reminders of why the Cross matters.

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.  Hebrews 10:12-14

When you compare the old covenant with the new, the differences are amazing!  The one that really stuck out to me was that the old sacrifices purified the flesh, but Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself purifies our conscience.  Our sins are forgiven…completely.  Our sins are forgotten…completely.  And that knowledge is almost too wonderful to comprehend.  And in only grasping it a bit, we can approach our God and Father with confidence, trust, and faith.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10:19-23

When I read those verses I think, why does my faith waver so?  Where is my full assurance?

And AGAIN, for the millionth time, God brings the gospel of grace RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY FACE!

This seems like a great time to preach the gospel to myself…those times when my faith is not the firmest and my fear is taking hold…that is the time to remind myself that God is with me…that God chooses to be with me…that my mess can be meaningful in God’s hands…that the struggles, setback, and sorrows are not wasted when I have a God who loves me faithfully and perfectly…that Jesus’ sacrifice on that beautiful, scandalous Cross was so that I would be forgiven, so that I would be His forever.  His love is amazing…His grace is overwhelming.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.  By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgement, because as he is so also are we in this world.  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.  For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not be perfected in love.  We love because he first loved us.  1 John 4:16-19

I can’t even remember what my point was when I started this blog…nothing new…my brain is a little mushy by the end of the day…and sometimes it is so fun to see where the Holy Spirit leads…well, actually it is pretty awesome!

And I feel so refreshed by the Scripture He put before me…so blessed by the reminder of His sacrifice…and so comforted by the knowledge of His love.