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Tuesday
Jul252017

Entry #7 - Things I long for...

What does it mean to long for something?  What does longing look like or how does it feel? Good questions to Google!

Synonyms: craving; eager; languish, pining, yearning, anxious, ardent, avid, hungry, ravenous, wishful.

So, I ask myself:  Who or what do I long for?  

I remember my grandmother saying she was hungry for her children.  That woman loved her family and was in her happy place when all her children were home with her.  Hungry for her children was a wonderful way to express the longing in her heart to be with her children.  I am pretty sure there were times when she was ravenous for them!  

There are certainly people in my life that I am hungry to see and be with.  In this season of life, I yearn for deep and close relationships with people who live in the same town as I do!  Sometimes I think I am languishing without them. I crave fellowship with those who could spend all night long talking about Jesus. While not as intense, I do long for things.   On some level, longing helps me accomplish certain tasks because I long for what the completed task brings.  As I think about it, longing can be a very strong motivator.  In addition, longing for has probably gotten me in a lot of trouble.  

As I read, wrote and journal-ed 1 Peter 2:1-3, the words "long for" jumped off the page.  It says that like a newborn baby, I am to "long for" the pure milk of the word.  The outcome?  So that by it I may grow in respect to my salvation.  What a wonderful visual.  If a baby doesn't get the pure milk that baby will not be nourished and cannot grow.  A baby longs for, is eager, craves and yearns for, is hungry and ravenous for milk.  It's innate and instinctive.  You don't have to tell a baby to be hungry.  At a certain point in a baby's life it needs pure milk and only milk.  Without it, the baby will languish.  But, what if you started giving it everything but milk.  See where I am going with this?

Like a newborn baby, I am to long for the pure milk of the word so that by it I can grow in respect to salvation.  If I try to satisfy that spiritually innate and instinctive hunger for God with other than the Word, I won't grow spiritually.  I will languish.  I have languished.  Interestingly and at the time, I didn't realize I wasn't growing spiritually or languishing.  I was trying to satisfy my hunger and cravings and yearnings with things other than the Word of God.  I didn't even realize I was doing this.  I was hungry to be and do and experience all this world has to offer.  Longing for these things seemed innate and instinctive.  Some of the things I longed for weren't bad things.  Longing for these things isn't wrong and sometimes it is natural...a part of being human and made in the image of God.  If I am honest, I have to bring this into the present.  Some of the things I currently long for aren't bad things and longing for them isn't wrong but in fact is natural.  

But, here's where this verse pricked my heart.  Is my longing for the pure milk of the Word greater than my longing for all these other things?  Am I trying to satisfy myself with other than the pure milk of God's Word?  Are my longings motivating me to satisfy the longing with things other than the Word of God when only the Word of God can fill the longing and produce the spiritual growth I need?  Bottom line: Do I long for God and growing in my intimate and personal relationship with Him through His word as much as I long for all the other things in my life?

As I tie these questions and thoughts back into what I've been journal-ing about in 1 Peter, I realize in a greater way how much and often I need God's Word.  I need to constantly prepare my mind for action and put aside former thinking and behaviors.  I think about the trials of this life and how hurts and disappointments can mess with my mind and heart.  But, if I am going to grow and be nourished spiritually, I must long for the Word of God.  Just like a baby that longs for pure milk.  There is no substitute.

Oh, but I've tasted so many other things.  I now have so many other things I crave, yearn and are hungry for...  Often I don't even know I am languishing spiritually until the signs of being spiritually malnourished are undeniable (malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander to name a few mentioned in 1 Peter 2).  

So, how do I get my taste back for God's Word?  1 Peter 2:3 tells me to taste the kindness of the Lord.  Taste that sweet morsel of truth. Savor it.  Tasting the kindness of the Lord stirs up my taste buds and causes me to long for the Word of God. Tasting the kindness of the Lord reminds me that God's Word is the pure milk I need to live this life of faith in Jesus.  There is no substitute.  It's the pure Word of God.  As I gulp down the Word of God, it nourishes me and grows me up in my spiritually, changing my thinking and behavior.  

Friday
Jul212017

Entry #6 - What helps me endure?

Yes, I have trials and trouble on my mind a lot and for many reasons.  First, in this world, we will and do have troubles.  Jesus said so - it's in red.  See John 16:33.  Second, I have prayer requests and lists that prove trials abound. Third, I recently spent weeks studying the Scripture concerning trials and troubles.  I'm still processing all I learned and am still learning!

Okay so with troubles on my mind, I get to 1 Peter chapter 1 verse 24 that says: "People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades."  Now that's a real attention getter.  A reality check.  As I sat there looking at these words, the Spirit brought to mind James 4:14 (b) that says: "You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away."

I'm thinking to myself ... that in light of eternity, our lives here on earth short but they are filled with trouble. I remember that Peter is writing to those who are being distressed by various trials (1 Peter 1:6-7) reminding them "for a little while if necessary."  Now, my mind goes to what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:17:  "For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison."  In light of eternity, our troubles are light, momentary, for a little while.

Now, I need to stop and process. The distress or trouble sure doesn't "feel" light, momentary or for a little while.  Sometimes it's seemingly a lifetime of trouble.  What's so light and momentary about a lifetime?  Well, in light of eternity it is, but we are in the here and now.  Eternity is hard to comprehend when the now has you in a pressure cooker.  Amen?  

I get that Peter is trying to get them and us to move beyond our troubles by reminding of who we are in Christ, what we have and how we are to live.  It's all true and being reminded of these truths helps us put our troubles in perspective.  And then boom, in 1 Peter 1:24-25(a) he says:

"All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grassThe grass withers and the flower fall off, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

Did you see it?  "....but the word of the Lord endures forever."  Earlier, in verse 24 he said the "living and enduring word of God."

The word endure just jumped off the page.  Why?  Because during the weeks of studying God's word concerning trials, the words endure and endurance kept coming up.  I could go on and on about what I learned about trials and endurance. I mean I know I need it, I know trials produce it and so on.  But, when I read 1 Peter 1:25(a)...this is the question that came to mind and that I wrote down in my journal.

What helps me endure?

Answer:  The living and enduring word of the Lord. 

Obvious, I know.  No earth shattering revelation here.  I mean we all know the word of the Lord is living and endures forever, right?  But knowing it and taking it up and using it to help me endure my trials and troubles are two entirely different things.  In the midst of trials and troubles that don't seem light or momentary, I endure by:

  • Eating or devouring God's word: "Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts." Jeremiah 15:16
  • Being nourished in and from God's word: But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”"  Matthew 4:4
  • Delighting in God's word that keeps me from perishing in my affliction:  "If Your law had not been my delight, Then I would have perished in my affliction." Psalm 119:92

The key to enduring?  The living and enduring word of the Lord.  A good word to myself and I pray to you.

Friday
Jun302017

Entry #3(a) - Mourning the loss of someone or some thing

Back to 1 Peter 1:6-7...as I am still processing the distress of trials and how they test my faith.  I wasn't prepared for trials or how to handle the distressed brought on by the various trials of life.  By that I mean I didn't know what to do with the emotions caused by trials in light of my faith in Jesus.  

I heard verses like 1 Peter 6-7 telling me that I should greatly rejoice or people would remind me of the verse from James saying to count my trial all joy and I determined in my own mind it must mean that I shouldn't feel the deep emotions of pain or loss.  I mean, I have Jesus, so all is well - right?  It took me years to figure out that I could be grieving deeply over the loss of a loved one or even a shattered dream and still be standing on the word of God and strong in my faith.  

Deep sorrow and strong faith can co-exist.  They do co-exist.  

Please don't assume that because I am mourning and weeping that I am not also greatly rejoicing and counting it all joy at the same time.  I can know, understand and believe that God is using my loss to strengthen my faith and have confidence that He will work it together for good.  But at that moment, those amazing, beautiful, miraculous truths do not stop the pain of the loss.  Sure, knowing these truths bring comfort, but it takes time for the searing pain of loss to subside.  

In times of mourning and weeping, we do need those around us who can speak truth into our lives and situation. But, for the most part, we just need the presence of those who love us and who don't get tired of our weeping and understand why we mourn.  They aren't trying to talk us out of it, tell us stories of how others handled their grief, remind us to greatly rejoice or count it all joy, or even say anything at all.  Just be there with hugs and tissues.  Sit with us.  Mourn and weep with us. Don't give up and please don't go away.  Just be there and keep being there.  When you start getting concerned, feel helpless, think the mourning should be over - pray fervently.  Soothe and comfort with God's word that reminds He is our collecting tears in His bottle and takes account of our wanderings.   Pray over us who are suffering loss reminding us of His love, presence, and power.  

When you don't know what to do or say then just don't do or say anything.  Hugs and "I am so sorry" are always appropriate. 

Years and years ago when studying Philippians 3, I highlighted in pink in my Bible verses 3:7-11.  I was suffering the loss of something great...a shattered dream.  Paul's words grabbed my heart, and at that moment, I longed to experience what Paul had experienced as he had suffered many losses.  He said that whatever things were gain to him he counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Paul went on to say that he counted all things as loss given the surpassing value of knowing Christ for whom He's suffered the loss of all things and counted them as nothing so that he may gain Christ...be found in Him, know Him and the power of His resurrection and fellowship in His sufferings.  Wow.  It's obvious Paul knows a thing or two about suffering and the joy it produces.  Suffering loss is inevitable, so I determined I want to know, understand and experience the outcome of suffering that Paul experienced.  

But the point here is that in Paul's loss, there was suffering.  Folks, suffering is suffering.  Yes, Paul gained more and more of Christ, and that is a wonderful and beautiful truth for us all in our suffering.  But please don't think for a moment that suffering loss is not painful.  Or, because you have Jesus loss doesn't equal pain and hurt.  In our suffering, there is sweet, sweet comfort from the Lord.  Why some of the sweetest times with my Lord have been in the midst of suffering my greatest losses.  But it still hurts.  Suffering loss hurts real bad.  Even when you know, it's going to be okay and good is coming.  

I think we need to learn the value of mourning and weeping.  Even encourage it.  I'm reminded as I write this that there are mentions of God's word of times of mourning.  Back in the day they actually had a specific period of time set aside to mourn.  Why the Lord even calls us to mourn and weep over sin.  

As I see it, we avoid feeling at this deep level because it hurts.  We don't want to hurt, and we don't like watching others hurt, so we don't go there - to the point of mourning and weeping.  We don't want to hurt so we avoid the mourning and weeping.  When we can't hold it back, we try to hide it.  We are sure others are as tired of our hurting as we are.   But, if we never learn the value of mourning and weeping, then we'll never learn to mourn and weep over our sin or the sin of the world.

So today as I reflect further on 1 Peter1:6-7, I ask myself:

  • When was the last time I gave myself over to mourning and weeping?
  • When was the last time I mourned and wept with another?
  • When was the last time I mourned and wept over my own sin or the sin of others?

Oh Lord, teach me how to mourn and weep from a Biblical perspective - Your perspective. 

Friday
Jun302017

Entry #5 - Sincere & fervent love

Processing 1 Peter 1:20-25

Entry #4 was a more than a year's worth of processing with the Lord the impact of hurt and disappointment.  This all due to a trial I did not see coming and that was totally distressing.  While it took the better part of a year, I'm so grateful to the Lord for the understanding He has given to me.  And, I think there's more to come!  Understanding the spiritual impact trials have had on me and can have on me is huge.  To look back and see the progression I described in Entry #4, is a gift from the Lord.  Praise Him.

As I processed the distress with the Lord, I believe He revealed to me how I had transferred the hurt and disappointment to Him.  However, I was aware that God was sincerely and fervently loving me through the healing and sorting it all out process. 

Some would say - of course!  God never leaves or forsakes us. Hashtag truth could be used here.  But here's the thing:  In the fog of hurt, disappointment, discouragement, despair of spiritual depression, these truths were just not as clear to me as they once were. Yes, I know the truth.  But the emotions were so painful it was hard to name and claim truth. Oh, but the fervent love of the Lord...

Fervently means earnestly, intensely.  To stretch out the hand...thus it means to be streched out, earnest, resolute, tense.  Continual or intense.  Intently, earnestly.

I know God fervently loves me every day.  But in my distress, I think God allowed me to be more aware of His presence...more aware of His stretching out His hand to me.  His continual and intense love for me.  He was resolute.  I withdrew from Him, blamed Him, ignored Him, wrestled with Him, let my emotions go wild, believed lies...and couldn't seem to pin the right truth in the right spot in my heart or mind.  But, His hand was always stretched out to me, patiently waiting for me to grab hold of Him.  

During this time, He was wooing me with His creation.  As I would sit having no desire to do anything else, I would often just watch the birds.  As I did, the Spirit of God within me would call to remembrance His word which I had hidden in my heart.  God used the birds to remind me of His love for me and my worth to Him.  As the storms would roll in or the sun would rise, the Spirit of God would bring to remembrance His word which spoke of His power and might and sovereignty in all things.  Once, He even took clouds and turned them into a heart as I sat there looking at the beautiful sky. Over and over He reminded that He is working all things together for my good and His glory.  But, I was still hurting.  In some ways in mourning loss (another post for another time).

Oh, how I wish I had journaled each day during this time because God taught me so much about what it means and looks like to fervently love from the heart.  I am better equipped to fervently love from the heart as a result of that particular trial.  I think.  I hope.  We'll see!

I know how precious it is to be fervently loved from the heart while being distressed by trials and having your faith tested.  To be fervently loved from the heart while fighting for your faith is a tremendous blessing.  I have a better understanding today of just how important it is to not give up on others but to keep stretching out my hand, so it's there when they need to or are ready to grab on to it.  I know I need to and want to be resolute in my love.  To be fervent and earnest and intense. To woo, comfort, strengthen, encourage and help others by reminding them of His enduring word.  Just like God was with me.

Easy enough to do with those who love me back or want me to love them and be in their life.  But, as I was processing 1 Peter 22 this morning, my mind shifted to those who have caused me hurt, disappointed me, rejected me - whatever.  Are you kidding me, Lord?  How do I earnestly, fervently and intensely from the heart love those who have hurt me or seemingly don't like me or want to be in my life? Some would answer me saying because God says so and because we are to forgive and so many other truths from God's word.  All #truth, but doing from the heart what the word says - that's hard and is a supernatural work of God.  it means yielding, and for me that means wrestling.  Come on, can someone please give me a #truth?

I've learned that just because I know the truth, it doesn't mean I can actually live out that truth in each and every distressing trial of my life.  The Lord has to help me which can sometimes mean wrestling me to the ground.

What I've learned is even those who hurt and disappointed me need to be fervently loved from the heart just as I do. Yes, I know this, but I'm talking about actually doing it.  Through all of this, I've been reminded that we all need someone(s) to love us enough not to give up on us.  Extend the same love and grace as God has extended to me.  Especially those who belong to Christ as I belong to Christ.  We are family. 

I know.  Some people may not want me to fervently love them from my heart.  But, truth be told, it should not stop me from stretching out my hand, so it's there should they ever want to grab hold of it.  How awesome would it be to fervently love from the heart my brothers and sisters in Christ - no matter how they act.  When they don't act right like I don't act right...when they get lost in their own fog and can't quite see the truth just like I've found myself doing...when they pout, wrestle and disobey just like I do...yet earnestly, resolutely and intensely love them.  

I want to.  Now that I know on a deeper level what being fervently loved looks and feels like and how wonderful it is, I am more eager to extend and offer it...even to those who don't want it...to those who have hurt and disappointed me and may not even like me so much. 

Oh, Father as soon as the pain of hurt pierces my heart I am sure I will forget this.  But I don't want to.  Help me.  What a gift and blessing it would be to fervently love others from the heart as you have fervently loved me from Your heart.  It would be a miracle.  Make it so.

Thursday
Jun292017

Entry #4 - Spiritual depression

When am I the most spiritually vulnerable?  When being distressed by various trials.  The more difficult the trial, the more distressed I am.  The more distressed I am, the more vulnerable.  1 Peter 1:7 confirms and reminds me that the distress from trials tests my faith.  Do I really believe what I say I believe?  Do I and can I greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory because of my faith - no matter what is happening to me?  Does the fact that I am...

  • Born again to a living hope
  • Have an inheritance waiting for me in heaven
  • Protected by God's power
  • Saved and my soul secure...

hold me, motivate me, give me courage, strength and the ability to endure?

This walking by faith is challenging.

I've spent the last year and a half discussing with the Lord the impact hurt and great disappointments (trials) have had on me and how they have impacted me spiritually.  I've watched in my own life and in the lives of others how the result of hurt and disappointment can lead to discouragement.  

In the place of discouragement, I start retreating, withdrawing and attempting to protect myself.  I start to take control.  So desperate for the pain and distress of the trial to end I try to make it end.  Or, I stop doing things that caused the pain or could cause additional pain.  I run ahead.  I try to make the hurting stop.  I fret so I do. This is a place where hurting people often hurt people.  Right here is where I have so often failed my test of faith. Fortunately, I am forgiven and given multiple "do overs."  But, after a year of processing all this with the Lord, I realize how often hurt and disappointment has led to discouragement and when I get discouraged, I stop.

How many times I have heard others say or have said myself "hurt the baby" or "burn the baby."  At a very young age, we are trained to avoid doing or things that will bring us pain.  Don't get me wrong, this is a good thing.  We need and want to avoid the kind of pain that can come from things we can and should avoid.  But there is pain in life that cannot be avoided.  What do you do when you get hurt or burned?  When my mind is distressed, and the emotions of hurt, pain, fear, doubts, etc. are stronger than my faith,  I want to medicate, find relief, make it go away, be over it.  I don't like to feel hurt and disappointment because it's emotionally painful. In this place, my spiritual vulnerability is at a very high danger level.  

If I don't get a spiritual grip here and allow the truth I know to fill and change my mind, I move to despair.  Despair is a place where I have no hope that things will ever get better or change or ...  In the place of despair, I don't even recognize myself because giving up hope means I stop believing in and standing on the promises of God found in His word.  Oh, I might believe them for others, but despair tells me that I need to shut up, go away and that God has given up on me.  So, I retreat and withdraw even more.  I find ways to cope with the hurt and disappointment so I can function. In some ways, I declare life is just too hard, and it hurts too much, and I stop putting myself out there.  

Again and at the time, I don't always recognize this is happening, and it can be oh so subtle.  In the place of hurt and disappointment that I cannot figure out, make sense of, make go away, or come to terms with, I shut down, shut off.  It stops me dead in my spiritual tracks.  While I may still be in the word, sharing the word and believing God's word is the truth, I am personally not growing spiritually.  My relationship with the Lord is not thriving.  I'm stuck.  This is where despair turns into spiritual depression.  

After spending months and months talking to the Lord about all this, I realized the bottom line was that I was really disappointed in God.  The hurt and disappointment from the trial were things He could have stopped, fixed, make never to happen and He didn't.  You can do all the right things for the right reasons and still get hurt.  You can even be called by God to do something and be obedient to that call and still get hurt.  So dazed and dizzy from the pain, I start to believe God isn't coming through for me.  

Oh, I would have never verbalized these things in the middle of the trial, but in hindsight - it happened.  Losing hope and trust in God led me into a spiritual depression.   I stopped growing because I was too busy questioning what God was doing to trust that He was doing exactly what was needed to produce His desired outcome.  I could still storm heaven in prayer for others.  I could still stand on the promises of God's word for others totally believing them to be true for them.  The visual that comes to mind is the game "pin the tail on the donkey."  While I considered myself highly functional in my spiritual depression, in my spirit, the distress of the trial spins me around and around.  Eventually, the spinning stops, but I am so distressed - dizzy and in such a fog - I can't pin the truth for myself. Oh, thank God for the people God has put in my life to help me.

I stopped growing spiritually because I put up walls in my relationship with God.  Trusting God is risky. I can, and frankly will, get hurt.  The lack of trust harms my intimacy with my Lord.  I stepped back from Him.  After all, He let me get hurt and burned.  As I retreat and withdraw from God, my confidence and passion in Him fade.  Now, that's downright depressing.

It takes time to rebuild trust.  In a state of spiritual depression, I found I had to make myself talk to God about what I was feeling.  That was hard because I wasn't really sure what I was feeling.  I could no longer study God's Word, so I had to find a way back to His word so it could reach my mind and heart.  I listened to it.  I searched the Psalms (filled with emotional questions for God while declaring He is God).  I listened to scriptures put to music.  I prayerfully found ways to approach God via His word.  But, I had to make myself do it and recovering from spiritual depression took time.  I knew eating God's word (so to speak) was the pill I needed for my depression, but it was a hard pill to swallow, and I had to get a lot of it in my system before I started to see a change.

So what does any of this have to do with my journible of 1 Peter 1:13-19.  As I wrote out these verses, I know they tell me how to be distressed well by various trials and grow in my faith as a result of the distress.

"Therefore, prepare your mind for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your eyes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelations of Jesus Christ.  As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance but like the Holy One who called you, be hoy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, you shall be holy for I am holy.  If you address as Father the one who impartially judges according to each ones work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth' knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with the precious blood as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ."

The odd thing is that before the hurt and disappointment came, I knew to prepare my mind for action.  I thought I was prepared.  But the trial proved I was not.  I focused on the distress rather than my faith and what my faith and salvation secured for me.  Rather than fixing my eyes on Jesus, I fixed my eyes on my distress.  I reverted back to some old ways of thinking.  I was conformed.  Something I never thought I would do.  My thinking and attitudes and sometimes even my behavior was not holy.  Yes, hurting people think and say and do unholy stuff.

Hurt and disappointment to discouragement to despair to spiritual depression.  Knowing that I was not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from my futile way of life but with the precious blood as of a lamb, unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ (1 Peter1:18-19) changes everything.  I thought I knew this.  I thought I had prepared my mind for action with this most beautiful truth.  But, I didn't stay sober in my spirit nor did I fix my eyes completely on Jesus and what my relationship with Him secured for me.  In the fog of emotions, I lost my way to these truths.  Hurt and disappointment are powerful and when I am the most spiritually vulnerable.  So Sally...

  • Prepare your mind for action (trials are going to test my faith)
  • Keep sober in spirit
  • Fix your eyes on Jesus
  • Be holy (act right - don't be conformed)
  • Remember you've been redeemed with the precious blood of Christ and all that secures for you

1 Peter 1:13-19

PS.  If you are reading this post and know me, please don't try to figure out how I was hurt or disappointed or read into anything other than what I am sharing with you.  What I have shared with you is actually what has happened during every hurt and disappointment I've experienced.  I'm only now just figuring it out.