Seasons

A quote I saw on Twitter by a friend and colleague motivated me to write a brief entry in my journal. Below is what I wrote on June 5th.

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Challenges prove that we can’t bear burdens alone, but instead must depend solely on God and connection with his people.

Nikole Lim

The challenges I’ve faced this year have definitely proven to me that my dependence on the Lord was not as strong as I thought.  This year has really pushed and challenged me to rely more on God in seasons of difficulty, because I just can’t do it on my own.

I don’t know if I would’ve learned that without facing some major rock-bottom moments.  Perhaps that is part of the bigger picture; why God allows us to endure painful seasons of life.

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*Nikole Lim is a photographer, filmmaker, and advocate for social justice. Check out her website.

You can follower her on Twitter @Nikole_Lim

Ambiguous

For me, it’s really easy to share ambiguous prayer requests. You know them because they sound like this: “I’m going through something very difficult right now” or “I’ve been struggling.” It’s usually followed up with “It would help if you could pray for me.”

What does that even mean?!

Why do I do that? Why do I even bother sharing a prayer request that is so incredibly vague?

I realized this week that being honest in my prayer requests requires extreme intentionality and vulnerability. I am hindering growth in my relationships by giving the sort-of truth.

Because let’s face it, the reason why I’m not telling you what’sreally going on is probably because I either don’t trust you, or I’m afraid. I’m scared to death that if I voice, out loud, what it really is that I need honest and earnest prayer for, then I am allowing myself to be held accountable for doing something about it.

Join me in being less confusing and vague and ambiguous in your prayer requests. Let people really pray for you. Be honest.

Redefining sin

This week I was challenged by a blog about gossip, and it left me feeling convicted about my conversations with others. But while sharing this with my husband the other evening, I asked him if it was still gossip if you don’t mention the name of the person it’s about, and this is how he replied:

Even if you don’t mention the person’s name, the motive is still the same: you are trying to uplift yourself by sharing something negative about others.

Immediately I knew he was right, and I was amazed by my level of lameness. I was trying to get around the destructiveness of “gossip” by redefining it. But I was reminded that it’s not about what you call the sin in your life, it’s about the intentions of your heart. Sin is still sin, no matter what type of fancy definition you give it.

Ephesians 4: 29 says,

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it might benefit those who listen.

You choose

Last week, I was on the cusp of making a really stupid decision in anger, when I remembered something I heard a pastor say recently,

When God is not part of the decision-making process, you’ll always do the wrong thing.

So I stopped.  I realized I hadn’t even considered what God might want me to do; I was too blinded by my anger. I opened my Bible, not knowing where to turn, and flipped to 1 Timothy. I began to read about the Lord’s grace toward Paul. At first, it didn’t seem like the direction I was seeking. But read 1 Timothy 1: 14, 16 with me:

The grace of our Lord was poured on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus…. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him.

I didn’t hear Jesus’ audible voice telling me exactly what to do.  I didn’t receive a sign, or see words written in the sky. But I opened my Bible, and God directed me to exactly what I needed to hear in that moment. I was reminded that what I was about to do was act out in anger and frustration because I felt justified to do so. But after reading 1 Timothy, God spoke to me through those passages. He told me that he showed me mercy first, even while I was the worst of sinners. He showed me grace in my rebellion and sin so that he could be lifted up in my life.  He showed me unlimited patience. Unlimited!

So I chose to show grace the way that Jesus shows it to me.  I didn’t act out in anger. I didn’t send the text that would’ve made me feel powerful and in control. I didn’t let Satan win this battle; instead, I offered forgiveness and mercy.

And it felt awesome.

Called out

A few weeks ago, a friend called me out about something I said in frustration; I used Facebook to make a broad generalization that had the potential to offend others.  My friend, in a very loving way, approached me about it and suggested that my comment was not wise.

I’ll admit that I was upset. I didn’t try to be offensive. I didn’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings. I simply made a statement without thinking beyond the moment.

But I got upset because I knew that she was right. I knew that she was wiser than me, that she had experienced more of life and didn’t want to see me make foolish mistakes. She reminded me that there are people reading what I write on Facebook, many of which would never tell me if what I said offended them. Instead, they might tune me out, or worse, doubt my authenticity as a Christian. I could be ruining an opportunity to reach them with the good things I have to say.

So, I learned this: I can’t grow if I’m not open to criticism and if I don’t allow the sin and junk in my life to be challenged by someone I respect.  I’m so thankful for my friend who decided to call me out and tell me I was doing something dumb.

Who’s calling you out?

I am Jonah

I learned yesterday that I am like Jonah.

Jonah received a calling directly from God to go to Ninevah and preach, but he was scared. He didn’t trust that God had amazing things in store for him; he didn’t trust that God wanted to use him in miraculous ways to change Ninevah. So he ran and then willingly chose death (Jonah 1:12).

I am the same, in that I don’t trust that God really wants to use me, that he wants to make amazing things out of my life. I let myself get consumed with fear and believing Satan’s lie that God’s will can’t possibly be better than death.  And I don’t mean physical death, but a life trapped by guilt, pain, anger and despair; a life devoid of the beautiful and fulfilling things he promises.

Read Jonah chapter one.

Think about how foolish he looks.

Now think about you.

Are you doing something dumb, like believing Satan’s lies? Like running from God’s calling for your life? Like holding on to to fear? Be intentional about choosing life.

Satan’s most brilliant lie

A few months ago I heard this quote:

One of Satan’s most brilliant lies is that if you surrender something to God, you’ll receive something less beautiful in return.

If you empty your hands, God will place something less amazing in them.

You’ll surrender gold and, in return, receive dirt.

Wow.

This is so true and it keeps us from truly trusting that God wants what is best for us.  I often forget that Satan is not in the business of making my life better. He wants to trap me in anger, emotional pain, anxiety and fear.  Satan never wants what is best for me.

So why is it so difficult for us to give up our weaknesses to Jesus, wholly surrendering our failures, temptations and the sin in our lives? Why do we continually believe that he doesn’t want to give us beautiful things? Why do we let Satan’s lies become the trap that keeps us from enjoying God’s blessings?

Remember, Jesus loves you (really), and he wants to replace the crap in your life with something that is amazing and beautiful.  He promises that when we seek him, he will allow us to prosper (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

Don’t believe Satan’s most brilliant lie. Don’t miss out on the incredible life God has for you; whatever it is, surrender it to him and he will give you something more beautiful in return.

*quote from Jon Acuff on his blog Stuff Christians Like

A time of healing

During this fast, I’ve been learning why forgiveness is difficult. First, true forgiveness requires that I am gracious; it requires me to look beyond my own pain and anger and be self-less.

But even after forgiveness comes, the wounds don’t close overnight; it takes time for them to heal and for hearts to recover from the hurt.  I’ve found myself in a time of healing after forgiving a dear friend, and it’s a daily struggle to not let the bitterness creep in.  Each day I must remind myself that I’ve chosen to forgive. I’ve chosen grace.

Because what is forgiveness if my heart becomes cold and cynical afterward? Jesus makes it clear that we should flee from bitterness, warning us of its corruptive nature.

Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.

Hebrews 12:15

Bitterness has the ability to take hold of our minds, warping our thoughts, emotions and perspective.  It’s another way that Satan wins. We think we’ve done the right thing by offering our forgiveness, but we forget that the process isn’t over. We’re in a battle for our heart and winning comes from continually choosing grace, one day at a time.

The End

The end of my 21 day fast is finally in sight, and I’ve had my share of lapses.  But this time of prayer and reflection has allowed me to bring some very uncomfortable truths to the forefront of my mind.  It has forced me to confront some areas of sin in my life and deal with them.

What is something that you’ve had to confront?

Desert Song

This song is my anthem right now.

Verse 1:
This is my prayer in the desert
And all that’s within me feels dry
This is my prayer in my hunger and need
My God is the God who provides

Verse 2:
And this is my prayer in the fire
In weakness or trial or pain
There is a faith proved
Of more worth than gold
So refine me Lord through the flames

Chorus:
And I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon formed against me shall remain
I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here

Verse 3:
And this is my prayer in the battle
When triumph is still on it’s way
I am a conqueror and co-heir with Christ
So firm on His promise I’ll stand

Bridge:
All of my life
In every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship

Verse 4:
This is my prayer in the harvest
When favor and providence flow
I know I’m filled to be emptied again
The seed I’ve recieved I will sow

Listen to the song