Monday, March 12, 2012

Settling for Cheap and Fake

Have you ever walked down an aisle of a super store and wonder with amazement why they come up with all of that junk? I know I do - in particular the useless novelty items begging for my children's attention as we roam up and down those aisles. A lot of those items are made of cheap plastic that usually only lasts a week or two because my kids have either lost interest in the novelty or because it broke. It's not just the cheap plastic items I wonder about either. I am also curious about other areas we as a society want to fill with cheap, shiny things. It's the quick, highly processed food, the awful reality shows (which I admit, I do watch), the politician's soundbite, the hero-worship of celebrities and so on. 

In my opinion, we are losing grasp of what is real and genuine. I think we do this to hide the ugliness of life. A lot of us are born with the innate desire to be perfect and to live the perfect life, but then life happens and suddenly what is reality does not fit into our paradigm of what life is. We search for quick fixes to make us feel better, but sadly those quick fixes are temporary. Before you know it, we are in a vicious cycle of cheap fixes. 

Life has its ugly moments. James 1:1-3 says "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds..."(NIV; emphasis mine). Did you notice the word "whenever"? He didn't say "if," he said "whenever" which pretty much guarantees that life will get messy. What we need to do, particularly during those times, is to keep our focus on what is real and that is Jesus. He had ugly moments as well (the loss of Joseph, the beheading of his cousin, John the Baptist, His own trial and death). He kept His focus on what was real and what His mission was for His life. He communed with His Father, comforted His friends (Mary and Martha after Lazarus' death), and even healed the man arresting Him. He also confronted the Pharisees and their ways. One of His charges against the hypocrites was their attempt at fasting - basically walking around looking hungry, wanting adulation for their "pious" ways. They were being fake. They took the attention off of the Lord and placed it upon themselves. That is the danger of settling for the cheap and fake. We fill those ugly moments with what "we" think is nice instead of embracing the complex beauty of this experience the Lord has called us to. I know - I have done the same thing during an ugly moment in my life. I tried to fill those voids with cheap replacements, only to be disappointed time and again. The only One who could fill that void was God. Once I turned back to Him, I realized my ugly moment, though painful, brought out His glory and His Beauty.

Don't settle for the cheap and fake. Nothing is better than the real hope, the real love, and the real grace the Lord extends to His children. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Pleasing the Lord

I admit it - this past week in particular, I have been extremely pleased with my oldest child. My child has worked hard to accomplish something and it is now being rewarded (to protect my child's privacy, I will remain non-specific). This reward brings pure joy to my child's heart and I'm bursting with pride and excitement.

Now I wonder if the Lord is pleased with His children like a parent is with their own child? I'm sure He did with Christ - remember what He said as the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ during his baptism - "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17; NIV)? In the past, whether due to lack of spiritual maturity or faulty teachings, I viewed God as looking down on me, constantly condemning me for the sin in my life. I felt as if He was pointing His finger down at me saying "You should have done this," or "you could have done that better." I didn't feel as if He was pleased with me.  

I have since learned this is not completely true. To begin with, the Lord knows I'm not perfect, which is why He sent His Son to die for me. And He didn't stop with the sacrifice of Christ. He then sent His Holy Spirit - our helper to guide us through this life. There are also scriptures explaining how we can please God, our Father in Heaven. Romans 12:1 says "Therefore I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this your true and proper worship" (NIV).

Need another example? Romans 14:17-18 says "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God..."(NIV).

Finally, one more verse - this is from 1 Chronicles 29:17 - "I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity..."(NIV).

So, it seems to me that living a righteous life - full of integrity and sacrifice pleases the Lord. And even when I do mess up, He is there to pick me up and give me another chance - because that is what a merciful, gracious and loving Father does. Knowing this frees me. I can now come to the Lord with a heart of worship, not one of fear. Though we are to fear the Lord, I want my worship to stem from true gratitude, not through forced motivation. My relationship with the Lord has grown because my heart and soul delight in the Lord, just as my child delights in her reward.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Be Careful What You Pray For...

...or so the saying goes. I used to edit my prayers because the cliche echoed in my head. I decided though if I truly want to become who the Lord wants me to be, then I'm going to have to pray without fear. So, a few weeks ago I took a deep breath and prayed the Lord would show me my heart and He did (relentlessly, yet gently). Let me just say "yuck." Issues popped up - issues I thought I dealt with a while ago.

Let me start by saying this: I know the Lord has worked in all areas of my life. I can look back at where I once was and where I am now and see growth and maturity. But there are times when I compromise or when these issues sneak back into my life because I'm not keeping a vigilant watch. That's what I'm dealing with now. I tend to be selfish, less generous, easily angered, and so on. I know this to be true because my behavior surprised me at times when tested. For example - rebellion. I know I should be writing more, but hey, I want to do something else instead, so I will (cue the petulant child).

In Psalm 139:23-24, David writes "Search me God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (NIV) Thankfully, the Lord will work on those who want to be changed. That's me - I want to be changed. I figure the less yucky issues I have in my heart, then the more the Lord can fill my heart with Him. His ways become my ways.

Despite not liking what I saw - I am grateful. I am battling less with my self and I feel more at peace. So, are you going to be careful about what you pray for?