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something better than easy belief

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I’m noticing a pattern in my relationship with God: not only do I learn new things, but He takes familiar truths and redefines them.

For example, in high school, I absorbed the term sanctification as God’s shaping me to be more like Jesus. But in my spirit-and-flesh wrestling through life, I’ve been tempted to think of sanctification as ‘you’re not enough as you are, you always need to be growing,’ or ‘keep your spiritual act together, don’t mess up.’ This belief cultivates an anxious obedience and a lack of joy in faithfulness, not connection to God. 

Are you more aware and driven by the knowledge of your shortcomings and failures than you are aware of and driven by God’s mercy and grace to you in Jesus Christ? It is not a bad thing to know where you fall short of the glory of God. Remember God hates sin. But being aware of those things, does that drive you into the grace of God, or are you so aware of those that you have minimized the grace of God and you have left orthodox Christian faith and you’re out here trying to earn what you will never be able to earn? Matt Chandler

Sanctification, including the Father’s loving discipline, is living in a right relationship to Jesus Christ, the Master, that brings and sustains right thoughts, feelings, choices, and habits, enabling one to do what is right (Dallas Willard).

Spiritual maturity is living dependent on God, not independent of Him.

This year, my relationship with God has felt a bit like an unpredictable roller coaster, and believing Him hasn’t come easily or felt warm or bright, but maybe it’s better that way. I often felt like the person James refers to, “who doubts like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (1:6). Not that I doubted God’s existence or love or the Bible as truth, but I vacillated between trusting God, the world I could see, or my own abilities and feelings. The fight to believe God felt messy and tiring and discouraging. 

Today, almost in 2018’s last month, why do I say this season of warfare might be better than easy belief? Because it’s difficult to be satisfied in Christ if I’m never truly hungry for Him.

When we circle the desert, looking at ourselves or others to fix or change or be enough, we live in perpetual thirst. With the help of dear friends and Spirit-filled authors, I was challenged to take my lack of easy belief and dig deeper, despite my feelings; to seek more diligently, in spite of the temptation to quit; to confront my prideful tendencies, even though the admission felt shameful. 

I brought my seemingly empty, struggling, no-idea-what-else-to-do self before Him and asked to be filled with something new. 

Truly, it is worth being poor and greatly tried in faith, for the sake of having day by day such precious proofs of the loving interest which our kind Father takes in everything that concerns us. And how should our Father do otherwise? He that has given us the greatest possible proof of His love which He could have done, in giving us His own Son, surely He will with Him also freely give us all things. George Müller

I came across these words by Hudson Taylor and designed a phone wallpaper: “How to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One.” 

It is not in trying harder, but in the yielding to Him to work where belief is strengthened and renewed. It’s in the ‘I’m not enough, You’re enough‘ confession the Holy Spirit breathes a new layer of trust into my heart. It’s my desperate need of help to be the sweetest place to be, because God is an inexhaustible fountain and will never not give of Himself to His children who ask.  

God surprised me. In an uncomfortable season where belief felt unstable and my flesh ran out and His presence didn’t seem close, I learned a degree of greater ‘certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead’ (Hebrews 11:1 TLB). And wherever you find yourself, so can you. 

The judgment we deserve was absorbed by Jesus on the cross, so every challenge, pain, discipline, dry season, and sanctifying path has a purpose, not as punishment, but as gracious provision.

What if our weakness and need and humility is the gateway to more of God? Yes.
What if grace not accepted as a gift is grace not being authentically lived? Woah.
What is pleasing God is not found at all in living independent of Him to any degree, but dependent on Him? Praises.
What if believing God’s Word with our minds is all we can do, even if our feelings are super slow to catch up? More than okay.
#preachingtomyselfhere

Some people think God does not like to be troubled with our constant coming and asking. The way to trouble God is not to come at all. D.L. Moody

My best stance on this earth is a posture of receiving – all of Him as all I need (Philippians 1). It’s a position of tasting and seeing God as enough that brings Him glory, invites Him in, and changes us. It’s a rolling every burden onto the shoulders of Christ. It’s finding joy in being hidden in Him. It’s confidence that nothing can separate us from His love. In all honesty, maybe I don’t want my faith to be easy breezy all the time, because I might not experience the magnitude of the gospel or the wonder of God as my lifeline. Ask me again the next time a season like this comes around. 

 

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What stops you from coming in need before God? Has God ever surprised you? What distracts you from being His beloved? What kind of season are you in with God? I’d love hear some of your story!

strategies of hope for a recovering earnaholic

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My name is Chelsea, and I’m a recovering earnaholic. 

If there was a support group for me (although, hello, I know it’s the Church), I might start out with this line: I’ve spent much of my Christian life working for God, for an identity of my own, instead of receiving His life and all He has for me.

Earlier this year, I realized (thank you, Holy Spirit) something striking: my greatest desire wasn’t God, but to be good enough in all eyes (my own, others, and His). In my experience, earning love is a sin masquerading as not that bad. It is a mixture of fear and pride buried deep under the idol of image management. It’s a habit often rooted in self-satisfaction, not God-my-All. And it’s colored by a need to be worthy by our own standards, not what God has declared to be true. 

In this life, there is sin we’ve battled our entire Christian life, sin we have grown comfortable in, or sin we’re continually wearied by. How do we wrestle down sins that don’t easily appear to be sin, without glorifying them as part of who we are? How do we live the life we now live in the flesh by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us? (Galatians 2:20) Below are strategies I have found helpful, no matter how imperfectly I execute them.

1. We apply the gospel to every moment until the response is as natural as breathing.

In a sentence, what is the gospel? “The gospel is the good news that the everlasting and ever-increasing joy of the never-boring, ever-satisfying Christ is ours freely and eternally by faith in the sin-forgiving death and hope-giving resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (John Piper)

The gospel can be a jolt of energy when we feel exhausted in our sin battles. The gospel can be healing balm when we feel broken by the weakness of our flesh. The gospel can be a source of joy when we realize we are not alone in our wrestling. To be these things, the gospel of Jesus can’t be a cloud floating above us, drifting, it must be vigilantly applied to every thought and feeling.

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from ‘religiously right’ to Jesus, only Jesus

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I sat in the pew, taking notes, attentive to the pastor in front of me reading the story of a Canaanite woman’s encounter with Jesus (Matthew 15:21-28). 

I confess the story is one I mostly glaze over, because it seems weird and uncharacteristic of Jesus. This day, God had primed my heart and mind to hear something new. 

Prior to this moment in Scripture, Jesus had held conversations with people driven by religious achievement. He then encounters a woman in great need asking for mercy purely out of belief that He is the only one who can change her circumstance. But He responded so uniquely, throwing up obstacle after obstacle. He spoke hard words, and she persisted. She was determined that even a crumb from His hand would be enough to change her life. And He was delighted by her faith!

I imagine she had exhausted all other options, abandoning idols of her friends and family, desperate for any semblance of breakthrough. Nothing was working. Nothing was changing.

I can relate. I can relate to the madness of seeking deep peace and durable joy by ways not God. I can relate to the feeling of getting so close to freedom you can smell it, but never experience it work its way into your system. By grace, His Spirit is renewing us. I saw the reality of the gospel in full color that day: a life of faith, by way of God’s Spirit, is fixed on God and His perfect, crucified, resurrected, reigning Son – not self.

Like this woman encountered obstacles in her pursuit of Jesus, an obstacle to wholehearted surrender to Jesus I fight every day is self-reliance

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