A Writer’s Prayer

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Lord, thank You for the gift of language. Thank You for written words that connect and reveal Your heart to ours. Thank you for the gift of creativity. The way Your Spirit moves through the realm of the unseen muse is a precious gift.

I lift up my words, my written thoughts, my stories on the altar to You, Lord. I do not idolize them, Father, or think they are without flaw, for like me they are messy and tainted by sin. Yet I offer all that I have and yield it to You. In my weakness, show Yourself strong. Where I fail to understand, teach me. When criticism shreds my heart, remind me my heart is to beat for You alone.

Take these feeble words and work Your perfect plan. Spin and weave them into a dance that reveals Your love to hurting souls. Remind me that I cannot continue to fist these words in my hands, even loosely, and still lay them on the altar. Help me surrender all control to You.

I kneel before You in awe of what You are going to do. You are the Author of Life, my Redeemer and King. I love you, Lord. Amen.

 

 

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Lie #4: God is not really enough.

As part of our series “Liar”, a look at the enemy’s schemes and how to defeat them, we’ve come to a rather tricky little lie. Little #4: God is not really enough.

Why is this one so sneaky? I think it’s because many of us don’t realize we have fallen for it.

The truth is we say Jesus is all we need, we sing it in countless hymns and worship songs and print it on t-shirts and bumper stickers. But do we really mean it? jesus is all i need

I was recently singing Kari Jobe’s beautiful song “What Love Is This” in worship one Sunday morning at church when I came to the line, “You’re all I need”. I was struck by my own hypocrisy. I want to be the follower who truly finds complete and total satisfaction only in Christ, but if I’m honest, there are many days when I’m woefully short.

Usually I say He’s enough, but I also want my kids to behave. I say He’s enough but I also want a healthy bank account. I say He’s enough but I’d also love to have a publishing contract. Am I the only one? Somehow, I doubt it.

Too many of us have the Jesus-plus syndrome. Jesus plus a husband. Jesus plus children. Jesus plus good health. Jesus plus a break. Jesus plus a job that pays enough. I hate to break it to the lot of us but if we’re living our lives with the Jesus plus anything mentality, we have fallen for the lie that God isn’t enough.

Every time we give in to complaining, to wallowing in irritability or fussing about the things that “just aren’t going our way”, we’re telling a world of people around us that Jesus isn’t enough. It tells them that our happiness is dependent on things or circumstances.

Ever since the Fall in the garden of Eden, we have a hole inside. (Genesis 3) It’s a hole we try to fill with all kinds of things: food, shopping, friends, relationships, alcohol, approval, money, power, drugs, our job, sex, achievements or our family. I call these things hole fillers. Do we truly believe God is enough, or are we looking to things and people to fill the empty places of our hearts? hole in heart

It kind of reminds me of the Cherokee Legend of the Wolf.

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity and truth. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” ~Galatians 5:17

We must recognize that the deepest longings of our hearts cannot be filled by any created person or thing. People and circumstances will not make you happy.

I tend to find myself rolling my eyes whenever I hear some young, starry-eyed teenager telling her friend, “I can’t wait to meet the man who will complete me.” Cue my snort of derision. I think all those Disney princess movies messed us up in this department. Sorry, ladies, but there is no human man that can fulfill the desires of your heart. No guy, no matter how awesome he is, is flawless. He will let you down. Marriage is not a cure for loneliness.

No man can complete you. Only Jesus can do that. God made us in such a way that we can never be truly satisfied with anyone or anything less than Him.

corrie ten boom hold lightlyOne of my personal heroes is Corrie Ten Boom and I yield to her words here. “Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.” Wise words. Sooner or later, everything here on this earth will fail. It will die or dissolve. All that will remain is the spiritual. Jesus really is all you need.

As far as those old hymns and popular worship songs of the day go, I’ve tweaked a few of them. Now they say something along the lines of “Teach my heart You’re all I need…” A bit more honest. And after all, honesty is what we’re going for here, right?

 

Lie #3: “I’m Worthless” and Other Labels

worthless

Welcome back to our blog series “Liar”, a look at our enemy and the lies he tells us. As a refresher, we’ve discussed Lie #1 “God’s Main Concern is my Happiness” and Lie #2 “If my life were different, I would be different”. This week’s lie seems to be an arrow flung with far too much frequency by the enemy and one believed by far too many of God’s children. Lie #3: “I’m worthless.”

Whenever I’m teaching at retreats about the enemy’s lies and I come to this one, I ask the ladies to raise their hands if they have believed lie #3 at some point in their lives. Without fail, every hand in the room has gone up. Why? count of monte cristo quote

After listening to story after story, one common denominator seems to resonate through most of these women’s issues…someone at some point gave them a label that stuck.

Names have power. Nicknames can be fun but when nicknames turn into labels, it can be a problem. Let me explain.

I recently conducted a Facebook and Twitter poll asking my friends what their nicknames were growing up. Some of my favorites were Snicklefritz, Squeaky, Casper, Noodle, Idgit, and Sassafras. Cute. Sweet. Then things took a twist.

Soon people started sharing their, uh, less flattering nicknames…monikers like Tubby, Fatso or Motor Mouth to name a few.

Names can turn into labels. Labels stick. Soon we begin to believe the lie that we are what the label advertises.

peachesTo put it another way, labels usually tell us what’s inside, right? If I walk into my pantry and grab a can that bears a label of plump, juicy peaches, I don’t expect to open the can and find black eyed peas inside. The label system works great for canned foods and organizing closets, but not for defining our own worth.

Some of us are slapped with a label just once, maybe twice by some cruel person and we believe the lie. We mistakenly believe we are what the label advertises.

“That boy said I’m ugly. So therefore I must be…

*unattractive to everyone.”

*I’ll always be unattractive.”

*I’m unattractive on the inside too.”

*No one will ever want me.”

On and on the lies go.

A dear friend of mine was told from the time she was young that she was unwanted and it wreaked havoc in her life. Why? Because she believed it. A lie is only detrimental if we believe it.

Maybe you have a label stuck to you that refuses to come off. Maybe it’s “Unwanted”. “Unlovable”. “Black Sheep”. “Depressed”. “Divorced”. “Loser”. “Mess up.” “Victim”. “Condemned.” “Never Good Enough”.

You are more than the label someone has given you.

value and worthThis lie of feeling worthless is based in rejection. Sometimes it may be more than words or feelings. You might have lived through the slicing pain of divorce. A nasty break-up. Perhaps you’ve been rejected by your family, mistreated by your coworkers, or fired from your job. For some, the most devastating blow of all is being forgotten by your children. For others, you might be dealing with the mess from your own consequences and poor decisions and you just need a little grace from people unwilling to give it.

Here’s the thing…your worth does not change based on someone’s ability to see it. 

Consider a priceless work of art. A Van Gogh painting. Pretend you are walking down the street and are stunned to see an original, authentic Van Gogh painting carelessly tossed into a dumpster. Why would anyone do such a thing? Clearly the owner had no idea of its worth. trash

Did the painting’s worth change based on its location or who owned it? No. Its value remained the same. This scenario only shows us the ignorance of the person who discarded it.

Don’t let someone who doesn’t understand your value define your worth.

As always, we need look no farther than Jesus. The Prince of Peace knows exactly what it’s like to be labeled worthless and rejected. 1 Peter 2:4 says this:

“Come to Him [the risen Lord] as to a living Stone which men rejected and threw away, but which is choice and precious in the sight of God.”

Did you catch that? Men rejected and threw away Jesus…the Creator, Redeemer, Savior, their Hope and King. There aren’t enough books in the world to contain all the words to describe the worth of Christ, yet men still rejected Him and threw Him away. It said nothing of His worth, only the inability of the people to understand that God Himself had come down to them. They didn’t understand the treasure they’d been given.

You are precious to God. He loved you so much He would have rather died than leave you in the dark. If you’re still battling lie #3 in your mind, you need look no further than the cross. jesus

Jesus didn’t die for junk. You are immeasurably priceless and loved by the God of the universe. When He gave up His life for you, He gave your life its worth.

Never let anyone tell you differently.

Lie #2: If my life were different, I would be different.

Welcome back to our blog series “Liar”, a look at the lies Satan tells us and how to defeat them. Lie #2 is a sneaky one, one that I’ve fallen for many times. “If my life were different, I would be different.” 

if only

If my job only paid better…

If my husband treated me like he cared…

If our house wasn’t so small…

If my health was good…

If my kids would listen…

Have you been there? It’s a tempting way to live life. The “If Onlys” provide us with a fantasy world of perfection. A land where all our troubles vanish and then, finally, we can be who we really want to be. Happy. Content. Joyful.

There’s just one problem. That fantasy land does not exist this side of eternity.

Ever since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, this world is a broken, twisted mess. We know there’s a mess, but we mistakenly think the worst of it is around us. It’s our surroundings. Our families. The people we work with. Our houses. Our finances. Our money (or lack thereof.) Our own bodies. The world system. We complain. We scrape and claw, trying to find some way out of the muck and mire but fail to realize the biggest mess isn’t the one around us. It’s the one inside us.

Let me put it another way. Whenever there’s a long period with no rain, what do people do? Complain. Pray. They beg God and search the barren sky for one sign of a coming cloud. They want rain. They can’t live one more minute without it.

grumpy nateAnd finally rain comes. Boy, does it come. So much rain that soon social media is flooded with bitter complaints. “Okay, I know we needed rain, but I didn’t want to build an ark today”. When it’s hot outside, we say we want snow. When it snows, we say we want the beach. We are never satisfied. Satan lies and tells us that we have a circumstance problem, but quite honestly, the majority of the time we have a heart problem.

To quote Nancy Leigh DeMoss, “Circumstances do not make us what we are. They merely reveal what we are.”

If we aren’t content in our current situation, it’s doubtful we will be content in any other situation. Here’s why: contentment has nothing to do with our surroundings. It’s 100% about the condition of our hearts.

Truly content people aren’t content because they are living in a perfect situation. They are content despite the adversary they live in. Look at what Paul penned in Philippians 4.

I have learned to be content [and self-sufficient through Christ, satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or uneasy] regardless of my circumstances.  I know how to get along and live humbly [in difficult times], and I also know how to enjoy abundance and live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret [of facing life], whether well-fed or going hungry, whether having an abundance or being in need.  I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.]” (verses 11-13 AMP)

horse tied to chairFalling for the lie that “If my circumstances were different, I would be different” enslaves us. It locks our minds into the mentality of a victim with no hope of breaking free. Trapped, empty, hopeless…that’s exactly where Satan wants you.

You don’t have to live in discontent. You have a choice. We have very little control over our circumstances, but we don’t have to let our circumstances control us or our attitudes. The best way to combat a lie is with the truth.

Truth:

Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom [to guide him through a decision or circumstance], he is to ask of [our benevolent] God, who gives to everyone generously and without rebuke or blame, and it will be given to him.” ~James 1:2-5 can cross

God may not remove you from an uncomfortable circumstance because He’s working to shape you more and more into the image of His Son. Lean into Him. Embrace the uncomfortable. Give thanks in all things…even those rough circumstances. He’s making you complete.

Have you ever been in the middle of a circumstance you couldn’t wait to get out of only to find it wasn’t easy street on the other side? Have you found ways to challenge yourself to be content, like a 7 day no-complaining challenge? What have you learned in the middle of difficult circumstances? I would love to hear!

 

 

 

Lie Number #1: God’s Main Concern is My Happiness

Welcome to the launch of a new blog series entitled “Liar”.

No, I’m not talking about what we regularly scream at our scales during weigh-ins. pug on scalesFor the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at the enemy of our souls, Satan, and some of his most common lies.

I know from talking with many of you, we are stuck in the same cycle of behavior. The same mistakes and failures, the same steps to repair the damage, a step forward into freedom and then, whoops! We fall into the same old mess again. Part of that, I’m afraid, is just being human. But part of this detrimental cycle could be that we aren’t getting at the root of some of our issues. Our behavior is a result of a belief about ourselves, each other, or God. What if the belief we are basing our decisions on isn’t the truth? What if we have fallen for a lie?

Satan is an expert at distorting God’s beautiful truth into a warped, twisted lie. He hisses his deception, mingling it with just enough truth to make us second guess ourselves, or worse yet, second guess God. A counterfeit is only good if it looks like the real thing and that’s what he does…he offers counterfeit solutions to God’s peace and love.

counterfeit

“He [Satan] was a murderer from the beginning, and does not uphold the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)

The only way to uncover a lie is to measure the beliefs we have built our lives upon against the unchanging Truth…God’s Word.

So let’s look at, what I believe, is a common lie too many of us have fallen for, myself included.

Lie Number #1: God’s Main Concern is My Happiness

Our culture has inundated us with the lie that it’s all about us. From coffee shops to restaurants to television commercials, we are constantly told, “Buy this product. You deserve it.” “You get it your way here.” “All that matters is what you want.” me_universe_centerYou, you, you. Me, me, me. The focus has become what makes each of us happy. This twisted theology has even crept into our Christian culture and bled all over what we read, what we hear on the radio and what we hear renown speakers of the day preach.

I believe God is delighted when His children are joyful, BUT it’s not His primary concern.

That sounds harsh, but it’s true. Let me explain.

Pretend you live on a dead end road. There is very little traffic and it’s not uncommon for the children on that road to ride their bikes out in the middle of the street, since the only cars who usually traverse the area belong to the parents who live there or the mailman. It’s a pleasant spring day and your son is happily riding his tricycle on the road, pumping his chubby little legs and grinning, proudly showing off his skills.

Then you hear it. The sound of car coming, way too loud. Way too fast. You look up to see a giant truck screaming down the street. Does the driver even see your son?

You yell, “Son, get off the road! A truck is coming!”

He frowns, intent on his play. “No! Don’t want to.”

Why doesn’t your son want to leave? Because he’s happy. He’s playing, enjoying life. He doesn’t see, or understand, the imminent danger about to befall him. So you have a choice. Do you choose your son’s happiness or his safety? truck

We would, of course, all choose to drag him off the road, despite his protests, before the speeding truck could hurt him. Would he be happy about it? No. But his happiness would not be our priority at that moment. His safety would be.

God wants you to be safe. He has a plan and a purpose for your life. A plan that He prepared before you were even born. His ultimate concern is seeing His plan worked out for His glory.

Here are several reasons why “God’s concern is my happiness” is a lie.

1) Oftentimes what makes me happy is not ultimately good for me.

Happiness is good when it’s within the confines of God’s will, but here’s the problem: sometimes what makes me happy is far outside of His will.

It makes me happy to guzzle down an entire carton of chocolate peanut butter ice cream, but boy, it’s not good for me. It fills me with happiness to wear new outfits, even if that means I’ve over spent and made my credit card weep for mercy.

gluttony

I conducted a social media poll to ask my friends what things made them happy, even though it might not be good for them. Here were some of their responses:

“Watching television for hours.”

“Drinking alcohol.”

“Shopping.”

“Laying in a tanning bed.”

“Eating obscene amounts of chocolate.”

“Staying in bed all day.”

You get the idea. Without God-defined boundaries in our lives, happiness turns into excess, which turns into a out-of-control life.

2) Suffering, or the refining process, is vital for growth in the Christian life. It’s also uncomfortable and can be painful.

What happens to a pond where the water never moves? Yeah, it gets scummy. To grow into the image of Christ, we cannot stay in a perpetual fog of self-induced bliss, like a doped up bear at the zoo. I think you and I would both agree we are not yet molded perfectly into the image of Christ, which means we have some changing to do. Change, by definition, means something will have to become different. We cannot stay the same. We have to allow God to stretch us. Stretching is uncomfortable, even painful.

When in doubt, I continually return to this pivotal verse Jesus gave to those who wanted to follow Him:

 “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'” ~Luke 9:23  carry cross

Nothing about personal happiness in there. Quite the opposite, in fact. Don’t get me wrong. There is joy, tremendous joy in giving your life away and following Christ. And the happiness we’ll have beyond this life is incomparable to anything we have here. But what most of us consider happiness, the temporary pleasure of this life, cannot be grasped if we are taking up a cross. It’s hard to a carry a cross if you don’t like to be uncomfortable.

3) True blessings like the ones Jesus spoke of had nothing to do with possessions, material wealth, career success or the like.

From His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said the blessed were those who mourned, the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and the persecuted. Nothing about personal happiness or financial success in there. You won’t find any verses about God’s will for his children to climb the ladder of accomplishments or to be comfortable.

God is not nearly so concerned with our happiness, or even getting us out of our current circumstances, as He is in transforming us into the image of His Son through our circumstances. His goal is His glory for His great Name.

My friends, we’ve been lied to. It’s time to trade the pursuit for temporary happiness and instead pursue the eternal joy that is found when we choose to give our lives away and fall at the feet of Jesus.

“He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?” ~Micah 6:8

God loves you. He loves you so much He died for you, and He loves you too much to let you dabble with things that will destroy you, or let you be less than the glorious plan He intended for you. Don’t listen to the lie. Choose life.