Saturday, March 26, 2011

Resting on God

Here's another Puritan prayer from the Valley of Vision.

O God Most High, Most Glorious,

The thought of thine infinite serenity cheers me,
For I am toiling and moiling, troubled and distressed,
but thou are for ever at perfect peace.
Thy designs cause thee no fear or care of unfulfillment,
they stand fast as the eternal hills.
Thy power knows no bond,
thy goodness no stint.
Thou bringest order out of confusion,
and my defeats are thy victories:
The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
I come to thee as a sinner with cares and sorrows,
to leave every concern entirely to thee,
every sin calling for Christ's precious blood;
Revive deep spirituality in my heart;
Let me live near to the great Shepherd,
hear his voice, know its tones, follow its calls.
Keep me from deception by causing me to abide in the truth,
from harm by helping me to walk in the power of the Spirit.
Give me intenser faith in the eternal verities,
burning into me by experience the things I know;
Let me never be ashamed of the truth of the gospel,
that I may bear its reproach,
vindicate it,
see Jesus as its essence,
know in it the power of the Spirit.
Lord, help me, for I am often lukewarm and chill;
unbelief mars my confidence,
sin makes me forget thee.
Let the weeds that grow in my soul be cut at their roots;
Grant me to know that I truly live only when I live to thee,
that all else is trifling.
Thy presence alone can make me holy, devout, strong and happy.
Abide in me, gracious God.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

God's will?

The purpose of this blog is two-fold.

I'm doing the Relentless Acts of Justice through World Vision for lent this year. This week we are called to be vulnerable. As part of my challenge to myself, I've decided to share something with whoever reads this. Something personal.

Something that, exposed, will make me feel vulnerable.

In my time with the Lord yesterday, reflecting on the goals I've set for myself this lenten season, I realized something. I have always had a deep desire to be in the will of God. I've claimed that as the object of my ambition time and again, and yet... it dawned on me. I don't want to be in God's will because I want His best in my life. My desire isn't spurred on by the hope for utmost glory to God. No... no. My desire to be in God's will is out of fear. Fear that otherwise, I'll miss something. Fear that not being in His will means that my life won't be as "happy" as it could be.


When I realized this, I broke down. For the past month or so, I've felt very poor in spirit... which is something I'd been praying for, but what that feeling brings with it is more than I bargained for. Nonetheless, I've been humbled time and again, and even when I don't feel like pursuing God, even when I want to give up, I can look and see Him, every single step of the way. Loving me even though I'm a failure. Pursuing me even when there is nothing desirable about me.

And still, is my desire for Him actually hiding a desire for ME? I hope that isn't true, but I know that sometimes, it is. I should want to be in God's will, each moment, each breath, not because of what good it brings me, but because of the way it will glorify God.

So, about three hours after I had this come-to-Jesus, I get an email from a woman at Brook Hills. I applied about a month ago for an internship with this church, a position I wanted very badly. Turns out, they never received my application and have already made their selections.


I burst into tears and for five minutes just sat in my chair, sweaty from my run, feeling sorry for myself. But then I realized something. I triple-checked the address before I mailed it, and I put extra postage, just in case. There is NO reason that my application shouldn't have made it to Birmingham, right where it belonged.

Except that it didn't belong.

How often do we pray for signs of God's will and then miss every flashing light along the way? If this isn't a clear indicator, I'm not sure what else is. All along, I've been praying that God would close doors and open others, so I would know for certain what His will is. How gracious of Him?!

This isn't God saying, "Nope, sorry, Leigh... better luck next time." Rather, it's Him gently whispering, "Beloved, trust me. I have plans for your life so much better than your own. Allow me to glorify myself in you, and then you will truly live." It's silly, but I have to remind myself often that God does love me. I think sometimes in my mind I try to make God human, and so I expect Him to stop loving me when I mess up. But God is GOD. Therefore His love is perfect. Therefore nothing I do or don't do will make Him love me more or less. Therefore He never stops seeking to perfect the work He has begun in me... no matter my flaws. Just because I've fallen short of Him by obeying selfishly doesn't mean He's throwing in the towel.

Even more, I'm cognizant of the fact that God is omnipotent AND omnipresent. He's all-powerful, always present. Not just in OUR present, but all places at all times. Therefore, He doesn't just know the future - He's there. And He sees everything I don't, on a much grander scale than I could ever fathom. His sovereignty is so far-reaching... to the ends of the earth and the depths of my heart. My sorry little outline of the life I think I want pales in comparison to the role God has me playing in His story. So a turn I don't understand from my point of view is perfect on God's map.

It reminds me of the verse, Romans 8:28:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Notice it doesn't stop after "good" but goes on to say, "for those who are called according to his purpose." Yes, things work out for our good, but what is that anyway? Our good is our fulfillment, our abundant living (John 10:10) and that comes when we are fulfilling the purpose of God - ultimately, making Him famous.

Where I am now is a place of total humility, recognizing that God's plan is divine and mine is not, His will is sovereign and mine is not, my life is His, not my own. And I've just got to keep learning, by the power of the Holy Spirit, how to live out this faith that I profess, minute by minute and day by day.

God, you are all-powerful, almighty, gracious and wrathful. You hold all things together and you work all things for good. Please give me a teachable heart, that I might learn to follow you not out of fear but out of joy. Joy that you have chosen me to play a small role in the great story of your renown. I love you.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Elisabeth Elliot

I just started the book Beyond Gates of Splendor. Elisabeth Elliot is quickly becoming a hero of mine. Her total pursuit of the Lord and his will for her life is so very encouraging to me. I feel like she's been coming up in many of my conversations and thoughts recently, so I thought I would share some quotes of hers that have meant a lot to me. There are lots, but they are all so full of the Truth of our Father that you don't need to miss a single one.

"God never withholds from His child that which His love and wisdom call good. God's refusals are always merciful -- "severe mercies" at times but mercies all the same. God never denies us our hearts desire except to give us something better."

"This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness."

"The world looks for happiness through self-assertion. The Christian knows that joy is found in self-abandonment. 'If a man will let himself be lost for My sake,' Jesus said, 'he will find his true self.' A Christian woman's true freedom lies on the other side of a very small gate---humble obedience---but that gate leads out into a largeness of life undreamed of by the liberators of the world, to a place where the God-given differentiation between the sexes is not obfuscated but celebrated, where our inequalities are seen as essential to the image of God, for it is in male and female, in male as male and female as female, not as two identical and interchangeable halves, that the image is manifested."

"God is God. Because he is God, He is worthy of my trust and obedience. I will find rest nowhere but in His holy will that is unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what he is up to."

"Does it make sense to pray for guidance about the future if we are not obeying in the thing that lies before us today? How many momentous events in Scripture depended on one person's seemingly small act of obedience! Rest assured: Do what God tells you to do now, and, depend upon it, you will be shown what to do next."

"Often a Christian man or woman falls prey to that cruel and vexatious spirit, wondering how to find marriage, who, when, where? It is on God that we should wait, as a waiter waits--not for but on the customer--alert, watchful, attentive, with no agenda of his own, ready to do whatever is wanted. 'My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.' (Ps. 62:5 KJV) In Him alone lie our security, our confidence, our trust. A spirit of restlessness and resistance can never wait, but one who believes he is loved with an everlasting love, and knows that underneath are the everlasting arms, will find strength and peace."

"Restlessness and impatience change nothing except our peace and joy. Peace does not dwell in outward things, but in the heart prepared to wait trustfully and quietly on Him who has all things safely in His hands."

"Choices will continually be necessary and -- let us not forget -- possible. Obedience to God is always possible. It is a deadly error to fall into the notion that when feelings are extremely strong we can do nothing but act on them."

"Loneliness comes over us sometimes as a sudden tide. It is one of the terms of our humanness, and, in a sense, therefore, incurable. Yet I have found peace in my loneliest times not only through acceptance of the situation, but through making it an offering to God, who can transfigure it into something for the good of others."