“[Do] you believe that God likes you, is fond of you? What if I were to say that when you walk into a room, God gets excited to see you? As you draw closer to Him, His heart skips a beat. He is so eager to talk with you that He can hardly wait for you to speak with Him. And if you decide to snub Him and simply walk past, His face falls in disappointment.”
The quote from Rob Hensser above changed my life. It changed the entire perspective of my relationship with God. Up to that point I only saw my side of the relationship, my perceived obligation to show up to church, read the Bible and do some daily devotions. This quote helped me to understand how God sees me and that He is pursuing me. He loves me more than I can ever comprehend. For Him it has never been an obligation, but simply a desire to consistently and diligently be devoted to me because I am His beloved. You are His beloved! Say it to yourself right now, “I am His beloved. I am the beloved of God.” Shout it out loud if you need to. Scream it if you need to. Say it to yourself 40 times if you need to. Just let that message sink deep into your soul. God wants a relationship with you. What are you gonna do about that?
I recommend setting aside time for God. I was once told that I should give God 24 hours of focused solitude every month. Maybe you need to break this up day by day, maybe you just need to go off to a quiet place just you and God and peace for a few hours every week, or even better take a day or two to a quiet secluded retreat or nice hotel and connect with the Almighty. Your relationship with Him can only grow if you give Him time. Don’t walk by Him. Stop and talk to God.
The aim of education is the knowledge not of facts but of values.
Throughout my years of elementary, middle and then high school, I learned a lot of facts. My brain was overloaded with all sorts of mathematical equations, periodic table information, dates and times of all sorts of historical events and so much more. But, most of those have long since evaporated from my mind, the things that have lingered are things that touched me more deeply. Things like my friendships, or my love of learning, or the experiences I had laughing and crying. What was of value to me is what has remained with me so many years later. That is not to say that it wasn’t important to go through all those educational aspects, I needed to learn those facts and figures. And some of them do apply to my life today. Yet, the stuff that I hold dear are not the things that I necessarily learned from a textbook, but instead are the things I learned from the people around me and the opportunities afforded me.
There is no more important lesson that I have learned, through experience and living life, than to love God. I did not learn that from a textbook and I didn’t learn it from sitting in a classroom, I learned it from my family, my friends, my experiences, my circumstances and my heart. The Bible says, “So be warned, my child, of anything else that might be said! There is no end to writing books, and excessive study only exhausts the body. And, when all is said and done, here is the last word: worship in reverence the one True God, and keep His commands, for this is what God expects of every person.” Ecclesiastes 12:12-13 (VOICE) This is where we learn our values, by worshiping God and following His commands.
If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all.
In this passage, Isaiah is trying to explain to the king the need to stand strong. At that time Israel was being bombarded on several sides, enemies surrounding them, and Isaiah was trying to explain that their faith in God would lead them through the troubling times. It’s a good reminder to us, we all have troubling times.
I look back on 2018 so far and call it the Year of Crap and Upheaval. I feel like the ground underneath me is constantly shifting, the number of attacks on my spiritual, mental and other aspects of life have been substantial. Just since December, so much of my life has changed. If fact, there is very little that is similar. I live in the same house and I work at the same place, although in a completely new position. Even something as insignificant as a change in my vehicle has upset me because it is just another thing to add to the growing list. It's not so much what has been shifting and changing, but that there has been so much. I'm still standing. It is faith that has brought me this far without collapsing under the weight of the stress. Don’t get me wrong, there have been a lot of tears--a lot--and moments of deep depression, as well as other signs of the stress on me mentally, spiritually and physically. My walk with God has remained consistent. A good part of that has been getting to write and reflect on God in these messages. It has forced me to give Him more of my concentration, my time and serious thought. This is only one of many ways that my walk with God holds strong. I must stand firm in my faith, as the scripture says, or I will succumb to the stress and the upheaval and no longer be standing at all.
How do you keep your walk with God strong? Or, more specifically, how is He keeping that walk strong? And are you responding to those invitations that He brings into your life? How often do you speak with God? When was the last time you had communion between just you and Jesus? Do you ever simply sit in the presence of the Holy Spirit and let Him fill you? These are only a few of many ways our relationship with God builds and strengthens and becomes a foundation. Don’t put a whole lot of pressure on yourself, simply take a little time to reflect and let God speak into your life on this subject or whatever is weighing on your heart today. How do you learn to stand firm in faith? By building that foundation with time. Give Him your time.
🎶And turn your eyes upon Jesus
I started noticing a pattern. There are certain words that pop up in most of my messages. I don’t know why, well yes I do...it’s because that is the central message of the Bible. What is that message? Turn to Jesus. Our hope, our joy, our peace all come from Him. Focus on Jesus. Talk to God. The central message of the Bible, the essential purpose of our life is to have a relationship with the Almighty. Considering the fact that it is literally what we are meant to do in this life — it is why we were created — it’s amazing to me how difficult it actually is to live out.
I’m a living, walking, talking testament to that fact. I allow this world to influence me way too often, practically on a moment to moment basis. A 17th century monk named Brother Lawrence wrote about his experience communing with God. For 40 years he washed dishes and talked to God. His goal was to live in constant communication with God. It took time to create the habit of constantly having God at the forefront, making God his everything. Forty years!! He described it as, “a loving turning of his eyes toward God at all times.” That is just beautiful. Some people would say impractical. They need to focus on paying bills and going to work and driving the car, whatever it is that is going on in their lives. But God wants all of us, every moment. I am sitting here on my vacation doing some reading and watching TV...just relaxing, and God wants to be a part of this time. He wants to sit here while I watch TV and hang out with me. He wants to read the book with me. He wants to drive in the car and sing at the top of our lungs to the radio together. He wants to do data entry or talk to customers with me. He wants everything of me. For some selfish reason, I’m sure, I only actually give Him little parts of me, just the quiet moments, just the times I feel like I want to focus on God. How disrespectful can I possibly be? How utterly clueless am I to not see the truth right in front of me? He wants all of me because He loves all of me! One more time Melody: He wants all of me because He loves all of me. I section off pieces of me for my own goals or my own needs for control or to keep distractions around so I don’t have to give up everything. That is not me loving me. He gave up everything for me. Jesus took all of my pain, all of my shame, all of my sins and He bore them so I wouldn’t have to. Why can’t I give Him me? I keep writing these messages about turning to Jesus, focusing on God and finding joy in the Lord because I need that message. Every single day and every single moment I need that message repeated until it finally and truly sinks in and I make Him my all.
What do you do to keep Jesus in your heart? How can you bring Him in to all the aspects of your life? Do you talk to Him when you’re cooking? Do you feel the presence of the Holy Spirit when you’re playing games with your family? Do you laugh with God when you see a funny meme on Facebook? How can you make these moments happen? Invite Him into your everyday moments by turning your eyes upon Jesus.
And so I heartily recommended that you pursue joy, for the best a person can do under the sun is to enjoy life. Eat, drink, and be happy. If this is your attitude, joy will carry you through the toil every day that God gives you under the sun.
This sentiment is so important but God made sure to repeat it multiple times. You can find this again at Ecclesiastes 2:24, 3:13, and more. I’ve been taught that when God repeats something in scripture or in our lives, pay attention! I wrote recently about excepting whatever the circumstances are because my joy comes from God not my circumstances. That doesn’t mean the circumstances aren’t stressful, it doesn’t mean there isn’t pain in the situation, it just means that my joy does not come from my job or my house or my vehicle or the people around me. My joy comes from God.
The scripture above says to pursue joy. In order to pursue joy I have to pursue God because God is my joy. How awesome is that! God is not hard to find, it is we lowly humans that make it hard to find Him. In reality He is always right there with us watching us and loving us. He aches for our attention, He is devoted to our safety, security and peace, and He just wants us to look to Him—at Him. Pursue Joy - pursue God. God has given us this life to live fully. We live fully in joy and love which come from God, even the love we feel in our marriages, from our children, our friends and our family, that is gifted to us by God. So to live life fully, to experience the joy and peace and love that was intended for us, we do it by pursuing God. It truly is simple in the concept. Not necessarily easy to live out, but simple enough to understand. Putting it into practice takes work. And because each of our journeys is unique with God, how we put this into practice will be unique to each of us. That doesn’t mean we can’t learn from one another. I learn from others all the time, I am grateful to God for each person in my life.
How can you pursue God? How can you pursue the joy God has for you? How can you live life fully? God is good, He gave us one step in the scripture above: eat, drink, and be happy. Live life fully, embrace everything around you, see God in your circumstances, in the people in your lives, in your dreams and desires, because He is there, He’s always pursuing you, so pursue Him too.
God recently helped me figure something out. And by recently, I mean earlier today. A few days ago I read a passage in a book that got stuck in my head. I unexpectedly got something revolutionary out of the passage. Just a fiction book I’ve been reading, and it was two characters essentially lecturing one another, but somehow in the midst of their arguments I found a gem of truth, I’ve been angry and resentful lately. Sadly, I must report that I have not handled this well and taken out my issues on other people. My issues have stemmed from my frustrations with my job. What I'm beginning to realize is that I can’t blame my job or my employer. I am the one that made the choice, with God‘s guidance, to take the position. I can’t blame my employer for my financial issues, those are choices I made.
Today God asked me to consider: if I am so devoted to Him, as I claim, then I should have joy in His service, have joy in carrying out His wishes. Perhaps He has valid reasons for putting me in this situation and leaving me here. He always has my best interest at heart, so why do I struggle so in living that out? Do I believe there is a next chapter coming for me? Yes. Do I believe that the struggles will come to an end? Yes. God wants to set me free from all of my struggles, but as long as I am here in the midst of these stressful circumstances, I just need to be focused on Him and the joy He brings into my life. Right now I am where God wants me and I am doing what God wants me to do.
When faced with a time of struggle, how do you react? Do you let it change your behavior? If you are struggling with something, how can you take your eyes off of the problem and point your attention and your heart at God? What will it take to stand in the middle of your den of lions and fully trust the Lord to see you through? What songs of praise will you sing while chained to your prison walls? Take your struggles to God and ask Him to help you see past them and to only see Jesus.
Do you ever feel like it’s not well with your soul? I spent a long time yesterday in a dark place. A great deal of crying and heartache. Circumstances surrounding me were sucking the life out of me. And worse than that, I was letting them. Admittedly, I’m still not in a great place today. If feel like I am being stripped of everything around me, all the things that I could stand on and find strength and comfort in. My guess is that He’s doing this so that I will rely more on Him, trust Him...so He can empty me out and fill me with Him. It’s a beautiful sentiment and honestly one I want to see happen.
I have, for a long time, pondered and prayed to be a Melody who is 100% and completely devoted to God, a Melody whose sole and soul focus is Jesus...what an amazing sight that would be. I love God. I am a Jesus follower. I am also selfish, lost, broken, hurting, self-absorbed, distracted. I find it easier to stick my head in a book or TV or Facebook than sit down and talk to God. Why? I honestly don’t have a good answer. God is always there for me and yet I often ignore Him or push Him away. Maybe it’s human nature, but I can’t imagine that that’s how God created us. He wants a relationship with us! Yet, I know I’m not the only one who does that, keep God at arms length. Right now my circumstances suck, but somehow I need to be able to see the joy in this journey. So I guess today as I write I’m also praying that God‘s going to help me see and feel the joy and peace that only He can bring into my life. The joy and peace that Paul felt as he was chained to a wall in a prison singing songs to God. Oh, to be in that head space right now. So, I sing it is well with my soul, and trust in God to fulfill His promises.
What are you struggling with today? Are you taking it to God or are you drowning in your circumstances? There is a great deal on the horizon, I pray that you learn from me and hand it over to God and not be like me and keep trying to do it all yourself. Let God be your healer no matter what is happening around you.