Three Questions Christians Should Ask Themselves Regarding Their Desires

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On a recent trip to Banff, AB I looked on in wonder, delighting in the beauty of God’s creation. Seeing such a majestic work of God’s hand enabled me to rest in his grace and mercy, forgetting, for just a moment, all of the cares of life. Recalling this image takes me back to that place of delighting in God, being still in the presence of his majesty, my heart desiring Him alone.

For a Christian, talking about desires is a tricky thing. Is it okay to have desires? What about desires that don’t seem to have anything to do with God? I wish I could say that I have all of the answers, but unfortunately, I don’t. I do however have three questions to ask yourself regarding your desires. Lets first consider the following verse:

Psalm 37:4: Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. (NKJV)

The problem with this verse is that the first half often goes unnoticed. This topic was brought to my attention recently and really got me thinking. What happens when we truly delight ourselves in the Lord? I really like to look at definitions of words to better explore the meaning behind it. For example, Miriam Webster defines delight as a strong feeling of happiness: great pleasure or satisfaction. What this looks like to me is taking great pleasure and being truly satisfied in God, free from all the things the world might use to distract me. It is when I am in this place that the Lord can meet and reveal my hearts desires. I read something interesting on Living by Faith Blog that said, “when we delight in the Lord what we desire is the Lord.” When I am delighting in The Lord I desire Him and all that He has planned for me, not my own selfish desires.

Here are three questions Christians should ask themselves regarding their desires

When you are delighting in the Lord do you still desire it?

This is an interesting question and one that I feel is a true test of our desires. There have even been times in my life, and maybe you can relate, that I have tried to avoid God because I knew what His answer would be. Do you find yourself trying to get approval from everybody else before going to God because you know what He will say? And I’m not talking about a quick prayer; I’m talking about delighting and resting in the Lord with all of your attention on Him and Him alone. This is where I discover all of the beauty He has for me. Sadly, my heart can so easily deceive me (Jeremiah 17:9) and can only be trusted as I delight in the Lord and allow His heart to take over. I have seen my desires totally change in these moments, things I wanted so badly disappearing in God’s presence. Truly delight in God, and while you are there ask yourself what your heart desires. I often find that some things I once desired vanish when my heart is fixed on God, rather than on myself.

Does it seek to glorify God?

Obviously, one of the most important things about our desires is whether or not they honor God. If it goes against the Bible then it clearly isn’t anything worth desiring. Additionally, if its all about you, your own success, gaining recognition, proving your worth, etc, you might want to rethink it, or at least your motivation behind it. We are capable of perverting God’s plans and making them all about us. As Christians we are called to do everything to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:13) Glory is defined as bringing public praise, honor, and distinction to someone. Do my desires place importance on publicly praising and honoring God or myself? My hearts desire should be to bring glory to God and should be evident in all I do. As I delight in Him my heart is transformed, reflecting the things He desires that bring Him glory.

Does it Require God’s Strength or could you do it without him?

When I am delighting myself in the Lord He gives me desires that require His strength to accomplish. In that moment, I feel beyond capable of accomplishing what He has placed in my heart! Sadly I am incapable of delighting in the Lord every moment of every day. Oh how I wish I could! When my focus starts to shift to other things, my abilities, my selfishness, my own plans, I start to doubt and question the desires God placed in my heart while I was delighting in Him. I start to wonder if I can even do it or if I even desire it at all! When this doubt creeps in I have two options. I can give up and focus on other things, things that I can do just fine in my own strength, depending on my own abilities, or, I can choose to get to a quiet place and delight myself in my God and Father, the one who is strong in my weakness, the one who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that I could ask or think according to His great power working in me (Ephesians 3:20). It is in this place of delighting in and taking great pleasure in my God that my strength is renewed and I no longer doubt. This is a continual process as we are constantly distracted by so many things that fight to steal our attention away from the things of God. If my desires require dependence on myself, rather than dependence on God and his strength I might need to rethink them..

What other questions might Christians ask themselves regarding their desires? I would love you to see your thoughts!

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Living out the Fear of the Lord

fearoflordSomething that has been on my mind a lot lately is how to go about making wise decisions that are based on God’s will. How do I obtain wisdom? A verse that came to my mind while thinking about this was proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (NKJV) So if the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom then I probably can’t expect to have wisdom without it. Before I start asking for wisdom I need to make sure I actively fear the Lord, as this is, after all, the beginning of wisdom.

So what is the Fear of the Lord?

I used to think that fearing God meant that I should be scared of Him. This never seemed right to me. Then one day when I was reading proverbs I came across a verse and it all made sense to me. That verse was Proverbs 8:13 and it says “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate.” I had never read this verse before and I had never seen or heard the fear of the Lord so perfectly defined. I had a clear answer. The fear of the Lord is to hate evil. It’s as simple as that. Well not quite…

Hating evil isn’t simply some feeling we have toward sinful things it is an action. In the Bible Job is referred to as a blameless and upright man who fears God and shuns evil (Job 2:3) Job actively feared the Lord by shunning evil. The definition of shun is to “persistently avoid, ignore, or reject (someone or something) through hatred or caution.” This paints a better picture of what it really looks like to hate evil. Hating evil and “shunning” it as Job did takes persistence, rejection, and caution. The Bible says that a prudent man foresees evil and hides himself (Proverbs 22:3). Interestingly enough, prudent is simply another word for wise. You can’t just say that you hate evil; it has to be reflected in your life through your daily actions. It is a constant battle that requires diligence and caution.

Don’t be fooled. Hating evil doesn’t mean that you never sin. What it means is that when you do sin, it breaks your heart and causes a deep sense of regret. Paul talked about this very thing in Romans 7. He talks about the fact that although he desires to do good and please God, evil is warring in him. Paul refers to himself as a wretched man.

Think about the following synonyms of the word wretched: worthless, shameful, vile, and inadequate. That’s pretty intense! I have to ask myself, when I sin and allow evil to control me do I absolutely hate it? Do I think of myself as a shameful, worthless, and vile person like Paul did when he sinned? Honestly, If I don’t I have to question whether or not I truly hate evil and fear the Lord. If this is the case, I can’t expect to walk in the wisdom of the Lord. (Keep in mind, its not about condemning yourself, its about painfully regretting sinning against God. Thankfully He is a God of grace who offers us forgiveness and mercy when we do screw up.)

Proverbs 3: 7 makes this clear saying, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil.” If I take God’s Word literally, and I do, then this confirms that without the fear of the Lord I will be wise in my own eyes. This honestly scares me to death. Am I willing to hate and turn away from evil so that I can live a life that pleases God, that is guided and directed by His wisdom rather than my own? If so, I need to take an honest look at myself and determine whether or not I truly hate evil, whether or not my heart breaks when I sin against God, and whether or not I actively seek to hide myself from sin.

One important thing to remember is that we are often unaware of our own secret sin. We not only have to hate the obvious evil, but the intimate and secret evil we hold onto tightly. This is why self-awareness is, in my opinion, one of the most important skills to obtain, and will be the focus of my next blog.

Thanks for reading, please share your thoughts below!

 

Is There Fruit on the Vine?

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John 15:8: “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (NKJV)

To love God and to love others is to produce everlasting fruit. We show our love through serving God and others, placing them above our own desires. During the unfruitful times in my life it never fails, I feel a deep sense of longing and emptiness for more, not much different than the emptiness felt with depression. One thing I’ve learned is that the only way to quench that longing is to set aside my selfish excuses and produce fruit through loving God and others more than myself.

Have you ever prayed for opportunities to serve or share Christ only to talk yourself out of it? I always wonder why the heck I do that. Its like I am warring with myself. On the one hand I am desperate to serve, and on the other hand I am lazy and think only of myself. It goes something like this: God, are you sure that’s what you want me to do? As if I’m waiting for Him to say, nah just do whatever makes you feel good.. yeah I don’t think so.

I wonder what it was like for the apostle Paul to give up everything he had (Phil 3:8), his friends, his job, his comfort, to follow Jesus Christ’s command and produce everlasting fruit for the Kingdom of God? I can imagine there were times when he was sick and tired of dealing with it all. But I can only imagine what it must have been like when he stood before his creator. Paul understood that eternity and producing fruit far outweighed any earthly treasure or comfort. An understanding I sadly so often fail to grasp.

Why is it so important to produce fruit for the Kingdom?

It Pleases God  

Galatians 1:10 says “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (NKJV)

Our focus in life should be to please God. If it isn’t then we need to make it our focus! I recently heard someone say that there was a time in her life when she wasn’t quite as crazy about seeking God. She said she begged God to make her want Him! This was such a powerful thing for me to hear. How badly do I want to please God, my redeemer and faithful father? If the thought to please God isn’t all consuming then I need to beg Him to consume me! I want all of my thoughts to be focused on pleasing God and making a difference for His kingdom, not my own. Don’t I want other people to experience the freedom and restoration that I have? If I truly do then I will make producing fruit and pleasing my God and Savior my focus in life.

It is All That Matters for Eternity

Francis Chan illustrates it beautifully in a video I recently watched. His illustration shows how short our time here on earth is compared with eternity. After watching it I was embarrassed by the way I have often lived my life for foolishness rather than for God. I have spent so much effort focused on meaningless things. For crying out loud, Paul wanted to die and be with Christ rather than be on this earth! His only reason for wanting to stay was so that he could impact the lives of others for Christ. Thats heavy. How badly do I want to impact people for eternity and what am I doing about it?

Philippians 1: 23-24 “For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.”

Paul understood that Eternity is all that truly matters. I want to be like Paul!

The only thing I can control are my own choices. I have to wake up every day and make the choice to focus on eternity, loving God and loving others in all I do, so that I don’t get to the end of the day, or life for that matter, with regret.

Lord, if it is You, Command Me to Come

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When I used to think of the story of Peter walking on water (Matthew 14:22-23, NKJV) I thought of Jesus asking him to come to Him. I read the story more recently and realized a fact that I never had before. Peter asked Jesus to command him to come. In Matthew 14 verse 28 Peter said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” (NKJV) The reason it was Peter who walked on water, and not another disciple, was because he was the one who had the courage to ask.

This realization totally changed the story for me. Sometimes I’m waiting on Jesus to ask me to come, instead of asking Him to call me out on the water.

Jesus did some incredible things in and through Peter (Matthew 16:18-19) What does it take for Christ to do a great work in and through me?

Sincere Desire

If I really desire Jesus and want Him to do great things through me I have to seek it out. Jesus won’t force himself on me. Peter longed for Jesus and wanted to go to Him. One of the greatest dangers I face is complacency, being totally okay with where I am spiritually. This should never be the case! God tells me to set my mind on the things above, not on things on the earth (Col 3:2, NKJV). He also tells me that I will be blessed if I keep His testimonies and seek Him with my whole heart.” (Psalm 119:2) Obeying these commands requires a deep and passionate desire for God, one that Peter clearly possessed.

Belief

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure if I didn’t believe in Jesus with my whole heart the last thing I would ever do is ask Him to command me to walk to Him on the water, in the middle of a storm no less. Peter’s belief was obviously solid. If not, he wouldn’t have asked Jesus to call him out on the water and he certainly wouldn’t have gone. Remember when Jesus went to Nazareth to teach but was rejected? Matthew 13:58 says, “Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” The thought of Jesus not doing many mighty works in my life because of unbelief is heartbreaking to me! Sadly this is exactly what will happen if I don’t believe in who Jesus is and what He is capable of doing. Peter knew His Lord, and believed.

Action

Desire and belief aren’t enough. Sadly, I often get stuck at the next step of allowing Jesus to do great things in and through me. Action. What made this story memorable were Peter’s actions. Lets try not to focus all of our attention on the fact that Peter freaked out and began to sink.. the fact that he walked out on the water in the first place was incredible! I’m not so sure I would have been capable of doing something like that. I mean, I would hope that if Jesus were walking to me on water I would have enough faith to ask Him to command me to come. The only reason Peter did was because of his sincere desire and belief in Christ.

Don’t allow fear to distract you

Fear can totally consume us and overcome our desire and belief, keeping us from stepping out in faith, or as it did with Peter, distracting us afterwards. This can leave us devoid of the beauty that God intends for us.

In the past, fear often held me back from taking action. Despite my desire and belief, I allowed fear to prevent me from asking Jesus to command me to come to Him. A verse I meditated on and prayed was Romans 8:15 that says “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” It took some serious meditating on this verse before it really began to sink in.

I used to allow fear to keep me bound and incapable of doing anything for Christ. If most people who know me now met the Jamie from five years ago they wouldn’t recognize her. I was anxious, timid, and avoidant, incapable of talking to someone I had never met before or commenting in Sunday school class without a total physiological breakdown. Sometimes just the anticipation of being in a crowd of unfamiliar faces evoked the same response.

I finally realized that I wanted more for my life. I wanted to be and accomplish all that God had intended for me, and I knew I couldn’t do it with fear controlling me. I knew it would be scary and that I would often fail, as Peter did on the water, but with Jesus leading the way I began taking small steps of faith. It didn’t happen over night, but over the years I began to see a new person when I looked in the mirror. Each small step confirmed that God is faithful, and before long I found that the fears that had once consumed me no longer held me back.

Peter’s story showed me that I am capable of so much more when I give Jesus Christ control, desire for Him to do great things in and through me, believe that He can do it, and step out in faith. If this is something you struggle with start asking God to give you the desire to do and to become all that He intends. It takes courage, but once you begin God will blow your mind with His faithfulness and power! He sure has mine, and I know He did Peter’s as well.