The Sufficiency of Christ

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”For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.” Colossians 2:9-10 

What I’ve been learning about God lately is that He longs to be The Fulfiller of Our Needs. The only thing is, He doesn’t always meet our needs with the antidote we anticipate; often, He simply meets our needs with Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ. The problem—the conflict, the low income, the loss of a loved one—may still be there, but our heart and mindset are transformed.

Because the reality is—though it is a reality that our flesh has quite the difficulty grasping—Jesus Christ Himself is the only thing we need. If we are in need of comfort, He provides that. If we are in need of love, He provides that. Even for the tenderest hearts who need repeated reassurances of love, God provides. He meets us where we’re at!

The Lord goes out of His way to give of Himself, because He is what we truly need whether we know it or not. He is so sweet and gentle to the most sensitive of us. And when the weakest of us open our hearts to the incredible tenderness of our Lord, we become strong and able to lavishly pour out love onto other people.

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.“ – Romans 5:5

Our God is a God of Sufficiency, and the only thing that keeps us from experiencing the depth of His love and provision is our own restraint and doubt. Breathe deep into the sweet love of Christ, for the riches of His mercy are evidenced on that bloody cross at Calvary.

He is truly all we need.

This truth becomes a reality to us as soon as we accept that He is able and eager to be our Total Sufficiency! How could a God of power be incapable of anything? How could a God of grace be unwilling to draw our open hearts nearer to Himself?

Our dear Savior is more than able and more than eager to fill us with delight in His presence. Abandoning all else in life to simply be with Him and surrendering my will to His will brings me a soul-contentment that nothing in this world can offer. 

This song captures the more-than-sufficient, reckless love of God!

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CW8: Insecurity vs. Security

This poem fills me with hope and strength every time I read it. God is not a God of timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline!

Grace Abounds

larm-rmah-185506.jpg(Photo by Larm Rmah on Unsplash)

Insecurity
Trapped in an endless position of fear,
I don’t know what to say.

My mind blanks as I stare at the questioner,
and I cry in my heart, “Someone do this for me!”

Because I want this curse of insecurity to end,
but I don’t know how to stop it—

this embarrassment,
gripping my throat and telling me
who I am—
a somebody that no one understands.

Help me, help me,
but there’s no one who hears me;
everyone’s stricken in panic,
groping for a rock
in their own little worlds.

In the same room
we all cry for somebody who will understand.

In the same room
we’re all standing alone,
wishing we could lay down and die.

Security

Struggling free from my endless position of fear,
I try to think of what to say.

My mind blanks as I stare at the…

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How Jesus Frees Us From Religion

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“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” – Romans 8:1-2

I have this burden. I have this burden that I try to carry to try to prove to myself that I really try to do my best. I try.

But I am learning how very weak I am. And I am learning how it actually is dangerous to try to carry the weight of the world on my own. It’s foolish.

Because I can never meet up to the standards God requires. You can’t. None of us can.

When you think of religion, you probably think of a life of ritual–mechanically uttering certain prayers at certain times, caring for the weak out of mere obligation, performing various righteous duties and so forth.

What is this idol we have constructed?

It saddens me to think of how many people are trapped in an endless cycle of duty.  Religion is damaging. Hurtful. Dangerous. I say this because so often it looks like a good thing from the outside, but on the inside it is a burden of stones that people make efforts to carry in order to feel they are a “good” person.

The thing is, doing the right things doesn’t necessarily mean our heart is good enough for heaven.

God can see past our actions and deep into the hidden places of our hearts. The Bible is clear that no one who tries to reach heaven with good deeds will succeed.

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” – Isaiah 64:6

We need to recognize how religion can be a trap that myselfthose with the best intentions can fall into. Nothing we can do can make us any better of a person. Sin always clings to us in one form or another.

So then how do we follow Jesus? Doesn’t Jesus say, “If you love Me, keep my commands” ? (John 14:15)

Yes, He does. But too many people, like myself, take this verse and think, “Oh, so I just need to obey His commands to prove that I love Him.”

But how can I prove anything to God, who knows the deepest, most secret parts about me? We can’t. I am realizing how futile it is to “muster” up love for our wonderful Savior. God sees right past that. We need to look at this verse differently.

We are NOT to obey His commands to somehow prove that we love Him. Instead, the commands come naturally when we truly, genuinely love Jesus.

And what reason do we have to love Him? 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.”

It’s that simple. We love because He first loved us, not because we are trying to get people to like us, not because we are trying to convert people, not because we are trying to prove that we are saved.

Once we truly experience the unconditional love of God, we are never the same again. When His love resides in us, it flows naturally out towards other people. God’s love is so deep, reaching hearts with the truest care and thoughtfulness, without any ulterior motives.

God’s love is something that we can completely, totally, and absolutely rest in.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” – Ephesians 3:16-19

We obey God’s commands because we love Him, and we love Him, because He first loved us. It’s all because of Jesus that we have any hope. It’s all because of Him that we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. It’s all through Him that His joy can be our strength. And it’s through Him that we inherit eternal life.

We need to spend our whole lives focusing on that one word: love. Because once we fall  in love with Jesus, the rest will follow, without us vainly striving for perfection.

Religion is nothing compared to the love of God.

It is nothing compared to the everlasting relationship we can have with Him because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. It is nothing compared to the rest our souls can experience when we lay all of our burdens at Jesus’ feet, and let Him love people through us. (Gal. 2:20) After all, loving God and loving others are the greatest commandments! (Matthew 22:37) And this is what we are called to do when we walk in the joyous freedom of God’s love.

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” – Galatians 5:13 ESV

Today, and every day, I want to recognize my need for Jesus to carry my burdens. There is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Once you confess your sins to Him, you are free. I am free.

So stop trying to be religious! Take a breath of the deep, deep love of Jesus. Be still and know that He is God. The only burden we have is easy and light. And it is the burden of complete and total trust that God really does have our backs.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

When You (Actually) Surrender

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“Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes. All my own desires and hopes and accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all utterly to Thee to be Thine forever. Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit. Use me as Thou wilt, send me where Thou wilt, and work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost now and forever.” – Betty Scott Stam

I think it’s majorly underestimated how much the Christian life requires us to surrender. At the beginning of my freshman year in college, I hung the above quote on my wall. I remember having this strange unsettling feeling as I hung it up, that for some reason, though I thought I must be surrendering everything to God, though I was saying I was surrendering everything to Him, there still were probably some things I was holding back from Him.

Was I really surrendered to God’s will for my life, no matter what that might entail?
Was I casting all my dreams and desires at His feet, completely open to what He wanted for me? Did I trust that He knew what was best for me?

The above quote was such a bold statement that I wasn’t sure if my heart was truly all the way there yet.

But now throughout this semester I have been unmasking what it truly means to surrender. Slowly but surely–painfully and gradually–I am learning not just to say that I surrender to God, but to actually surrender.

Because “believing in Jesus” is a lot more radical than it sounds. Believing in Jesus means laying your life in His hands, trusting He knows what’s best, and letting Him take total control.

It’s about putting to death your desires and being in step with the Spirit rather than the flesh. And oh-how-easy it is for me to forget who I am and let the current sweep me in the opposite direction!

“…put to death what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:5

Nevertheless, thank God for His indescribable gift of Jesus Christ! We are certainly not meant to do this on our own, and neither are we capable of it. We could never do this on our own—only through Christ’s strength can we prevail! (Phil. 4:13)

When we fail, we have a gracious mediator on our behalf, Jesus Christ, who is always there to intercede for us, to cover us in His perfect righteousness. With Him, God only sees Jesus’ perfection in us. With Him, we desire to want more of Him. We desire to cast out our flesh and fill our lives with the sweet knowledge of Christ each and every day.

If we do not desire this, we are plants that are dying. A constant heart check and persistent effort to find more of the fullness of God keeps us growing. It’s never too late to drop everything and run to Him!

“Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!” 1 Chronicles 16:11 ESV

In doing this, we find abundant freedom and grace. Walking in the Spirit is an intentional everyday process that is so life-giving and peace-filled.

And yet the irony of the Christian life is that while it offers the deepest joy imaginable, it isn’t about being happy. It isn’t about having a good life. It’s about living a life sweetly surrendered to God’s will, and enduring hardship with Christ as a joy far deeper than happiness. The pain of walking humbly in the Lord is worth far more than the happiness associated with fleeting pleasures.

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:7-8 ESV

To have Christ as the focus, the meaning, and the entire point of your life is the only thing that will matter for eternity. It’s easy to say it on paper, but surrendering is not easy at all. Surrendering requires the truest humility before God, because He knows deep inside our hearts no matter how much we try to hide from Him. It requires accountability with other believers. It requires community, digging in the Word, prayer, worship, and a constant shift of your thoughts from the things of the world to the things of God.

At some point in this semester, I thought my eyes were fixed on Jesus until I looked up at Him and screamed as Peter did, “Lord, save me!” I was drowning in the deep ocean, hopeless and flailing for my life. I had been distracted by other things, and even when I tried to get my focus back on Him, it was extremely difficult. Yet I was desperate to turn back to my dear Savior, even though these other things seemed so beautiful and good in the moment.

Inspired by a picture my sister sketched, I opened to the passage Matthew 14:25-33 about Peter walking on the water. When Peter became distracted by the waves and started drowning and yelling for help, Jesus immediately reached out his hand and pulled him out of the water. He said to Peter, “You of little faith, why do you doubt?”

As I read Jesus’ words, I almost wept because God seemed to be speaking directly to me in that moment. Why do I doubt!? After all God had done for me, why did I doubt that His plan for me was good, whether or not it worked out how I wanted? Why did I doubt that God’s plan was way better, and anything I wanted that was against His will would be utterly futile and worthless compared to following Jesus? Even if what I wanted sounded good and beautiful, how could I dare trust that I was right, when God knows and see all things?

I am so foolish. Only He knows what is best for me. And yet though we are foolish, the Lord cares for us deeply like a good Father cares tenderly for His children. He wants to give us a life of purpose and hope, abiding in Him and enjoying sweet fellowship with Him.

As you and I learn to truly surrender, let us continually cry out, “Lord, save me!” and grab for His hand that readily pulls us up again. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, so we can walk on the water without fear of the waves.

And let us remember the words of this song, continually checking our hearts to see if we not only say, “Lord, I surrender,” but that we actually do.

“I’ll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart”

A Hero for the Highest Cause

This short story comes to my mind every now and then. The power of Paul’s words in the ending Bible verse always convicts and challenges me. Will we forsake any desires and passions if they aren’t a part of God’s will? Will we put to death these things and consider our lives worth nothing compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus? In this story, we watch a man of God do just that.

Grace Abounds

“There’s a real war out there, you know, you mustn’t risk your life.”

She looked up at me with earnestness in her pale cheeks and round opal eyes. Dark brown cascades rippled over her shoulders. She was too pretty a girl to leave, too pretty to run off and risk my life when I could live happily here with her… but no—I could not think of myself. The lives of hundreds of others were at stake. God had gifted me with the capability of healing the sick and wounded, so I had to use it for His glory.

“I understand your fears, Clarisse, but this is a risk I must take for the Lord. I will risk my life to save the people of France and to share with them the mysteries of God’s grace. And I will risk it for you, beloved—by helping others have the strength to fight…

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Unworthy To Serve

“He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” – John 1:27

I don’t know about you, but so much of me wants more for myself. More honor, glory, power. I want to imagine that I am serving God the finest feast, or singing Him the loveliest song, or dancing for Him in the most perfectly choreographed dance.

I want to do the best, most beautiful thing for Him—but when I read the above verse, I have to stop myself. Wait. Am I willing to do the most lowly thing for Him, too, like tying the straps of His sandals?

And not only that, but I have to take a thousand more steps back. Wait. Do I realize that I am not even worthy to do the lowliest thing for Him?

John the Baptist’s statement is painfully humbling to me–but the good kind of pain! I need to submit to God everything I am. I do not deserve anything.

I must lose sight of myself and see only Him, for He alone is completely perfect, loving, and good! He alone is worthy of honor, glory, and power. He allows us to tie the straps of His sandals, so we can share in the joy of serving Him.

All around us are people in desperate need of Christ. And the Bible tells us that when we help “the least of these” we are serving Christ Himself. In our service to humanity, we are honoring and loving our Savior on a deep, personal level.

Because of this, we must serve others as if we are unworthy to serve them. Isn’t that radically humbling?

We are unworthy to serve others in beautiful ways. We are unworthy to serve them in lowly ways.

And we are even unworthy to be alive. We don’t deserve anything we have right now; we deserve eternal condemnation. Death.

But Jesus Christ gave us the gift of life when He died for us. He humbled Himself on the cross for us so we could cherish our King for eternity. As Christ mediates for us on our behalf, we experience God’s lavished love for us forever.

God is so good to us!

He allows us to take part in His Kingdom—there is no greater privilege than that! He doesn’t need us, but He wants us. There is no job too lowly for us—we can gladly be slaves of righteousness! And as we serve Him, it’s amazing to see how He works beautiful miracles in people’s lives, in ways we could never imagine.

“Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:26-28 (NIV)

Let this be the song of your heart to God today! He gladly accepts and cherishes our meager offerings!