Monday, March 30, 2015

Afraid to be Satisfied

Nearly a year and a half ago, I wrote post about fearing joy (coincidentally, I also wrote about a PB and Nutella Cheesecake that I’m making again this week!)

Have you ever been there? Have you ever had so much reason to be joyful but been too afraid to let yourself go there?

My husband and I received some really good, long-awaited news this week. The Lord provided and blessed beyond any measure we could have expected. His plans are so much wilder and better than ours ever have been. And so, we’ve been rejoicing!

But with new blessings come new responsibilities, worries, and questions. I can’t help but feel a little afraid again. This time not so much afraid of joy as of satisfaction…

We are often afraid to be satisfied.

To so many of us, satisfaction sounds like complacency, or giving up. To be satisfied would lead to rest –which we confuse with laziness. Simply being satisfied requires that we accept what the Lord provides, as is, right now, without doubting or wishing or believing that maybe there could be something better.

That’s difficult to do.

To say “Lord, your provision is plentiful” and not move on to a concerned prayer about what to do next, or another prayer asking for more...well, that’s not usually our first reaction. We’d have to put God’s plan above ours, His way above our way, and what He deems good over our fleshly desires.

Our tendency isn’t to wholeheartedly base our desires and hope and joy in the Lord. It’s more common, in our human nature, to squirrel away wants, wishes, comparisons, and doubts. We’re glad for the Lord’s gifts to us, but we keep the receipts in hopes that maybe we can make an exchange if we see something “better.”

It’s no wonder we’re not satisfied. Satisfaction is only truly found in Christ –without condition, without loving the world or what it offers, and without the trappings of “if,” “but, and “or.”

True satisfaction is found when our life is hidden in the Lord, and we live by His hand, with our desires delighting in Him. Real satisfaction comes when we behold His face, when we wait on Him and are guided by Him.

To be satisfied, we must stop trying to fill ourselves up with more and instead drink of the water He provides (see: Proverbs 19:23, Psalm 17:5, John 6:35, Psalm 37:4).

Isaiah  says it well: “the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”

As the saying goes, the grass is always greener on the other side. When we aren’t in scorched places and it feels our bones are strong, we’re often quick to wonder if the miracle grow our neighbors use would be better than the living water. It’s not.

See, our Lord doesn’t fail. He doesn’t wither away in time or depend on the balance of our conditions, our emotions, or our circumstances. We don’t have to go back again and again asking for another drink to keep us feeling full.

Satisfaction is, by its nature, has two parts:

 When we think satisfaction, we tend to think of the fleeting sensation of feeling pleasantly full. There’s another aspect- one Christ wholly embodies. In Jesus, our debt is satisfied. In Jesus, our salvation is settled, and with that comes the fulfillment, contentment, and happiness that we associate with satisfaction.

The living water is offered now. We can wait, if we’d like. We can accept the salvation of Christ and continue to live worried, live by comparison, and live to fill up our perceived lacks, waiting to find our full satisfaction in Him until heaven.

But satisfaction –that is, to have enough and to delight in what you have- is available now in every way that truly matters.

We may not be satisfied with our current talents, our current job situations, our current relationship struggles –but our souls can be satisfied.

We can taste the living water now and drink in the satisfaction of knowing that “it is well” with our souls. We are reconciled to God through Christ. We have the assurance that we will be brought to completion, that we can trust in His faithful provision, perfect counsel, and loving friendship.

Is He enough to satisfy your heart today?
“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” –Romans 6:22-23

Because of this gift…

“Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship” Romans 8:14-15

Live as His children. Live by His hand.

“You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.” –Psalm 145:16

Monday, March 23, 2015

Our Hidden Faults

"The desires of the flesh warring against the Spirit, and the Spirit warring against the flesh, which began at rebirth, are what produce carnality and the awareness of it. If the Spirit of God detects anything in you that is wrong, He only asks you to accept the light of truth, and then He will make it right. A child of the light will confess sin instantly and stand completely open before God. When the light shines and the Spirit brings conviction of sin, be a child of the light. Confess your wrongdoing, and God will deal with it." --Oswald Chambers, from My Utmost for His Highest.

Have you ever had a moment –a terrible moment- when you realize that something that you thought you were SO right about and SO good in was actually really selfish or sinful?

An argument with your spouse, in which you took the high road, for example. Days later, as your loved one is doing penance, you realize how bitter and power-hungry your heart has been since winning the fight. Or, you’ve gone out of your way to encourage and uplift someone, and you’re reaping praise. But, in your heart, it’s not about loving the other person, it’s about looking good.

Been there. And does the Lord know it!

In Psalm 19:12, we find David praying “But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.”

That’s right before He prays in verse 13: “Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.”

We’re reminded of several truths in these simple verses:

  • ·         Sin is a condition we’re born into.
  • ·         Sin can be, and often is, willful.
  • ·         Sin can also be sneaky –we don’t always choose it outright but we’re attracted to it anyway and our hearts can be corrupted by it without us even trying to rebel on purpose against God.
  • ·         Sin needs forgiveness, and we can’t earn that! There are sins we’re not even aware of that need forgiving.

There are a lot of sins that are hidden even from ourselves - often they are ones committed deeply within our hearts that have no apparent or direct bearing on the surrounding world. Some of these sins can’t even be found out by introspection. But the Lord knows them.

We belong to a Lord and creator who knows everything, even hidden things that we don’t know about ourselves.

The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind…” Jeremiah 17:9-10

God’s Word has a lot to say about things that are hidden and what God does with them:

  • ·         For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” – Ecclesiastes 12:14
  • ·         "But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.” –Luke 12:2
  • ·         “…wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God.” – 1 Corinthians 4:5

That sounds scary, doesn’t it? If we’re honest with ourselves, especially after one of those moments of “oh Lord! My heart is SO corrupt!,” we know that by ourselves we’re bound up in sin and wickedness.

How is that even when we’re trying avoid sin and cautiously following the path of the Lord that our hearts and still stray so far from Him?

We can’t come up with anything truly good by ourselves, or do anything out of pure, selfless, unconditional love…apart from God.  Likewise, we can never grasp the depth of our sins, how egregious our ways are before God, or how corrupt our hearts are.

Don’t be surprised when you discover a sin in your heart that you didn’t select consciously. Don’t be shocked to discover that you’ve hidden your own selfish intentions from yourself. Even moreso –don’t be taken aback when the Lord reveals your hidden faults to you.  

Pray a prayer like David’s. Examine your own heart: what sins have you committed? What have you hidden from others, yourself, and the Lord? Confess and repent. Your hope is in Christ and His mercy, not how effectively you yourself handle the sins you’ve already committed.  

Then, go farther. Ask for the Lord to forgive even the evil in your heart you don’t know about.

Because here’s what happens when you ask the Lord to forgive even your hidden faults:

  • ·         You surrender some of the deepest parts of yourself to Him, His mercy, and His good purposes.
  • ·         The deep-rooted sins that even you don’t recognize are at work against the Spirit of God. Acknowledge that to live in the Spirit and be free in Christ, you have to rely on Him to do work in you that even you don’t understand.
  • ·         You are humbled and cleansed for His glory: “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” –Psalm 19:14
  • ·         Instead of worrying about the Lord knowing your faults and you making up for them, you can go boldly and eagerly before Him: Christ has reconciled you to God.

Fix your eyes on Jesus rather than trying to make up for the messes you’ve already made. What He illuminates He also cleanses and handles righteously. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Orange Balsamic Chicken Thighs

For the Thighs:

5 Chicken Thighs
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

For the Sauce:

1/8 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
1/8 Cup Honey
1/8 Cup Soy Sauce
1 Cup Orange Juice
1 Orange, Wedged
2 Tbsps. Dissolved Corn Starch


1. Pat chicken thighs dry with paper towels. Remove fat if desired.

2. Season generously with salt, pepper, rosemary, sage, and garlic.

3. Lightly grease a large skillet, let it get warm over med-high heat. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees at the same time.

4. When the skillet is hot, brown the seasoned chicken on both sides with the pecans in the pan as well. Roughly 8-10 minutes.

5. While the chicken is browning, combine all of the sauce ingredients.

6. Place browned thighs into a lightly greased baking pan.

7. Pour the sauce over the thighs and place the baking pan in the oven.

8. Bake for 1 hour or until chicken is cooked (juices run clear, no red near the bone, or over 165 Fahrenheit.)

9. Serve over rice or noodles. Yum!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Has God Established Your Work?

5. 5 lousy views. Hours of labor and prayer and love just for 5 measly people to read it and care.
You know how it goes. Weeks organizing a ministry event that next to no one attends. Days carefully pouring over the plans so that everything runs smoothly and then bad weather forces a cancellation.

Sometimes work, even Godly work, seems futile doesn’t it? Solomon understands:

“Everyone’s toil is for their mouth, yet their appetite is never satisfied…
Whatever exists has already been named,
and what humanity is has been known;
no one can contend with someone who is stronger.
The more the words, the less the meaning,
and how does that profit anyone?”
–Ecclesiastes 6:7, 10-11

Returning day after day to work we were called to do can be downright disheartening. It doesn’t seem fair, especially as people whose work is unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23).

When you work for the Lord, your tasks seem a little more important. Suddenly, having the correct response to your toddler’s simple question is tantamount. Writing up elaborate answers to life’s greatest trials using God’s Word correctly while also being pure of heart and clearly reaching a wide audience lovingly through your homemade blog seems utterly necessary.

So it’s pretty frustrating when it seems like, for all your efforts and care and all that you do is for the Lord, He isn’t using it.

Let’s get a little perspective.

In Psalm 90, we read a prayer of Moses concerning the Lord’s greatness and our lowly lots in life. The Psalm begins:

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.

Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”

We know that part. God’s been around through it all, and He will be forever. He’s where all rests and occurs that ever has or will.
“You turn people back to dust,
saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”

A thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.”

Right. We’re getting a sense of the big picture. Not only is God above and beyond time, He created time. He sees it all at once. From the 5 people who read your post to how your child’s sense of confidence is distantly but strongly connected to your loving, Biblical explanations when he was 2.

Given all that, we’re reminded: we’re from dust, and we go back to it.

“Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—
they are like the new grass of the morning:
In the morning it springs up new,
but by evening it is dry and withered.”

Getting a sense of finiteness? Our time is short, and the cycle of life on earth fleeting. We’re bound up in the cycle of life, in our circumstances, and in the inevitability of being human. Compared to what we’ve been reading, this is humbling. God is forever, above all. We’re like grass or dust.

This doesn’t sound encouraging, I know, but keep reading…

“We are consumed by your anger
and terrified by your indignation.
You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
All our days pass away under your wrath;
we finish our years with a moan.”

Not only are we like grass or dust in God’s bigger picture, but we’re totally unworthy. Even the secret sins of our heart cause us to moan before the Lord. We’re that sinful and that incapable of standing before the Lord ourselves. Life wears us down and we’re terrified by the Lord’s might and justice and righteous wrath concerning sin. With Christ, we can stand before the Lord confidently –but that’s because of Jesus, not our worth!

“Our days may come to seventy years,
or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

If only we knew the power of your anger!
Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due.
Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

We have the chance of living longer if we can hold on and stay strong. But whether we live long or not, our lives will go quickly and will ultimately end. In the mean, we’ll face trouble and sorrow. Even with Jesus, this is true!

Don’t be mistaken, even resting in and following Christ faithfully, we’re to fear the Lord. We are counted worthy to be reconciled with God because of Jesus, we’re still not on par with the trinity. Our days on earth are still limited. Our sin is still abominable.

But the end of this section carries also an exhortation: number your days so that you can gain a heart of wisdom. In other words, look rightly on your labor, your toil, your relationships, yourself. Take stock in light of who God is, what His greater plans are, and what He’ll be doing long after your gone (hint: His work began long before you arrived, too.)

That’s wisdom, my friends. A right perspective on life. Are you making your work and your life out to be more than it is? Less than it is? Take stock.

“Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.
May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.”

Finally, an outcry we really understand. Lord we want to be satisfied in You! Lord let us worship you and help us to be thankful and pleased with the life you’ve given us…even the trouble and afflictions! Help us to understand, Lord, Your deeds.

Because the Lord’s deeds are perfect. Splendid. Holy. Unfailing. Compassionate. They don’t always make sense to us. But we’re grass, we’re dust. He’s been around for all of it, sovereign over everything. As we endure the seeming futility of our lives and try to look at our lives as the Lord does, we need our perspective to be of Him and of His ways.

At last,

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.”

We can’t make our work worthy. We can’t make it last. Our work, like our bodies, will wither and pass away. Our lives, wrought with all sorts of turmoil, not the least of which is the work of our hands at times, will be before Him….and established by Him.

Your work, in the Lord, can be established by His hands. His hands that don’t fail. Hands that were around before time, are at work throughout all time and space and earth. The same hands that will be lovingly, compassionately, and righteously at work long after we’ve entered eternity.

You can’t earn that favor from the Lord. You can’t hide away secret sins to make your work more credible before Him. But you can turn it over. You can set it out for the Lord to set up as He sees fit. And your toddler’s misinterpretation of your words, and your 5 lousy views, will be established in a Kingdom far bigger, far more organized, and far more splendid than anything you could create yourself.

The same King who “establishes the work of your hands” is “your dwelling place
throughout all generations. From everlasting to everlasting…” He’s God.

Friday, March 13, 2015

5 Ways Social Media Skews Reality and Why It Matters

Your sense of reality is based on the things you immerse yourself in. When you spend a lot of time on something, it can influence your thought life and how you feel (Facebook proved their influence on emotions in a controversial study published in 2014). The influence can be spiritual, too.

If you’re between 18 and 35 years old, chances are that you spend about 3.8 cumulative hours a day on social media. The stats aren't much better for those over 40. That’s a lot of time and daily devotion, especially considering that only 15% of average American adults claim to read the Bible daily.

What’s the effect of all this time on social media?

For many of us, a skewed sense of reality, and with it, a skewed perception of self, others, and the Lord.

Consider these 5 ways that social media skews the truth:

1. Represents A One-Dimensional View

Have you ever had the feeling as you scroll through your Facebook feed that you’re viewing a gallery of someone else’s “perfect” life?

There’s a reason for that. Facebook is one-dimensional. On social media, users determine what they display. Most people display pictures of their families, beau, pets, exciting trips, etc. You see posts about Gotham and Parks and Rec, a Bible verse here and there, and some funny quips.

You rarely read about people’s personal struggles. Politics, religion, health issues, and other “hot button” issues are generally no-no’s. Those aren’t what social media is designed for. But struggles, conflict, and suffering are all a part of real life that you can’t (and shouldn’t) avoid.

2. Offers Only Positive Reinforcement

Whether or not you surround yourself with outspoken, opinionated people, your life isn’t one giant swath of positive reinforcement. In reality, life doesn’t always go your way. People argue. Your co-workers’ and friends’ body language let you know that people don’t always agree with you.

In reality, tragedy and loss are met with natural provisions of comfort. You receive empathetic looks. When you hear horrible news, you exchange expressions of sorrow or shock, and might give someone a hug. Whole conversations allow you to properly grieve.

On social media, you “like” stuff. From news reports about tsunamis to your friend’s RIP tweet, the most natural reaction you can offer on social media is to leave a quick impression, share the word, or reply with an emoticon. Condolences are often limited to 140 characters or less.

3. Provides No Context

A single image and a limited text box often provide very little space for substantive content. Especially when intermixed with all of your connections’ (and the world’s!) opinions and posts and pictures, it’s hard to really get an accurate message across.

When you post an article and say “interesting argument,” for instance, your opinion and beliefs are open to anyone’s interpretation and assumptions.

With no context for much of anything, social media creates a culture of tossing things out into the great beyond carelessly. The power of the story, the thesis, or the intent of anything and everything is simply lost in the process.

4. Buffers Consequences

Real-life consequences are largely buffered on social media. You can delete a contact for posting an article that you assume they agree with and that offends you deeply without ever confronting anyone. People can get into wild, vicious debates and devour one another with no real life effects.

It’s also possible to interact without ever actually doing or experiencing anything. How? Check out how many “likes” there are on a non-profit’s page about feeding orphans, and then look at the donations the non-profit actually receives.

5. Fosters an Illusion of Connection

What this all comes down to is that social media transforms reality into a tidy, manageable, set of illusions.

The world of social media allows you to connect with hundreds and thousands of people you don’t know. But you can make that connection without any of the risks of having to actually be in relationship with others.

With a buffer for consequences, a lack of context apart from your interpretation, loads of positive reinforcement, and a palatable, one-dimensional view, you can be “in community” without getting out of your own little world.

Here’s the problem: real relationships have risks and stretch you. Real life is risky. Living a life that honors the Lord? Even more dangerous and challenging. Through social media, we can feel like we’re really living and loving and relating, but we can completely miss the reality of what’s actually going on in our hearts and in others’ lives.

Why It Matters

Social media is virtual. Have you ever thought about that word? Virtual means: being very close to something without actually being it.

One of the first verses to come to mind in connection with the word: “having the appearance of godliness, but denying it’s power. Avoid such people.” Thank you 2 Timothy 3:5.

What about “be doers of the Word, and not just hearers deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22)?

So much of the time that we spend online we are just perpetually hearing. We are just enjoying appearances of “good” lives, causes, and relationships. But we’re denying the power of reality and of connection. We’re deceiving ourselves concerning what living actually requires.

As Christians, that matters all the more.

When you follow Jesus Christ, you’re called into deeper relationships. You’re called to commit your work to the Lord, to have integrity, to be sharpened, to test your heart, to speak the truth, as well as to ask for forgiveness and to forgive. Plus a whole lot more.

While you may be able to use social media as a tool for launching into the kind of life Jesus gives, you’re not going to live that true life entirely online. But it may feel like you are.

So take warning. Don’t be deceived. While you don’t need to delete your profile, you must examine your ways. Are you relying on the illusions of social media to guard yourself against the (social) life that Christ designs? 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Sesame Beef Stir Fry

For the Beef:

1.3 lbs Stew Beef Chunks
2 Heaping Tbsps. Flour
1 Tsp. Sugar

For the Sauce:

1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
1/3 Cup Honey
1/3 Cup Brown Sugar
2 Tbsps. Sesame Oil
1/2 Cup Soy Sauce
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
2 Tbsps. Dissolved Corn Starch

For the Stir Fry:

Chopped Snap Peas
Chopped Bok Choy
Sesame Seeds for Garnish
Cooked Jasmine Rice


1. Pat beef cubes dry with paper towels.

2. Shake or pat with a mixture of the flour, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste.

3. Lightly grease a large skillet, let it get warm over med-high heat. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees at the same time.

4. When the skillet is hot, brown the beef on both sides.

5. While the beef is browning, combine all of the sauce ingredients except for the cornstarch.

6. Dump browned beef into a lightly greased baking pan. Set skillet aside for later.

7. Pour the sauce over the beef and place the baking pan in the oven.

8. Set your timer for 30 minutes. Shake or flip the beef. Return to oven for 30 more minutes.

9. After that first hour of cooking is up, heat your rice and chop your vegetables.

10. Check the beef, if the cubes are cooked through (they should be after about 1 hour 15 minutes) pour the beef and sauce back into the skillet.

11. Crank up the heat and stir in the dissolved corn starch.

12. When the sauce bubbles, reduce the heat to low and stir in the vegetables.

13. Allow to simmer over low heat 3-5 minutes as sauce thickens and vegetables cook.

14. Garnish with sesame seeds.

15. Serve over rice and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Why Being “Like Jesus” Is Risky (It’s Not What You Think)

We do a lot for the sake of being “like” Jesus. Attempting to be more Godly, to follow His perfect example, and to please our Lord, a lot of us make sacrifices, sign up for ministries, and take action.

Countless sermons and slogans warn us: it’s risky to be like Jesus. Scripture says it. In 1 John 3:13, we read that we shouldn’t be surprised when the world hates us for loving Christ.

The ruler of this world (Satan) is still the enemy of God and still eager to attack. Our culture and many of its followers are opposed to the Gospel. So, yeah, when you try to be like Jesus, you’re taking a risk. And you’re probably well aware of it.

But what about the internal risk?

What about the threats mustered up in your heart when you try to be more like Him?

1. There’s the Risk of Spiritual Pride

“Imitate God” Ephesians 5:1 proclaims. This verse doesn’t say be God. Or supersede God. Or take on as your own what is only God’s. The verse reminds us of Jesus’s words “follow me” repeated over and over.

We have trouble with imitation. Far too often we choose to follow and copy “Christian things” until we believe we’ve learned the way. From there, we’re quick to head off on our own, leading our own tour of being Christ-like. Why? Control. Pride.

2. There’s the Risk of Doing Good Wrongly

You can be like Jesus in your actions -giving to the poor and spending time with fellow sinners- and do it all wrongly. Just “do good” with the intention of personal gain. Try “being like Jesus” without relying on Jesus.

People may think you’re a great Christian, and you might consider yourself successful, but watch out. The appearance of godliness doesn’t mean you’re grounded in Christ or being used as His instrument. And if you’re not, Scripture says to avoid you (2 Timothy 3:5). You might be dressing up as the Lamb of God while devouring His flock as a wolf.

3. There’s the Risk of Diminishing Jesus to be More Like You

When we feel that a goal is unattainable, our first thought is rarely prayer, reliance, and submission to the one whose power is perfected in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Instead, we’re likely to simply alter the goal.

If your goal is to be like Jesus and you’re finding that it’s too hard, too risky, and too demanding, you might just alter your perception of Jesus to be a little more human and a little less Godly.

4. There’s the Risk of Missing the Point

Focusing on the how and the what of being like Jesus can easily distract from the “why.” To live like Jesus isn’t enough by itself. It won’t justify you before the Lord, it won’t make you a better person, and it probably won’t make your life any easier.

But to abide in the Lord, surrendering yourself to Him so that He can work through you –that’s the call of the Christian life. It’s Christ in your stead that justifies you before God. Christ in your heart and mind does more change your behaviors: be transformed in the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2). That is –go to the Lord to know His will, present your life to the Lord as sacrifice that He then uses for His good purposes, for His glory.

Get first things first. He lives. He lives in you (Galatians 2:20)! Follow His example, but do it by sticking close to Him in every moment, choice, thought, and action.