I’m throwing in the towel

I always have such high hopes this time of year. Regardless of what kind of year it has been, the next is always full of promise. It’s the fresh start I’ve been looking for. I can re-group, re-focus and start anew. I’m high on anticipation and expectation.

So I start to plan. I make lists of things I want to change in my life. I make lists of what I’d like to see happen in the coming year. I make lists of what I want to see Abba do. And I head off into the New Year with great enthusiasm.

But by February, the high is gone and my enthusiasm has waned. I’m now overwhelmed by disappointment and frustration. The changes I wanted seem impossible (what was I thinking?). The things I’d like to see happen aren’t anywhere in sight (people aren’t cooperating). And what I want to see God do……well, I can’t see anything for the discouragement and exhaustion.

What happened to my year full of promise? And why do I repeat this same scenario year after year only to be disappointed year after year? I usually end up throwing in the towel along with those lists. And try not to indulge in too much self-loathing as I ask myself: “Why can’t I do this? Why is this so hard?

But – one day I’m reading in Galatians and the light bulb comes on. Galatians 5:25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

I think I may have finally discovered my problem. There’s way too much of me involved. I’m being Kim led – not Spirit led. I’m the one calling all the shots; listing the changes I want, what I want to see happen and what I want to see Abba do. It’s my agenda and I’m leading the way. I’m taking charge.

I’m also the one trying to make it all happen. On my time-table of course. Always sooner rather than later.

No wonder I’m frustrated. And exhausted.

Why didn’t I see this before? How many times have I read Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”? How many times have I sung the sweet little Psalty song, “God Has A Plan For My Life” to my kids?

I don’t need to make any lists. I don’t need to set an agenda. I don’t need to make a plan.

All I need to do is let Holy Spirit lead me into Abba’s plan for my life.

So I’m not waiting until February. I’m throwing in the towel now. I quit writing list of what I want to see. Instead of setting my own agenda for change, I’ve decided to ask Holy Spirit to lead me into Abba’s plan for 2015.

And because it’s His plan, I’m not in charge. I don’t have to figure anything out. I don’t have to organize or orchestrate. It’s His responsibility to implement and set the timetable. It’s His responsibility to power, fund and fuel His plan. It’s His responsibility to produce the changes He wants in me.

My part is to follow Holy Spirit, listen closely and then obey. That sounds a lot easier and a lot less stressful.

So this year, I sit down with pen and paper to listen. I will write down only what He whispers into my heart. And that will be my focus for 2015.

journal

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He came as us.

Tucked away in the profound truth that God came to us is an even more astounding truth that He came as us. John 1:14 So the Word became human and made His home among us.

Our thoughts of Jesus are usually filled with His teachings, wisdom and miracles. We tend to focus on His divinity. But while Jesus was fully God, He was also fully man. He had a human body and human emotions, just like us. The Bible gives us a lot of insight into His human experience and shows that He subjected Himself to choices, difficulties, trials and heartaches by choosing to become a human.

For example, He experienced family problems. His family thought He was out of His mind and didn’t believe in Him. (Mark 3 & John 7)

He experienced loss and grief when His cousin John the Baptist was brutally murdered and His friend Lazarus died. (Matthew 14 & John 11)

He faced temptation. When He was physically and emotionally drained, the devil whispered lies into His ear, trying to seduce Him into walking away from God and His own identity. (Matthew 4)

He was rejected. The community – neighbors, friends and extended family who watched Him grow from a sweet little boy to a skilled carpenter to a renowned Rabbi – violently rejected Him. (Luke 4)

He was hated. The Pharisees and religious leaders despised Him, lied about Him, conspired against Him, and eventually killed Him. (Matthew 12)

He struggled with choice – choosing His own will verses the will of Abba. (Luke 23)

He experienced the heart break of betrayal from a beloved friend who handed Him over for execution. (Matthew 26)

He suffered humiliation at being stripped naked publicly. (Matthew 27)

He encountered excruciating pain as He journeyed to the cross. Torture and torment doesn’t begin to describe what He experienced. (John 19)

God came as us and faced the everyday commonalities of humanity. He lived the full human experience. Hebrews 4:15 says that He ….understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do….. And Hebrews 2:14 and 18 says ….it was necessary for Him to be made in every respect like us…. and Since He Himself has gone through suffering and testing, He is able to help us when we are being tested.

He came as us to be like us in every way. As a human, Jesus faced everything we face. He endured everything we endure. He encountered all the same struggles we encounter. Whether He lived it as a human or felt it on the cross, there is not one thing that we will ever experience that He did not also endure.

He did not come as us in order to figure us out. He did not come as us in order to understand us so He could relate to us or know how to help us. He did not come as us that He could determine how to handle us. He did not come as us for His education or benefit.

He came as us so that WE would understand that He DOES know us, does understand us and can relate to us. He came as us so that we could understand He is not a distant and un-involved God who is ignorant of our feelings, thought processes and experiences. He came as us to show us that He is very personal and relates to every situation and experience we could ever find ourselves in.

He came as us so that we would trust Him and follow Him to God.

baby

He came to us.

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. My family enjoys this season more than any other. We put up trees, string lights and wrap gifts. We listen to Christmas music and watch cheesy Christmas movies. We plan and attend parties and events. And there is no shortage of Christmas goodies and eggnog in the Wahl home.

Sometimes, I get so caught up in the fun of the season that I lose sight of its purpose – to celebrate the truth that God came to us.

What a profound thought: God came to us. God – the eternally omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, Creator of the universe – came to us. The One who hung the stars, came to us. The Ruler of the ages wrapped Himself in dirt and came to earth.

He did not send an emissary, ambassador or representative. He did not send an angel or other created being but He came to us Himself.

We were not summoned to Him. He did not insist that we figure out how to get to Him or require us to create a path to Him. He did not demand that we find a way to Him.  Instead He came to us.

He came to us because we could not go to Him. Sin had created an abyss between humanity and God, separating us. It was impossible for us to cross this chasm.  So He came to bridge the gap.

He came to us because we could never do enough, give enough or be enough to make a way to Him. Nothing we could do would change the separation from Him. So He came to give all He is and be the final sacrifice for sin so that we could know Him.

He came to us because we could never find the way. We were hopelessly lost, wandering aimlessly, trying every path we stumbled across in hopes of finding Him. So He came to show us the way by becoming the Way.

Shrouded in darkness and hopelessly blind, we had no hope of ever finding God. So in His great love and compassion God came to show Himself to humanity, revealing Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ. In John 14:9, Jesus says Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father! God came to us in Jesus.

It’s the story of the Bible – God reaching out to man. Every page, every chapter and verse is the revelation of Jesus: God coming to us.

This amazes me. It overwhelms me. I can’t wrap my mind around it. I can’t begin to understand it. What are mere mortals that You should think about them, human beings that You should care for them? Psalm 8:4

It’s the miracle of the ages. The unexplainable phenomenon of the universe. The wonder of all time. It’s what makes the most wonderful time of the year so wonderful. God came to us.

I enjoy all the fluff of Christmas. But I never want to lose sight of the true wonder of Christmas – that God came to us.

He came to us

Exchanging Perspectives

It’s 1994 and I’m sitting on the couch in our Nashville apartment stewing. I’m upset. I’m angry. I’m hurt. Someone did something and said something and now I’m wounded. The incident occurred several weeks ago and I’m still upset. I can’t get it off my mind. I can’t let it go. I’m offended. I’m replaying the incident over and over again. I can’t believe they did this. I can’t believe they said this. I can’t believe they did it behind my back. It’s eating me up inside.

And as I sit there, letting waves of hurt wash over me, I hear Holy Spirit gently say: “Will this matter when you get to Heaven?

What?

He repeats: “Will this matter when you get to Heaven?

I pause.

He presses: “In the grand scheme of things – in light of eternity – will this make any difference?”

Gulp. “No Lord, it won’t.”

He continues: “I will not ask you about this when you see Me. But I will ask about your attitude.

That would not be the last time I would hear those gentle words whispered into my heart. He often has to redirect my attention. I can get so caught up in the moment that I fail to realize it’s just that – a temporary, fleeting moment. I can get so tangled up in the here and now that I drag it with me into the future, where it inevitably trips me up. And I can be an expert in making a mountain out of a mole hill. You should see some of my creations.

So, He is patiently teaching me to exchange my worldly perspective for an eternal one. With His tender nudges, He is encouraging me to swap my short-term thinking for the timeless view point. He is inviting me to look at things from His perspective.

By answering the three questions, I begin to see through His perspective.

  • Will this matter when you get to Heaven? Is this even something that I will think about in eternity? Will it be a big deal in Heaven? Will there be talk about this in Heaven?
  • In the grand scheme of things – in light of eternity – will this make any difference? Stepping back to look at the big picture; where does this fit? Does this change my relationship with Jesus? Does this change my eternal destination? Can I take this with me to Heaven? Does it have any impact on Heaven?
  • I will ask about your attitude. What will Jesus say to me about this? What will He say about how I handled the situation? How I treated others? How I represented Him? Will He say “Well done My good an faithful servant?” (Matthew 25:23) Or will this be more wood, hay and straw that I’ve filled my life with? (1Corinthians 3:11-16)

And as I look at my circumstances through the lens of His perspective, I begin to see what really matters.

The things that I have elevated to critical status are now deflated to their rightful position or eliminated altogether. I realize the emotions I’ve been hanging on to are damaging me. I see that my attitudes are hurting others. I see that I have emphasized and valued the wrong things. As I look at everything from His perspective, everything shifts back into its proper place.

I’m in the process of learning how to live out Colossians 3:1-2 ….set your sights on the realities of heaven……Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. I want to think more about Heaven and less about earth with each passing day. I want to exchange my worldly perspective for the eternal. I want the realities of Heaven to shape my thinking so that I can see everything from His perspective. glasses

Inlets and Outlets

My husband recently delivered a great message on Generosity vs Greed. In it, he compared the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea. I’ve heard this on many occasions, as I’m sure you have as well. But this time I saw it from a different perspective.

There are few similarities for these bodies of water. Both are located in Israel and both are fed by the same source, the Jordan River. After that, they are nothing alike.

Galilee

The Sea of Galilee is teeming with life. Its waters are full of fish and birds fill the sky overhead. Deep green foliage edge its banks and its shores are lined with villages and communities. The Sea of Galilee is brimming with vibrant life.

Dead

However, the Dead Sea is just that – dead. No fish swim in its water; not even algae or bacteria can live there. No birds gather overhead. Foliage doesn’t edge its banks and there are no villages or communities lining its shores. There is no life at the Dead Sea.

The reason for this phenomenon: the Dead Sea is a hoarder. It keeps all the water it receives. It has no outlet. It has no channel to give. Every drop of water that comes into the Dead Sea, it keeps. It remains self-contained and as a result it poisons itself.

The opposite is true for the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee is a giver. For every drop that flows into the Sea of Galilee, a drop flows out. Every drop the Sea of Galilee receives, it gives. As it gives, life flourishes within.

Both have an inlet. But the one with vibrant, abundant life has an outlet.

Normally my thoughts turn to material things when I hear this analogy. However, this time my thoughts went instead to the spiritual.

I have an inlet. Abba pours into my life through His Word and His voice as we talk throughout the day. Holy Spirit points out things to me through messages I hear, books I read and music I listen to. He gives guidance, encouragement, support and love through mentors in my life as I am discipled. These are the inlets – the different channels He uses to connect and speak to me.

But do I have an outlet? Am I transparent with others about what Abba is doing in my life? Am I open in discussing what He is teaching me? Do I share the revelations He gives? Am I authentic so another believer can learn from my mistakes, struggles, trials and disappointments? Am I generously pouring into someone else what Abba is pouring into me?

Colossians 3:16b says Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom He givesAnd 1Thessalonians 5:11 says So encourage each other and build each other up,….. These verses point to our outlet. Teaching and counseling. Encouraging and building. We could also call it discipleship and mentoring.

To have an outlet means to mentor. Having an outlet means investing in another’s life through discipleship.  I create outlets by generously giving time to support, build and encourage others in their walk with Jesus. When I share what I’ve been through and what I’ve learned, I open a channel. When I have spiritual conversations and point the way to Jesus, I create openings where He can flow from me.

I don’t want to live self-contained. More than anything, I want to have both a strong inlet and a wide, flowing outlet. I want to pour into others what He’s so generously pours into me so that I am teeming and vibrant with life.