No Matter How Small, He Cares….

And [God] passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God…” Exodus 34:6

Of all the truths we “marinated” in at my church’s women’s retreat last month, the reality of God’s compassion continues to be a precious well-spring of encouragement to my heart. I’ve been wanting to write about it for weeks, but since my days of sitting in Starbucks and blogging my little heart out have been temporarily suspended by an ADORABLE eight month old, I thought a short video clip might do…

 

“Because He is a God of compassion He is absolutely incapable of seeing the conflict and struggle and pain in your heart and remaining unmoved.”

No matter how small, He cares. He really, truly cares.

Wow. Just wow.

When God Withholds

IMG_1672As a mom I have become a master at killing time, particularly those 3-4 hours in between nap time and bed time. For me, those are the hours that drag on forever. That’s the part of my day when I am most likely to end up putting myself in time out. It’s also the part of my day when I am most likely to raid the chocolate chip stash in the back of the freezer. (I’m way too healthy to buy candy, but I always have a secret stash of “ingredients.”)

So for the sake of my sanity and my waistline, it’s best that Shep and I go somewhere in the afternoons. And what better place to kill some time than Super Target? It is perhaps the one place on the planet where mother and child can experience equal amounts of happiness. Shep knows the drill: Starbucks, women’s shoes and accessories, then toys.  It’s a classic “win, win” scenario.

The other day we were in the toy section. I gave Shepherd 15 minutes to look around, told him that we were NOT buying anything, and clarified the consequence if he threw a fit. About 5 minutes in, he spotted a truck he really liked. It was a great truck. It was only a few dollars. He really, really wanted it. I had the ability to buy it. More importantly, I wanted to buy it. I wanted to make him happy. I wanted to grant his wish. I wanted to hear his sweet little voice say, “Mommy, you’re the best!”

So I stood there in the toy section incredibly conflicted – torn between the desire to give him what he wanted (the truck) and the desire to give him what he needed (a lesson in restraint).

As we walked out of the store that day (truck-less), it struck me that God never has that experience with His children. He is never conflicted. He never struggles to choose between what He wants to give us and what He knows is best for us. He never ever thinks to Himself, “Man, I really would like to give her ________________, but I probably shouldn’t.” He is utterly incapable of prioritizing our wants over our needs.  He absolutely cannot desire lesser things for us. Here’s why:

1)      He is sovereign.

That means that He is in absolute control over all things. He does whatever He pleases. There is not a single event in the entire universe that can occur outside of His domain.  The same is true of the small, ordinary events of your life. The Bible is replete with references to this amazing attribute:

The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation. (Ps. 33:11)

Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the LORD will stand. (Prov. 19:21)

There is no wisdom and no understanding and no counsel against the LORD. (Prov. 21:30)

Our God is in heaven; He does whatever pleases Him. (Ps. 115:3)

I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.” (Is. 46:9-10)

All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?” (Dan. 4:35)

 [He] works all things after the counsel of His will. (Eph. 1:11)

Is God is in complete control over which “trucks” you get to take home and which ones you have to leave in the store? In other words, does He have absolute dominion over how and when and where the desires of your heart are fulfilled? Does He get to decide what’s best for you? YES – because He is sovereign.

2)      His wisdom is perfect.

Even the wisest among us are plagued with limited knowledge. We all know what it’s like to stress over an important decision, wondering if we’re are doing the right thing. We make our pro and con lists, seek wise counsel, get as much information as we can, and then do the best with what we know. Oftentimes, what we know is sorely insufficient. If you’ve never experienced that, you will when you become a parent!

God doesn’t have that problem – ever. He knows everything – past, present, and future. He can see what no human eye can see and understand what no human mind can understand. He never has to consult a source outside of Himself. As Jerry Bridges puts it in his book Trusting God Even When Life Hurts, “His wisdom is intuitive, infinite, and infallible.” Again Scripture makes this ever so clear:

With Him are wisdom and might; to Him belong counsel and understanding. (Job 12:13)

His understanding has no limit. (Ps. 147:5)

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. (Is. 40:28)

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”  (Is. 55:8,9)

Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are His. (Dan. 2:20)

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! (Rom. 11:33)

So not only does God have the power and authority to arrange your life, He has the wisdom to arrange it well. Perfectly, in fact. Because God is sovereign, He ultimately gets what He wants and because He is wise, He always wants what is best. He cannot desire something for you that is not in keeping with His perfect understanding of you, your life, your future, and (most importantly) your role in His overall redemptive plan.   

3)      He loves you.

Because He loves you He cares about you and delights in doing you good:

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. (Ps. 84:11)

You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you. (Ps. 86:5)

Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits– who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Ps. 103:2-5)

Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. (Matt 10:29-31)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Rom. 8:28)

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. (Rom. 8:35, 37)

There’s something incredibly sweet in knowing that I belong to a God who not only knows what’s best for me, but sincerely desires what’s best for me. He cannot want lesser things for His children. His perfect, unfailing, abiding, immeasurable love won’t allow it.

I don’t know about you, but I need to know that. As I wait for God to answer the cry of my heart in a very specific area of my life, I need to know He’s not conflicted. I need to know He is ordering my steps with an unwavering commitment to my good, which is ultimately for His glory. I need to know that when He says “no” He never regrets it or second guesses Himself. I need to know that He’s not the wimpy dad who gives in when His daughter throws a hissy fit. I need to know He loves me too much to give me want I want at the expense of what I need.  I need to know He wants much, much more for me than I want for myself.

So in those moments of doubt . . . when my unfulfilled longing threatens to undo me . . . when I am at a complete loss to understand what God is doing – I throw myself on the solid rock of who He is.

Upon that rock His sovereignty assures me of His absolute control, His wisdom assures me of His perfect guidance, and His love assures me of His faithful provision.

Together, they remind me that every “truck” withheld is both an act of divine grace and an oh-so-precious opportunity to deepen my trust in the One who holds my life.

Behind every bitter providence lies the promise of a better future. The very nature of your God guarantees it.

I just HAD to share . . .

I clicked on this link this morning and I’m pretty confident it will prove to be the best five minutes of my whole week. In it, John Piper talks about the importance of marinating in God’s Word. Yep, right up my alley! My favorite part: “A godly life is lived out of an astonished heart – a heart astonished by grace . . . ”

When you read your Bible, are you seeking an astonished heart? Am I? We should be!

For those seeing this via email, you may need to click on the title of the blog post to see the link.

Enjoy!

https://soundcloud.com/askpastorjohn/must-bible-reading-always-end

Don’t Say Wow

christmasI was in what my husband not-so-affectionately refers to as “the zone.” The cleaning “zone”, to be exact. I’m sure you are well acquainted with how it is when you only have a couple hours to get as much of the house clean as you possibly can and are absolutely determined to actually get to the bathroom floors this time. You know, since several weeks of nothing more than a quick Swiffer job here and there have left you wondering what unseemly creatures a swab test might reveal.

Amazing housekeepers like ourselves should never have to fear a swab test. Never. Ha!

So, the cleaning frenzy was in full force. My beloved cleaning products were ready to go (anyone else out there have a strange affection for cleaning products?), my “bleach clothes” were on, my favorite Pandora station was playing, and my determination to evict whatever non-humans had taken up residence in the tiny little crevices of my bathroom was at an all-time high.

Oh, and did I mention that my three-year-old was home? Sort of kills the mood, doesn’t it?

He was home, and he was bored. I was already feeling guilty for letting him watch too much TV that morning, so I had turned it off. Turning off the TV makes me feel like a really good mom. It also makes me feel like pulling my hair out, especially when I’m in “the zone.” That day I chose to lose some hair and I like to believe it significantly improved my son’s chances of getting into a really good college and making a positive difference in the world.  Two more episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse surely would have ruined him forever. But I digress . . .

After several failed attempts at getting me to play trucks, Shep found a balloon and started hitting it around the house. When you only have one child, a toy or activity that truly captivates their attention and DOESN’T require your involvement is a rare find. The balloon did just that  . . . for about 10 minutes. Then, he decided he wanted to show off his amazing balloon hitting skills. He came into the room I was cleaning and said, “Mommy, look!” Then, he hit the balloon. My response: a half-hearted, “Wow buddy, that’s great.”

Again, “Mommy, look!” And again, “Wow, that’s really neat. You’re good at hitting that.”

Several more times . . . “Mommy, look!”

Each time, my response was the same half-hearted “wow.”   After the second or third hit, I said it without even looking at him or his balloon. I was in “the zone,” remember? I didn’t have time for such things.

Then, it happened. That moment when your child says something so simple, yet so profound . . . mere words that shoot like little daggers straight into the depths of your soul and cut right through your upside-down priorities and selfish intentions. Words that make you pause, put down the spray bottle, hug your little boy, and marvel at how a three year old with a balloon can reveal so much about your own heart.

After several, “Mommy, look!” comments, followed by my half-hearted, distracted “wow” responses, Shep walked up to me, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Mommy, don’t say wow.”

What?! Don’t say wow?

At first, I was a little puzzled. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with saying “wow.” In fact, it is generally a welcomed response. How did my son not know this?

Then it hit me. It’s not that he didn’t want my “wow.” He just didn’t want my fake “wow.” He wanted me to stop what I was doing, look at him, and genuinely delight in his balloon hitting skills. He didn’t want my half-hearted affirmation. He wanted my whole-hearted attention.

In that moment, with a Swiffer duster in one hand and a can of Pledge in the other, I thought of how many times I do the same thing to God. While I know full well that God is nothing like my three year old, I have to admit that He often comes to me with the same message: Don’t say wow.

Don’t just go through the motions. Don’t merely pretend to care. Don’t fake affection.

Don’t settle for “devotions” that are void of any true devotion or praise that is empty of any real passion.

In Isaiah 29:13, God says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.”

In other words, they said “wow,” but they felt no wonder.  They were all duty with no delight.

I don’t want to be like that. Especially not now. Not at Christmas. Not when I’m celebrating the marvelous, miraculous incarnation of my Savior, without which I would be utterly lost in my sins and destined for an eternity in hell. If there’s ever a time to say “wow” and really mean it, it’s now!

As we rush through all the last minute preparations for Christmas, let’s make sure we don’t rush past the Person of Christmas.

Stop. Breathe. Read. Pray. Marinate.

As you do, hear the Lord’s sweet whisper . . .

Don’t [just]  say wow.

 

 

 

 

 

Small God, Small Life

This past weekend I had the sweet privilege of sitting under the teaching of Dr. John Piper at the Gospel Coalition’s National Women’s Conference. I have done that countless other times via websites and podcasts, but this time it was live, it was shared with 3500 other women, and it was special. I am pretty sure it was an hour of my life that I will never forget; not just because it was John Piper, but because it was John Piper preaching Isaiah 6, which happens to be one of my favorite passages in the Bible. It was Piper doing what he does best – proclaiming the excellencies of our glorious God and calling believers to spend their lives drinking deeply of all that He is.

Isaiah 6:1 says, “In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on the throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.” The chapter goes on to describe the glorious vision . . . and its life-altering consequences.

Dr. Piper began his sermon by describing how Chuck Colson’s life was radically changed by a fresh vision of God’s glory. His life and ministry were never the same after reading and savoring the truths he found in the pages of R.C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God.

He then spoke of how the same thing happened to Job who, after receiving a much more thorough picture of God’s God-ness than he ever bargained for, declared, “I have heard You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract , and I repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:4,5). He, too, was never the same.

Of course, the prophet Isaiah is another example of a man who caught a glimpse of the divine – who “saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and exalted” – and was forever changed.

Before diving into the text, Dr. Piper shared about his own encounter with the majesty and holiness of God that redirected the entire course of his life and still serves as the heart and soul of his mission to “spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.”

As I was sitting there listening to him set the stage for his exposition of Isaiah’s vision, I thought of my own Isaiah 6:1 experience. It was my freshman year of college and I was really struggling with some doctrinal questions. My mom didn’t have all the answers I was searching for, but she knew well enough to point me back to God and did so by placing a little book entitled The Knowledge of the Holy in my hands. It’s a book on the attributes of God written by A.W. Tozer. The whole book is eye-opening, but the first chapter – “Why We Must Think Rightly About God” – is what changed my life. It pointed me heavenward by powerfully summarizing what I already knew from the Scriptures – that God is glorious and that all of life hinges on knowing Him. Really, really knowing Him.

Here are some quotations that are indelibly imprinted on my heart and have transformed the way I see just about everything. Seriously, aside from Scripture, no written words have had a more profound impact on my life:

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most significant fact about any man is not what he at any given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like . . . Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech.

Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, ‘What comes to your mind when you think about God?’ we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man. Were we able to know exactly what our most influential religious leaders think about God today, we might be able with some precision to foretell where the church will stand tomorrow.

So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards declines along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.

What comes to my mind when I think about God is the most important thing about me.

Not my job, not my education, not my family, not my bank account, not my appearance, not my blog stats, not my popularity, not how well my child behaves, not how “perfect” my home is . . .

The most important thing about me – the thing that determines everything esle – is what I think about God.

The same is true of you.

Here’s the gist of it: Small God, small life . . . Small God, small mission . . .  Small God, small impact. When I say “small life”, I mean small from an eternal perspective. Small in God’s eyes. Small in the only way that really matters.

On a really practical level, here’s what Tozer was getting at:

The woman whose chest is busting out of her shirt and whose shorts  leave almost nothing to the imagination doesn’t need a lesson on modesty. That might help, but what she really needs is a fresh vision of the holiness and love of God. Seeing Him is the only way she’ll understand true beauty and feminine appeal.

The control-freak mom who suffers repeat anxiety attacks and can’t go a single minute without worrying about something doesn’t need a therapist. That might help, but what she really needs is a fresh vision of the omnipotence, goodness, and faithfulness of God. Seeing Him is the only way she’ll be able to experience the peace that surpasses all understanding.

The graduating college student who is at her wits end because she has multiple options and no earthly idea which one to take doesn’t need a life-planning seminar. That might help, but what she really needs is a fresh vision of the sovereignty, wisdom, and omniscience of God. Seeing Him is the only way she’ll be able to face an uncertain future with courageous faith.

The widow whose grief has washed over her like an ocean wave and sunk her into a pit of deep darkness doesn’t need another sympathy card. That might help, but what she really needs is a fresh vision of the sufficiency, omnipotence, and love of God. Seeing Him is the only way she’ll be able to find supernatural joy in the midst of such deep anguish.

The self-righteous woman who takes pride in her spiritual accomplishments and boasts in her “churchy” achievements doesn’t need another Bible study. That might help, but what she really needs is a fresh vision of the justice, righteousness, and holiness of God. Seeing Him is the only way she’ll ever see her need, humbly repent of her pride, and be free from her bondage to self. (This one is straight out of my life story.)

Here’s the truth that has forever changed the way I think, the way I write, and the way I teach the Bible: At any given moment, in any circumstance, a woman’s greatest need is to see God.

When your child rebels, shattering your heart into a million pieces – you need to see God.

When your husband shows more interest in the computer or TV than he does in you, filling your heart with a strange combination of anger and anguish – you need to see God.

When the bills are due and you have no idea how you are going to pay them – you need to see God.

When you look in the mirror and loath what you see – you need to see God.

When you’ve been trying for years to get pregnant and yet another period snuffs out hope – you need to see God.

When the dark cloud of depression lingers over your life and you start to believe it will never go away – you need to see God.

When you are buried under a pile of domestic duties, have scraped poop out of toddler underwear for the umpteenth time, and nap time is cut way short – you need to see God.

When that sinful habit grips your life again and the shame and frustration is more than you can bear – you need to see God.

When life is good and spiritual complacency starts creeping in – you need to see God.

You have a proper view of your life to the extent that you have a proper view of God. You must see Him. So must I.

But where?

Where do we see God?

The answer is simple – we fix our eyes on what He has revealed about Himself . . .

In His world – creation.

In His Word – the Bible.

In His Son – Jesus.

God has painted quite a picture of who He is. This picture is so vast, so glorious, so majestic that we could live a thousand lifetimes and never run out of things to see!

We never suffer for a lack of revelation.

We suffer for a lack of vision. We are too lazy to look . . . too preoccupied to peer . . . too satisfied in the lesser things of this world to seek the face of God.

When we do take the time to read God’s Word, we are all too often obsessed with learning more about ourselves, finding verses that make us feel better about our lives, and seeking passages that satisfy our craving for comfort. We forget that God’s Word is about God. We forget that He is not only the Author, but the Subject as well.

The result?

Our view of God shrinks. Our worship fizzles. Our hearts are sorely earth-bound. Our lives are wasted.

Small God . . .small life.

When that alarm clock goes off at 5:00 a.m. and I stumble out of bed to the coffee pot and then to my big green chair where I open God’s Word and “marinate” in its truths, I’m not just “doing devotions” or “having a quiet time.” I’m not checking something off of my “to do” list. I’m not winning brownie points with God. I’m not simply learning more about myself. That’s not enough to get this lazy butt of mine out of my bed!

I get up at that ridiculous hour of the morning to gaze at God.

To see His beauty.

To savor the sweetness of His sufficiency.

To hear His precious promises and perfect precepts.

To touch the textures of redemption.

To smell the aroma of His sacrifice.

I get up to see God.

I get up because I know that the most important thing about me – the one thing that determines every other thing – is what comes to my mind when I think about Him.

Small God, small life . . . Small God, small mission . . . Small God, small impact.

Don’t settle for that. Don’t sleep in for that. Don’t neglect the Scriptures for that.

With everything in you, seek an Isaiah 6:1.

With an open Bible and an open heart . . .

Choose to look.

Decide to gaze.

Purpose to peer.

Resolve to see the Lord sitting on His throne, high and lifted up . . . every day.

Then, spend your life responding to the majestic beauty of your most glorious God.

Because a life spent that way is anything but small.

Resources for further study:

The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer

Knowing God, J.I. packer

The Holiness of God, R.C. Sproul

Desiring God, John Piper

Trusting God, Jerry Bridges

God: As He Longs for You to See Him, Chip Ingram

“Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfolded, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.” – J.I. Packer, Knowing God

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