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Pursuing Holiness

“But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all that you do; for it is written, “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:15-16

© Depositphotos/ PetarPaunchev

I didn’t grow up going to church. I did, however, grow up hearing about church, and what I heard wasn’t very good. “It’s full of hypocrites, judgmental people who just want your money.” It was all a farce.

So here I am, a Christian, loving God, Jesus and the church He built. Why? How could I go from being taught the “church” is for fools to becoming the church myself?

People are people.

You don’t need to go to church to be judged. That happens in our own families. You don’t need to go to church to experience others hypocrisy. That happens in our places of work. You don’t have to go to church to be asked for money. That happens with our schools, sports programs, and countless non-profits.

We find these people at church because that’s just how people are. We are all pursuing something and we use the means we know to achieve what’s important to us, what we think we really want. In our brokenness we use and misuse the emotions and understanding God gives us. And if we are not careful, we will pursue what’s temporary and short-lived rather than what will last forever.

God is God.

I don’t go to church because of who people are. I go because of who God is. The church is not a building or a place we go. Church is the coming together of those who follow Jesus. In our brokenness we encourage and love one another. We support each other in our pursuit of Christ. And while not everyone who goes to church fully understands the temporary versus eternal, over time the pursuit becomes more clear.

The Pursuit of Holiness

I used to think of holiness as a vague, hard to understand religious term. What exactly is holiness and how do you know when you’ve achieved it? Is it about being perfect or following some set list of rules? And who decides what is perfect or on this list? Hopefully, it’s not the broken people at church.

In pursuing holiness, we are actually pursuing Jesus. It’s only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can even want to pursue holiness. Jesus has set the standard, not the people at church, and it’s too high for us to achieve in our brokenness. We cannot be perfect in this lifetime and yet, in Him, we strive after Him. We strive after His perfection. His death on the cross for our sins, and His resurrection from the dead makes it possible for us to pursue holiness in this lifetime and achieve it in the next. It’s in our pursuing of Christ and His holiness that the Spirit of God transforms us into the image of Christ throughout our lifetime. It’s in the pursuit that the things of eternal importance win out.

Something to Consider…

What do you pursue in your life? You can look at your calendar and your back account, but I challenge you to look at your heart. If one thing in your life could change what would it be? What would be the source of that change?

In our pursuit, we do nothing on our own. The Spirit draws us to Jesus. He softens our hearts to hear and accept His grace and truth, and yet we can choose to participate in this pursuit. What one thing can you start doing to pursue Jesus and come to know holiness?

An Easter Reflection

© Depositphotos/ kevron2002

“It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.” Luke 23:54

Isn’t it interesting that the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is the Sabbath?

It’s Saturday, a holy day. For the Jewish people, Saturday is the Sabbath. People go to the temple and there is no work done.

Jesus is dead. He’s been crucified. Just a few short days before, people were shouting His praise on Palm Sunday. He was their King come to save them. And over the course of the week, everything changed.

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday everyone is going about their business. The Passover is coming and there are preparations to be made. Jesus is still teaching and His messages are bold and convicting. He appears steadfast and confident, unwavering in His purpose. Of course He’ll succeed. The Jewish people will soon be freed from their oppression.

Thursday comes and Jesus is betrayed and arrested.

“Wait. What’s going on? Who’s been arrested? How can that be? I thought…”

By Friday, Jesus has been convicted. He’s nailed to a cross to die a criminals death.

“NO! This can’t be happening! He was supposed to become King. He was supposed to save us. How do we move forward? How can we move forward? Everything we had hoped for is gone. Is there even any hope left?”

Saturday comes and so does the Sabbath. Nothing can be done. And even if something could be done, they can’t do it. The law doesn’t allow it. All they could do was seek God, go to the temple and wait.

Did the disciples of Jesus go to the temple? Or did they remain in the upper room, quiet and afraid, uncertain of their fate should they show their faces?

Regardless of where we are or where we go, one of the most holy things we can do is seek God and wait on Him. When everything is falling apart around us, or seems to be, we seek and wait. We pray and trust.

On Friday, Jesus said, “It is finished.” And He’s right. There’s nothing left for us to do, but rest.

And then Sunday comes. Answered prayer. Truth revealed. A miracle. Hope is restored in a way even better than we could have imagined!

Too often though, we want to skip from Friday to Sunday. We want instant answers and results. And while the truth of what God does on Sunday solidifies the foundation of our faith, our faith is grown on Saturday. And sometimes, Saturday lasts a long time, much longer than we like.

This is a constant pattern in our life. Everything is great. We see a bright future ahead so we go about our business assuming we know how it will all work out. Then, out of no where, we are blindsided. We don’t know what’s going on, how it happened, or what to do next. Time passes. We do what we can feeling like it’s not enough, feeling like there’s no end in sight. And then, God breaks in. Something changes and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Hope is renewed.

As Christians, this week, Holy week, is our state of living all wrapped up in each day. We know Jesus is King and has come to save us. We go about our business in this world steadfast and confident, unwavering in our faith, boldly teaching and preaching through the power of Christ in us. We prepare because the hope on which we wait could come at any time. And when times get tough, almost unbearable and there’s nothing else we can do, we seek God. We rest in Him. We pray, trust and wait.

Sometimes the weight of God’s word, His glory revealed through His word is heavy. I can’t speak. I can’t think. I can’t process. In the presence of the Lord, Isaiah recognized His sinfulness. He thought for sure He was done for. Daniel lost all strength and felt completely helpless. He trembled in the presence of God’s messenger. Saul, on the road to Damascus, fell to the ground at the flash of light and the voice of Jesus. Even the Apostle John, who had walked with Jesus on earth, fell as though dead in the presence of the transfigured Christ.

This is my struggle: to get the words out when the weight of God’s word overwhelms me. It is so good, and it is so, so important. I had meant to post this going into Good Friday. Maybe it’s good that I didn’t. Maybe it’s good that we don’t just get on with our day once Easter is over, the dishes are done and the crowds have gone home. Every day is Holy. Every day is an opportunity to consider and reflect on what “Sunday” will bring.

Something to Consider…

As you think about the different days of Holy week, where do you find you spend the most time?

  • Are you looking to the leaders of the world to solve your problems?
  • Are you going about your business assuming you know how things will turn out?
  • Are you feeling like your unsure of what’s happening in your life, like you’re trying to hold on, but are losing control?
  • Maybe you’ve lost hope and feel defeated. You don’t see a way out.
  • Maybe you’re unsure of what to do next, where to go or what to do.

Jesus is returning. A new Sunday is coming. How does this truth affect how you spend your time? How does this truth change the day in which you live?

May you know and believe, seek and trust, while finding your rest in Jesus. We can live every day in the reality and truth of Easter.

 

Jesus Intercedes

“The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness. We do not even know how we ought to pray, but through our inarticulate groans the Spirit himself is pleading for us, and God who searches our inmost being knows what the Spirit means, because he pleads for God’s own people in God’s own way.” Romans 8:26-27 (NEB)

My husband I went through a season of life that lasted approximately four and a half years. It stared when my father developed a throat-clearing cough. Ten months later he passed away from complications associated with lung cancer. Fast forward another ten months and my husband’s mother was diagnosed with bronchitis. Except it wasn’t really bronchitis. It was lung cancer. Following six months of treatment, one week before Easter, she passed away as well. We spent the following Easter with Craig’s grandmother, his mother’s mother. Within a few weeks of the visit, the next call came. They had found a cancerous lump on her shoulder. The original source? Lung cancer. Six months later, three years after my father went in to the hospital, we buried her in her home town.

It was during the six months of his grandmother’s illness that the full weight of these verses hit me. We had been making the five hour trek to see her regularly and visit while her condition changed and eventually landed her in hospice. I had been reading Come Thirsty by Max Lucado and during one of these road trips, I read out loud to my husband while he drove. As I read, a lump rose in my throat. I struggled to get the words out as the tears began to well. (I am a cryer so it’s not surprising. However, at this point in my walk, Scripture didn’t always move me to tears. I was just learning to grasp the truth of it all and so much of it was still difficult for me to understand.)

My husband didn’t quite get what was going on inside of me as I continued to read.

“It’s not up to you to pray your prayers. None of us pray as much as we should, but all of us pray more than we think, because the Holy Spirit turns our sighs into petitions and tears in entreaties. He speaks for you and protects you. He makes sure you get heard. He makes sure you get home.” Max Lucado, Come Thirsty

After three years of wanting “normal” back, of feeling frustrated and tired, hopeful and sad, encouraged and defeated all at the same time, I realized that even though I didn’t know what to do with all that was going on inside me, God did. He knew exactly what I was thinking and feeling, what I needed in order to keep going and not only that, but what I need so that I could come out of it all in a better place. The normal I thought I wanted wasn’t God’s best for me. My new normal was going to bring me to a place of greater dependence on and a deeper intimacy with Jesus.

When I cried because I didn’t have words, the Spirit of Jesus turned my words into the perfect prayers. I still get choked up when I think of it. Not because He does or can, but because He wants to. In His great love of me, for each of us, He takes our uncertainty, confusion and questions and places them before the throne of God, the One who knows completely, understands thoroughly and has every answer. And there is a gratitude beyond words.

While everything on the outside seemed to be falling apart, everything on the inside was being made whole. I’m not happy that my family members are gone, but I am glad that He worked out the difficulties I was having for my good. And while He was using these for my good, He was working in the way each of them needed as well. Every seemingly good or bad situation has a multitude of purposes. Every individual touched by a single event has the opportunity to experience the overwhelming love of Jesus as He knows exactly what and how to plead for us personally.

When you don’t have the words, Jesus does. When you’re not sure, He’s positive. And it’s all for the good of those who love Him. It’s all in accordance with His good and perfect purpose and will: That though our circumstances, we would be transformed into His image as we continue to draw near to Him.

Something to Consider:

In what situations do words fail you? Are you sad, angry, hurting? As you come before Jesus, be honest with your emotions – He knows them anyway – and trust Him with your needs. He knows who’s involved and what’s happened, even the things you don’t know.

Is something eating at you, but you think it shouldn’t be a big deal? Is it something you should be able to let go of or “get over”, and yet you find yourself dwelling on it time and time again? As you lay it before Him, as His Spirit intercedes on your behalf, even in the small things, be open to what He reveals to you.

As we come to Him without words, without a full understanding of why something is happening, His prayers are complete. His prayers may have less to do with what you think is wrong around you and more to do with what needs to change inside of you. Your answers may only come through your own transformation.

A Work in Progress

“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:4-6

© Depositphotos/weerapat

© Depositphotos/weerapat

In Christ, I am a new creation. In Christ, you are a new creation.

And yet, we are still a work in progress.

Perfection is still some time off. The attitude or mentality of perfectionism says I must get it right. I must be fully capable before attempting because otherwise, I will mess it up. I’ll make a mistake. When we think we need to “get it right”, we often try to do this in our own power. When we miss the mark, we condemn ourselves and think this is how God must see us as well.

But we can and need to give ourselves permission to be a work in progress. As Philippians 1 says, the good work being done in us is a result of the power of Christ. God has drawn us toward Himself. He has deposited the Holy Spirit within us so we can know Him more and rely on His power within us.

God knows the healing that needs to take place in your life, in your heart. He knows the habitual patters of how you think, act and respond. God knows what needs to change in you so that you can be transformed into the new creation He  has already created you to be.

You may realize over time that some things are just different about you. You didn’t think much about it, but you see things or do things in a new way. Things you used to do have lost their appeal, while you are drawn to other things, other people, places and activities. Maybe you respond to situations with a new sense of peace or clarity.

There are also thoughts, attitudes and desires that God brings to your attention. He reveals issues and conditions of your heart that need to change. Knowing what God has shown you, with the knowledge and understanding of what He says about it, you now have the opportunity to do it differently going forward. God’s revelation is not a condemnation. It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance of old ways and helps us choose to follow His new ways.

As a new creation, you have everything you need to live a life pleasing to God. Be patient with yourself as you trust Jesus to bring forth what He has already planted in your heart.

Something to Consider…

In what ways has God already made you a new creation? How has your thinking, attitude or desires changed since coming into a relationship with His Son, Jesus? Spend some time praising and thanking God for what He has already done.

How is God doing a work in you? In what new ways would you like to experience His work in your life? Be honest with God about what you know needs to change. He already knows and wants to help you make these changes.

As He reveals areas of your life where He wants you to follow His way rather than your own, choose to cooperate with His Spirit and be obedient to what you know He’s calling you to do.

Great and Precious Promises

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” 2 Peter 1:3-4

I don’t know one single person who’s kept every promise they’ve ever made. I know I haven’t. As much as I want to, sometimes I don’t. People break their promises and we can get accustomed to being disappointed at some level.

How great is our God who keeps all of His promises!

Maybe this is why Jesus says, “But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.” Matthew 5:34-35,37a

Our making an oath, or a promise, in the name of God carries with it a heavy weight. We are saying our promise is backed by God. Then when we fail, it appears He has failed. But there is really no comparison when we consider the promises we make and place them next to His.

God doesn’t lie. God doesn’t change His mind. God doesn’t retract His promises. Some promises are guaranteed; some promises are conditional based on our response. But when God says He will, He means it.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

“The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” Psalm 145:9

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” 1 John 5:14

The list goes on.

Why is it so important that we understand the significance of God’s promises and not misrepresent Him in the course of making our own? Because not only are God’s promises great and precious, they have a great purpose. They are the reason we can live transformed lives in His power.

There are people I know who break their promises regularly. The only thing I believe when they say, “I promise”, is that an excuse for breaking it is imminent. Their promises hold no weight, no value and no expectation of trust.

God’s promises on the other hand carry the full weight of His character. They are so valuable that they are considered precious to those who hear them and receive them. God is completely trustworthy so when we walk in and live out a godly life based on what He promises is true, we will operate, think and behave in a way that is contrary to the world and completely in line with His kingdom.

Through His divine power we have everything we need to live a godly life and participate in the divine nature. Because we know Him, we can trust Him. And because we can trust Him, His promises change everything.

Something to Consider…

What promise do you need to hear from God today? That He is your peace, your strength, your refuge? That He gives wisdom, knowledge and understanding? Seek Him and know His promises for you are true.

How is God calling you to move from your old way of thinking or living to His way of thinking and living? What do you need to know is true in order to be able to make the change? Ask Him to show you the truth about what stops you so that you can move forward in His promises.

Everything We Need

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3

© Depositphotos/ kevron2002

© Depositphotos/ kevron2002

I have struggled mightily with the words godly and holy. What does that mean? How do I live a “holy” life? I’m not godly in my behavior or thinking. I’m a mess.

And it’s not just mistakes that make up my mess. Let’s call it what it is: Sin. God knows more about my sin than even I do. In fact, He knows ALL about my sin.

Yet, God has given me everything I need to live a godly life. Because God has called me, because I’ve come to know Jesus, I have all I need.

So rather than try to be perfect, I’m going to take what I know about God and all that I’m learning and choose to live in agreement with Him. It might actually be that simple.

And if you’re reading this, God is calling you. Not because you’re perfect, good or holy, but because He is. He calls you by His own glory and goodness, not yours. And as you get to know Him through the power of the Holy Spirit, through reading His word, and by spending time with others who know Him, you will be able to recognize and live a godly life as well.

You will begin to live your life in agreement with God, not in opposition to Him.

… because He is good.

… because He knows you completely, sin and all, and still loves you deeply.

… because HE has given you everything you need. He’s withheld nothing good from you.

God is good so He calls and He gives. Will you accept everything He has for you?

 

God, you are good and you give good gifts. You give me everything I need and I lack nothing. Lord, when I feel like I don’t understand enough to move forward with you, teach me what I need to know so I can live in agreement with you. Thank you for giving me everything I need to live a godly life in your divine power.

Something to Consider…

Do you think of godly living in terms of what you must give up or in what you will gain? Perspective matters. How could a change in perspective help you move in God’s direction?

What do you believe is lacking in your life right now? What information do you believe would make a difference in this area? God has already given you everything you need. Ask him to make it known.

If you have not yet responded to God’s call to you, but would like to, you can. Right now, you can say “yes” to God’s glory and goodness by putting your faith in Jesus. If you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, you will be saved. God knows all about your sin so acknowledge it and ask Him to forgive you. He will. Thank Him for the gift of grace through His Son, Jesus. He died on the cross for your sins so that you could be forgiven. Tell Him that you want to live in agreement with Him and ask Him to give you everything you need to do that. He loves you and calls you to be His. Say “yes” today.

Be Available

“At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, ‘Who touched my clothes?'” Mark 5:30

 

woman driving a car and looking at watch

©DepositPhotos/Syda_Productions

I have a long list of things I want to do. I have a long list of things others would like me to do. I have a long list of things I should do. And, of course, I long list of things I have to do.

It’s easy to get caught up in the lists. I am, after all a list maker. I like to write it all down and check it off so that I know I’ve really accomplished something each day.

When my children were young and at home, my list consisted more of “have to’s” than “want to’s.” Choices seemed easier just because there weren’t really that many. But as my girls have grown up and have become more independent, I have more time on my hands.

There was a season when time was what I wanted. I could sit and read, garden, take a nap, all the fun and relaxing things that didn’t seem to happen often enough with children. But as seasons have changed, I’ve realized that they may not need me in the same ways, they still need me … and so do others.

Our relationships matter not because requirements and expectations matter, but because it’s how we know we matter. What I do can make a difference in the life of someone else. This all sounds nice doesn’t it? But there are a few things we need to deal with and understand for us to really be willing to be available to others.

  1. It’s going to take some time. Jesus was on His way to see and help one person when another person came to Him. There will be interruptions. Now, I’m most likely not going to be stopped as I walk down the street, but I might get a phone call or text message that requires some immediate attention in order to really meet the need of the person reaching out. If I’m going to be available I’m going to have to stop and push pause on my list so I can answer or reply in the most timely manner possible.
  2. It’s going to take some discipline. And if I am going to answer or reply, maybe even show up when I can, I’m going to need to be aware of the time. Jesus was available in meeting the need of the woman, but He didn’t stay too long. He didn’t change the plans He has already made to go somewhere else. There are times when urgent matters need to be worked through in a timely matter so that you can get on with the other things that are also important. Discipline may also call for us to not over-schedule ourselves. Every time you are in a hurry rushing from one thing to the next, you are less likely to stop for someone else in the process. We miss divine appointments when we see the list or the clock before the person.
  3. It’s going to take some energy. Jesus noticed that power went out from Him when the woman touched His cloak. People take energy. We have to be willing to exert some energy. People need us to be intentionally present, not just sitting back and passively participating in the relationship. Jesus was always going off alone for time with His Father. He was filled and refreshed so He had what He needed for others. How we care for our relationship with God will directly impact our ability to care for our relationships with others.
  4. It’s going to get personal. Jesus stopped and asked, “Who?” You can easily do something for someone as another check box on your list. But the “who” behind the check mark is really what it’s all about. There will be quick, brief encounters with people. Names might not even be exchanged. But I wonder, should they be? Should we thank someone by name, notice them by name, and take a moment to step into their story in a more personal way? Who we are matters. If it’s not personal, what is it?

Something to Consider…

I’ve often thought of my flexible schedule as a positive aspect of my ability to be available, but what I’ve done is let it disrupt my ability to be disciplined. Overall I end up being less effective. How can discipline and flexibility work together to create space to be available for others when needed?

There are times when I think of people and the first thought is, “They are so much work!” What I mean is they are draining. They suck the energy right out of me. The truth is that I’m not prepared to give people my best. And if I’m at my best, then I can give them something better as well. What activities or behaviors increase your energy and ability to be effective and which decrease it? What activities or habits do you need to change so you can be at your best in order to give others your best?

How often does the “who” matter in determining your willingness to stop and be available? Jesus came for the entire world, each individual “who.” How can you let His love be the goal regardless of the “who?”