I’m Here Again, God.

I’ve heard it said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I can see where this is true, except when following Christ.

Last weekend, Daniel and I attended our second Linger Conference in Frisco, Texas. It was a wonderful weekend to worship without the pressure of leading others, learn without quietly correcting a five year old, and dive deep into the Word. When my friend asked which speaker was my favorite, I honestly couldn’t choose. I felt like pieces of each sermon stuck out in different ways. One phrase that has been playing in my head, though, is “I’m here again, God.”

JR Vassar spoke on slothfulness. He pointed out things about the sluggard, described in the book Proverbs. The sluggard is bored, and rejects God on the grounds of being uninteresting. The sluggard refuses to work on relationships with people or with God. He is full of consumption without contentment. JR noted the time we spend on YouTube or Netflix, versus reading the Bible. Ouch.

You see, there is danger beyond just being lazy. When we look for satisfaction the “easy way”, we fill up on meaningless rubbish.

The things we hold most dear are typically the things we have worked for the most. We are invested. If we don’t spend much time developing our relationships with our spouses or friends or God, we aren’t all that devastated when the relationships crumble. But we can say we have seen every episode of New Girl or The Office, so we’ve got that going for us, right?

JR suggested we “stay under the yoke”. Keep trying. Stay connected. Don’t let go. Wake up every morning and say, “I’m here again, God“. Just keep showing up. Will there be days that roll by without a hitch? Yes. Will there be days when it’s all you can do to make it to bedtime? Of course. Will there be days of celebration? Absolutely. Will you have an epiphany every single day? No. Will you develop a deeper understanding of Jesus and the Bible? YES! Will that enhance your relationship with God? Always.

Being a Christian means following Christ. Following Him through the rain, under the stars, in the spring, in the winter, through deep waters, over dry ground, and around some scary bends. But following Him, nonetheless. Saying each morning, “I’m here again, God”.

Another perk of Linger is the fantastic worship leaders. Bethany Barnard is a singer/songwriter I’ve listened to and admired for about ten years now. She led worship at Linger and released her latest album last Friday; it has remained in my CD player since. Two songs, back to back, have been in my mind: Awaken Me and Awake My Soul and Sing. These songs remind me of showing up every day. I have prayed “Awaken me, God. Let me see Your goodness today. Keep bringing me back, whether that is to rest in Your presence or peel back the layers of Your Word.” Ephesians 5:14 says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you”(ESV). It also happens to be a really great Needtobreathe song! We sing this song after each baptism at Oak Grove Baptist Church. It is a fantastic reminder that without Christ, we are dead. We are sleeping through life. We only find true life in God when we allow Him to shine through us. When we awake to God, we start each day submitting to Him. We become more like Him each day, and live the life He designed for us. We don’t quit when the going gets hard. When our husbands or wives loads the dishes the wrong way. When our worship team plays a song we don’t like. When we are tired of our workloads. We stay under the yoke and become better for it. As JR said, “We become the people we are by what we choose to do again”. I choose to seek Christ.

I’m here again, God.

 

 

JR’s sermon can be found here: Sloth and Its Cure

Bethany’s album can be found here: A Better Word

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Draw Near

We’ve heard it said before. “I just don’t feel God’s presence,” or “I feel so alone right now.” When we feel like the world is ending, like we’ve been given the worst news or been dealt the worst blow, we retreat. We draw into ourselves and back away from God. It may not be because we are angry at God or that we stop believing in Him at that moment, but there is often a feeling of not being ready to face Him at that moment. But what we need most in those moments is God. We need His healing presence and His guiding hand.

God assures us in Deuteronomy 31:8, “And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”” (NKJV)

God doesn’t go away in these scary and heartbreaking moments. He is constant. And He is oh so present.

Malachi 3:6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change; Therefore, you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.”

Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

James 1:17 “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

Ellie Holcomb just released a beautiful song about God’s presence in the midst of devastation. The chorus says,

“And I didn’t know I’d find you here, in the middle of my deepest fear,

but you were drawing near, you were overwhelming me with peace.

So I lift my voice and sing: “You’re gonna carry us through everything!”

You were drawing near; You’re overwhelming all my fears with peace.”

I love what she is saying about finding God in unexpected places. But I also believe the other side of this is making the move to draw near to God. God makes Himself known. There are times when He shows up before we realize we need Him. But God’s word also tells us in James 4:8, that He draws near to us when we draw near to Him.
We find peace, we find hope, we find JOY when we let Him in. We move from a place of numbness and deep, deep sorrow, and transition to a place of singing and praise.

A coworker was talking about the hardships several other coworkers have endured. One went through treatment for thyroid cancer, in addition to her son’s leukemia at one year old and muscular dystrophy diagnosis at eight. Another just found out the twins she is carrying will not live more than a few more weeks. My coworker said, “I just don’t know how they do it. I think Jesus just hugs some of us a little tighter than others.” I let that sit for a minute, and it really bothered me. I replied “Well, I think they go in for the hugs more often, too.” God doesn’t comfort any of us more than others. He doesn’t pick and choose who He loves more. He made a promise to us that we will seek Him and find Him when we seek him with our whole heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

Sometimes we feel like we are just getting by. “Surviving not thriving”. Been there, done that, wrote the blog. Those are the weeks I realize (embarrassingly late) that I haven’t spent enough time in prayer or in the Word. Those are the tough weeks. I’m not saying there is a magic fix or an instant remedy, but my fears and my frustrations are much more at ease when I go to God. He knows when I’m upset, but talking to Him about it does help. There is a song on KLOVE right now that says “In the eye of the storm, You remain in control”.

Returning to Ellie Holcomb,

“Here in the middle of the lonely night, here in the middle of the losing fight,

you’re here in the middle of the deep regret, here when the healing hasn’t happened yet.

Here in the middle of the desert place, here in the middle when I cannot see your face,

Here in the middle with your outstretched arms, you can see my pain and it breaks your heart.

…And I didn’t know I’d find You here.”

But when we realize what God has to offer, we want it that much more. We are pushed to draw near to Him, because we see what we were missing out on.

How do we draw near? Because we can’t physically become closer to God, we have to spiritually move closer to Him. We have two basic, children’s church answers. Prayer and reading the Bible. Praying to Him is the absolute closest we can get. Yes, we must take time. Quiet time. Set aside time. It’s hard, and you must be intentional about it. You might give up a little sleep or time in front of the TV. But you will be okay, I promise. Even better in the long run for it. We can read Scripture and learn about God’s character. We can learn why God might allow us to go through trials. We can see clearly how much He loves us in the words He’s given us.

As Ellie (and the Bible) says, “Rejoice, Rejoice”. Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” That’s a lot easier to say when we are close to God. God will carry us through it. Will it be more than we can handle? Absolutely. Because we must learn to rely on His strength and not our own. “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”