Nothing Satisfies My Soul

For days, or really for years, I have been looking in all of the wrong places for something to satisfy my soul.

People. Social media. Acceptance. Hulu. Books. Talent.

Sin.

I just want that instant satisfaction.

Sin.

There are practices that the church is quick to condemn as sinful. But there are also practices we fail to recognize as sinful.

John Piper, in a Desiring God blog post, touches on how social media and electronics can be unhealthy, particularly if we begin our day with them. (To read his post titled “Six Wrong Reasons to Check Your Phone in the Morning,” click here.)

I wrestle with what to do first in the morning: have my quiet time or check Facebook? Have my quiet time or get ready for the day? And at some point the question becomes: check Facebook or get ready?

At some point, I remove time with the Lord from the equation. Anything can remove Jesus from the equation on a given morning – desire for more sleep, hunger, homework, procrastination, friends. Those aren’t bad things. (Okay, procrastination usually isn’t a good thing.) Nothing satisfies my soul. These things don’t address the longing in my heart for something deep and precious. It takes a lot of self-discipline and self-control to tear myself away from the world that I can see and touch and hear to spend time in the Word of God.

But my strength isn’t enough. It takes the grace of God to enable me to do what I need to do. Am I listening to Him?

If I never stop long enough to read His Work, to pray, to talk about the grace of God with other people, I cannot hear Him. My flesh and the Spirit of God do battle on a daily basis. How will I begin my day? How do I go about my day? How do I end it? I so often waste my time with what has no eternal value, and it frustrates me!

I love Piper’s quote that appears at the end of his article. He says this:

“I feel like I have to get saved every morning. I wake  up and the devil is sitting on my face.”

Every day is a battle. Each morning, what will I choose? I don’t always get it right. So often I put off my quiet time for the sake of homework or sleep or physical appearance (aka: not looking like a bum). But those things do not set my heart in the right place.; they don’t foster an eternal perspective. May the decisions I make bring honor to my Father in heaven. May the mystery and the power of the Word of God capture my heart. May the Gospel of Christ never lose its novelty in light of my sin. May the Holy Spirit use each morning to make me more like the Son who has risen once and for all for my sake. May I be satisfied in the holiness of the Lord who has poured out His life for me.

Hi, My Name Is Martha.

Well, my name is obviously not Martha. It is Emily. It has been for almost 21 years now.

But I know so often I act like a Martha. How does a Martha act? Well, how did this particular Martha act?

Jesus came to the house of Mary and Martha, two sister, and while one did all the work, the other sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to his teaching. The impression is that Martha did the wrong thing by not sitting at the feet of Jesus.

While that is so true, there is another good point about what she was doing and why it wasn’t good for her.

Jesus, the Messiah of the world, was sitting in her home, and she was distracted.

Luke 10 says this in the ESV:

But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (10:40-42).

She was distracted, and because she was so, she was anxious and troubled.

By taking her eyes off of Jesus, Martha experienced the stress and frustration that comes with this fallen world. She grew worried when she needed peace. She grew tired when she needed rest. Jesus was offering these things to her, but she missed it.

Martha overlooked the gift Jesus was holding out to her in His own hands.

Oh, how often do I miss what Jesus has placed right in front of me! The Lord repeatedly gives me growing friendships, academic challenges, and grace for each day. I miss it. I miss out on the rest and peace that God tries to give me.

A great challenge of this life is learning to see the grace and peace that God gives for each day. May I see it. May you see it.

May we embrace the Father of peace and the Giver of grace.

Good to Me

Back in January, I began praying that God would give me good gifts. I wasn’t asking for a reward for my actions. What I do, I aim to do out of obedience to and love for my Lord. But I knew God was a good God who wants to bless His children.

Or did I know that?

As the semester flew by, I continued to pray this prayer. Yet, I ran smack into one of God’s good gifts and thought: This must be a joke. God wouldn’t give this to me. He teaches me so much through frustration and pain. This must be a test. A glimpse of good so that I can learn something from it when the gift is taken away.

Kind of ridiculous to think, right? But I struggled with this. I distinctly remember our last day of chapel for this past academic year. It was a Thursday, and as we sang and prayed, I wrestled with the depth of the Lord’s goodness.

Did I believe the Lord was really good? Did I believe that He was capable of giving good gifts to His children? Did I doubt that He was gracious in providing for my desires?

Satan told me that my failures were too big and too many and God’s grace was too small and too cheap. 

I had settled for cheap grace.

Doubting God’s grace and God’s goodness towards me was not a pleasant place to be. It was discouraging. It was frustrating. It was emotionally painful. But it was my own mind, believing the lies of Satan, that allowed me to live in this place of doubt. I didn’t even realize that I had settled on a cheap understanding of grace.

I was asking God for good gifts, and then looking at Him in disbelief when He placed them in my hands.

Lacking faith, I asked from God, and I did not expect to receive. 

God gives gifts when they will bring Him the most glory. His timing is perfect. His glory is the purpose. He gives us good things because He is a good Father.

In some ways, this is a difficult post to write. I do not want my words to resemble the “health, wealth, and prosperity” gospel. I am not saying that once you become a Christian, everything is great and God showers you with material blessings; may my words be honest and clear that material blessings are not a result of salvation.

So please allow me to make a few points clear:

1. As Christians, our good works do not save us. Jesus Christ saves us through His death, burial, and resurrection as the only payment for man’s sins. Good works should be done out of love for Christ, out of thankfulness for what He has done on our behalf.

2. Asking God for blessing is not sinful. This is the cry of a heart. We can come to God with our desires, but we have to understand that He will not always give us what we desire. He wants to protect us, but He also wants to bring glory to Himself through us.

3. If we receive good gifts, it is by the grace of God. If we do not receive what we ask for, it is because God has something that will better glorify Him and point to Him as the author of Goodness.

May The Lord shine upon you and reveal His goodness to you. May you never exchange a priceless, beautiful grace for a cheap, muddied imitation that seeks to draw you away from the Lord. And may your heart be open to both blessing and difficulty in this lifetime, to the glory of God.

 

Can You Say “Ouch?”

God has been teaching me from James 3 lately about the power of the tongue.

But the more he teaches me, the further I seem to have to go. My flaws become more apparent as I learn more. How painful! But in the end, it will be better, right?

I thought sanctification would be better as I got further along the process, but it seems more painful. I am distinctly aware of my sin, my flaws, my foolish words.

Since God placed James 3 on my heart, I seem to mess up more. Or maybe I just notice more. I thought I was doing well, but it seems I was just blind to how bad I was.

Does this sound hopeless? Yes!

But thankfully, grace triumphs! Without grace, I would be without hope. But because of grace, God forgives me.

I know I have wronged so many people with my words. Humility allows me to apologize and seek forgiveness for others, but it cannot take my words back. I can apologize, I can seek forgiveness, I can change my ways, but I cannot take back words that have already come out of my mouth.

James 3:9-12 says:

With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

Salt water overwhelms fresh water. My foolish words taint my wise words. Ouch.

As I continue to search God’s Word for wisdom and encouragement in using my words wisely, I plan to share that with y’all. So here is to the process of sanctification. Without God’s grace, I would be hopeless. But thankfully, God’s grace is greater than all my sins and all my flaws. What a message of hope!

Why Not Every Day?

Valentine’s Day is one of two things:

1. A special day to share gifts and nice words with the one you love.

2. A day to sit and mope because you’re single.

There is something that I would like to say to both parties.

For the first, Valentine’s Day should not be the only day you do random and wonderful things for the person you love.

For the second group, drowning yourself in chocolate and ice cream will not help the loneliness you feel.

I am part of the second group when it comes to being single. BUT I am not lonely. Today, I sat in 8 hours of labs, missing my dual enrollment class. Sounds super romantic, right? Not really. But because of the grace of God, I got to experience another day, learning new things, meeting new people. As Christ satisfies my desire for companionship, I learn to love Him more and more.

So today, yes, I’ve enjoyed some chocolate, but not out of misery. And yes, I am hanging out with my cat right now, but it doesn’t mean that I’ll be an old cat lady.

What did I like about this Valentine’s Day? It gives strangers a reason to greet each other. To say “hi.” To smile. Why can’t we live every day that way? Why can’t we just be a little more friendly?

So I am going to continue to work on my relationship with the Lord, learning to love Him more and more. But I am also going to learn to smile more. To smile just because joy is overflowing from my heart.

This Valentine’s Day was a good one. I hope yours was, too. But if it wasn’t, there is always tomorrow.