Sustenance

20140713-221711-80231874Sustain me as You promised, and I will live; do not let me be ashamed of my hope. Sustain me so that I can be safe and always be concerned about Your statutes. (Psalm 119:116-117)

Sustenance isn’t a minimal provision. It’s an abundant blessing God promises and provides.

We don’t throw God’s promise to sustain us in His face with expectations of getting what we want. Instead, we recognize and savor the sustenance He provides in His wisdom and timing.

He knows. We trust.

The Promise of Compromise

handshakeI have sought your face with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise. Psalm 119:58

Your parents (someone) likely taught you to keep your promises. But what about a compromise? What lessons did you learn about the word that looks so similar but feels different? We easily distort it. We can misconstrue compromise to think it involves giving up of something, when it’s just as much about the giving of something: a promise. Compromise is literally a “promise together.”

Compromise is finding common ground and standing firmly on it. Imagine yourself standing on your territory – not the territory you want but the territory God gave you for this lifetime. Your God-given territory includes relationships, gifts, passions, opportunities, and all God gives you in the yesterday, today, and tomorrow of life on earth.

Your territory isn’t exclusive from everyone else’s around you. If God brings someone into your life, there will always be common ground.

Do you ever plant your feet and determine not to move?

Do you get frustrated when someone else does the same?

What about the rest of our territory? We don’t need to plant our feet in one place. We need to walk throughout our territory, becoming familiar with every aspect of it. Only then can we fully embrace what God has planned for us. Only then can we find the common ground with others. Only then can we truly compromise with others.

We take steps, no matter how unsettling it is, find common ground, and promise to stand together. We’re still standing on God-given territory. We’re not giving away anything God doesn’t intend for us to relinquish (if we’re staying in the boundaries of our territory). We might be tempted to yield too much at times, leaving where God intends to please someone.

Stay in your territory. Find common ground. Keep your promises together.

Look for an opportunity to find common ground today. Ask God to reveal the boundaries of your God-given territory. Become familiar with it.

Despite the Dark Cloud

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I sat on the beach the first full morning of vacation. It wasn’t as warm as I expected. In fact, it was cloudy, windy, borderline chilly (although it would have seemed balmy, even steamy, if I had been home in central Illinois). Despite the feel, it was beautiful. I was able to sit outside, bare feet in the sand, no coat. The waves lapped the shoreline. The trees gently rustled. The birds chirped. The sun intermittently shined despite the looming cloud.

I had a choice. I could focus on the dark cloud and chilly breeze or the sunshine and warmth. It’s a choice I have to make every day…multiple times every day. I can focus on the inconveniences or blessings. My choice doesn’t mean I ignore reality. A cloud can hang, but it’s not the only thing in the sky.

I looked at the cloud and felt the chill, then I changed my focus. I felt warmth. I saw a peek of sun. I thought of someone close to me who chooses to look at the sun every day despite the looming cloud. It’s a dark, depressing cloud, but the sun peeks through. Even when it doesn’t, the sun is still there. It doesn’t go away.

What dark cloud is looming over you? Keep it in the context of the entire sky. Do you know someone with a dark cloud in his or her life? Acknowledge it but don’t focus on it. Talk about other things, too. A dark cloud doesn’t define his or her life…or yours.

Soak up the peeks of sun, listen to the waves, see the big picture. The sky is vast. So are the possibilities, not just for tomorrow but for right now.

Are You Not Bad Enough?

il_fullxfull.588807341_7eiyThere are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all! (Proverbs 31:29)

The Bible is full with redeemed people. The worse the person’s reputation, the more amazing the story of transformation seems to be. The woman at the well in John 4 had multiple husbands, yet her encounter with Jesus spurred her to share her changed life with many. Rahab was a prostitute but “was shown to be right with God by her actions” (James 2:25). Perhaps you can recall stories of people you know or have heard or read about whose lives were drastically changed from bad reputations to beautiful reflections of God.

What happens when you didn’t have such a bad reputation? You’ve lived a good life – not perfect by any means, but you certainly wouldn’t be identified as the black sheep of your family or voted Most Likely to Serve Prison Time by your high school classmates. Having a good reputation can be a blessing, but it can have downsides as well.

A good reputation can make us question the impact our story has on others. Our stories can seem too boring. Remember, God doesn’t need drama to shine a spotlight on Himself. Your consistency, quiet struggles, and gradual growth are important themes in the story He’s telling through your life.

A good reputation can cause us to be insensitive to what needs to be pruned. Because we’re seen as “good” by so many around us, we can rationalize some of the small steps we’re taking away from God, because “at least we’re not…” doing what the person next to us is doing. Remember, God doesn’t measure your spiritual growth against anyone else. He is the standard of measurement and the one who does the measuring.

A good reputation can pressure us to wear masks. We can feel pressured to keep up the image of our good reputation and end up leading lives of charades. God wants you to be authentic. He wants you to be transparent with Him and those around you, because when you are, He shows through more completely.

Thank God for where you’ve been, where you are, and where He’s taking you. Celebrate with a mini-party today. Treat yourself to an ice cream cone or a long walk in the park. Buy a balloon to place in your work station or home to remind yourself of the blessing of God’s reputation, the keeper of all promises for your life!

Free Water

water (7)The One on the throne said to me, “It is finished. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give free water from the spring of the water of life to anyone who is thirsty. Those who win the victory will receive this, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. Revelation 21:6-7

God is.

That’s it. Pure and simple. God is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. There has never been and will never be life without him. There is nothing that escapes his awareness. There is nothing outside of his reach. That includes you.

Perhaps you acknowledge him as Creator. You accept him as Savior. But what now? We can easily think of our relationship with God as a one-time decision when, in reality, it’s a relationship that is alive and growing. God desires to engage with us. He doesn’t abandon us. He fulfills every promise and hears every concern. He attends to our needs and often entertains our wants. Most of all, he longs to be the desire of our hearts.

When we have a thriving relationship with Jesus, we live out the truth that he is our Lord and Savior. He fulfilled a promise to us to give us eternal life, to sacrifice himself in place of our sins. He showed us unmerited grace and mercy out of his love for us. He endured pain so he could spare us an eternity of torment. He is our Savior.

But he’s also our Lord. That means he is in charge of our lives – not just the areas of life we don’t want anymore, not just the areas we’re uncertain about or struggling with, not just the areas we think we’ve cleaned up enough on our own to present as acceptable to him. When we accept him as Lord, we yield our lives to him. We let him guide us through the big things and the tiny ones. He cares about it all, and he doesn’t require we be at a certain place before he helps. He doesn’t wait until we’re in our Sunday best before he reveals himself. He doesn’t ever withhold his guidance and provision.

We thirst. God quenches.

Aren’t you thankful?

Live It. At some point throughout the day, preferably right in the middle of a busy time, stop. Quiet yourself to take a deep sip of God’s will. Let him nourish you to do his will. Let him fill you with his will, guiding and convicting you to be on his path. Where he leads, he will equip.

Flowing from the Heart

timingOn the last and most important day of the feast Jesus stood up and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. If anyone believes in me, rivers of living water will flow out from that person’s heart, as the Scripture says.” Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit. John 7:37-39

There are no mistakes in God’s timing. There’s nothing unintentional about his Word. What God does and when he does it is purposeful.

John records Jesus speaking on the last and most important day of the feast. The timing is significant. Jesus stood and spoke in a loud voice. The delivery was significant. What he was about to say was important, and Jesus wanted everyone to hear. The subject of his promise was “anyone.” His inclusion is significant. No one is left out of “anyone.” He spoke about something familiar to everyone: thirst. Everyone has experienced thirst. Everyone seeks to quench thirst. Jesus also spoke in declarative sentences. He often used questions to teach. Through the answering of questions, Jesus wanted people to process the content of what he was teaching. He wanted people to draw parallels of common, everyday life into spiritual lessons of faith in order to challenge growth. In this case, he spoke with authority as he delivered a promise. He wanted everyone to understand the important truth of what he was promising.

What he promised is the Holy Spirit. The entire, brief promise he delivered is purposeful. It’s intentional. And it’s about the thirst-quenching Holy Spirit. Jesus spoke where, when and to whom he spoke in order to deliver a promise about the Holy Spirit. It was significant – not only to those listening that day but to us today.

What do you believe about the Holy Spirit?

What significance does the Holy Spirit have in your faith and, specifically, in your daily life?

God gives us himself in the Holy Spirit to reside within us to guide, encourage, and convict us. The Holy Spirit equips us to live out our faith every moment. The Holy Spirit is living water: nourishing your faith. But you must listen, yield, and obey.

Live It. Tie a colored ribbon around your wrist as a visible reminder through your day to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading. Avoid rationalizing why you should respond in certain ways. Instead, trust God’s guidance, acknowledging you’re giving the Holy Spirit authority in your life.

This Week’s 7: Claim the Truth

The author of Psalm 119:164 proclaims, “Seven times a day I praise you for your fair laws.” Psalm 119 is the longest psalm, and as I dug into it recently, the verses beginning with the acknowledgment of “Lord” stood out to me. There are many verses which don’t begin with “Lord” but are still directed toward God, but these specifically acknowledge God’s presence, and each continues with a proclamation of God’s promises and truth. I know there are more than seven, but take time to read them aloud. Notice themes. Recognize truths proclaimed. Let them soak into you. Claim them throughout your day.

Lord, you gave your orders to be obeyed completely. (Psalm 119:4)

Lord, you should be praised. Teach me your demands. (Psalm 119:12)

Lord, teach me your demands, and I will keep them until the end. (Psalm 119:33)

Lord, show me your love, and save me as you have promised. (Psalm 119:41)

Lord, I remember you at night, and I will obey your teachings. (Psalm 119:55)

Lord, you are my share in life; I have promised to obey your words. (Psalm 119:57)

Lord, your love fills the earth. Teach me your demands. (Psalm 119:64)

Lord, I know that your laws are right and that it was right for you to punish me. (Psalm 1119:75)

Lord, your word is everlasting; it continues forever in heaven. (Psalm 119:89)

Lord, accept my willing praise and teach me your laws. (Psalm 119:108)

Lord, it is time for you to do something, because people have disobeyed your teachings. (Psalm 119:126)

Lord, you do what is right, and your laws are fair. (Psalm 119:137)

Lord, I call to you with all my heart. Answer me, and I will keep your demands. (Psalm 119:145)

Lord, you are very kind; give me life by your laws. (Psalm 119:156)

Each Sunday on the Pure Purpose blog, I feature This Week’s 7, a simple list about an everyday topic, giving you ideas and encouragement. Thanks for joining me today!