|Shoes bring me such joy!|
Hebrews 12:1-3 (New Living Translation)
1. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.
Just as we gave Fashion Forum Friday a miss last week, we're going to bypass Tattoo Tuesday as well because something else is on my heart today. We discussed this verse last night at Lifegroup and it struck a chord. The picture above is present as a representation of something that brings me joy.
Why bring this verse up? I, a self-proclaimed non-morning person in the most virulent of manners, certainly don't experience immediate joy upon reading a Bible verse encouraging endurance at approximately 9am. Why do you want me to run a race right now, God? That's a non-joy inducing suggestion for this non-morning person.
Right, so we're not discussing a literal race, but we are discussing endurance and discipline and faith and other things that are so easy to bow out of and label as "legalistic" or "overly religious". I am guilty; no finger pointing here. But, if for a moment we set aside our fears, as the Lord did not give us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7), and take a closer look, we see that the Lord is promising us joy. Joyfulness. An enduring kind.
We also see that the Lord is not asking us to do any more than He has already done. Think of your lowest time. Was someone unjustly angry with you? Were you mocked for something? Were you in severe emotional or even physical pain? The Lord endured the greatest sum of all of these when he chose to die on the cross for us. And now He is joyfully seated at the right hand of God. He saw his goal during his pain; it was the joy of living in heaven with us, his children. Therefore, he endured.
If we choose to believe what the Bible tells us, which is that the Lord is GOOD (Psalm 34:8), then we need to fully recognize the character of God. He is Good. He is Love. He accepts us as we are. He loves us as we are Now. We have His Acceptance Right Here and Now. That is, I believe, God's nature. You don't have to change a single thing about yourself for God to love you at this very moment. He LOVES YOU.
So why, if God accepts us as we are now, do we need to "run with endurance"? Isn't that just legalism talking again? Well, if you think that good deeds are the one and only key to heaven, then yes, it is just legalism. We are saved by faith in our Savior God(Romans 3:28). But, if we believe that God, in all of his goodness, wants to move in our lives and bless us with joyfulness to our fullest capacity, then we must have some endurance as He did. We must pursue the heart of God. To do that is to strive to become more like Him. That's no easy task. And it's often uncomfortable, and this world does not encourage us to tolerate discomfort. Well, unless we're talking about discomfort in one's own skin. Yes, unacceptance as you are is a discomfort the world gladly promotes.
Don't run away scared at this point; bear with me a bit longer. If we believe that God is Good and wants to Bless us with Joyfulness so we, therefore, strive to be more like him, what then is the "sin that so easily trips us up"? I think that can look different for each person.
What takes up most of your time? What inhabits your thoughts? What are you potentially bowing down to in this world? And don't feel persecuted by me when I ask that. Here, I'll even tell you some of mine:
1. I live in the future instead of the present. I worry about plans that may or may not be an issue. I don't rest in Peace.
2. I constantly strive to find the next best thing in fashion, interior design, etc. I don't find contentment in what I already have.
3. I even realized that my after-work glass of wine was becoming too much of a regular comfort. Don't get me wrong, there are no alcoholism scares here, but I realize that it is a comfort zone that easily distracts me from spending quality time with the Lord (i.e. go home, enjoy glass of wine, get tired, do nothing productive), and I didn't like the idea of making a change. Therefore, change is necessary.
So, I'm not saying that making smart decisions about the future, loving fashion, or enjoying wine are bad things. No. The Lord wants me to enjoy these things; it is good to enjoy His creation. BUT, when these things start to take precedent over Him and take up a larger space in my life than He does, then I have a problem. How can He fully bless me with all of His joyfulness if I'm not spending time with Him and pursuing His ways? I need to make some temporarily uncomfortable changes in order to return to the Heart of God, which is a joyful destination.
What is something that is taking up more of your time, attention, or heart other than the Lord? It can be obvious, but it can be just as insidious. Facebook? TV? Shopping? Games? Writing? Worrying? The list can go on and on.
Remember, I'm not calling these activities inherently bad. They are not necessarily. But if you feel in your heart that something might be a stumbling block for you, maybe take some time to talk to the Lord to see if there's something He wants you to do about it.
Here is what I believe He is challenging me with.
First of all, I'm on a shopping fast. No more buying clothes, shoes, or anything else to dress my body for an indefinite amount of time. I have so much, and I don't appreciate it. I'm going to take the time in which I would normally go out and shop and give that to the Lord, plus I'm going to start Loving all of the good things in my wardrobe that I already have. It actually kind of feels like a relief at the moment, but I anticipate some hard decisions ahead. You can all hold me accountable. It's for my own joyfulness.
Secondly, I'm on a wine fast with my quickly approaching birthday/Valentine's day as the only exception. I can celebrate those events with my husband, but my daily habits need to change for a bit so I can get back to that place of genuinely enjoying wine.
There you have it: my challenges. Don't feel that I'm trying to pressure anyone into fasting from anything. These are totally personal decisions that need to be made between you and the Lord. I just hope to offer encouragement to anyone who may feel it's time to make some changes or may be looking for a more enduring joy than that which the world has to offer. If you feel led to do so, then join me! If you have any questions, please ask me! Make a great big leap or a tiny baby step. Or just inquire. Whatever you feel led to do. Take that leap or step in faith that the Lord will not fail you.
Anyone with questions about fasting (why, when, where, how) or about accepting the Lord as your savior, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Don't worry; I'm not going televangelist on y'all. Don't want to deny anyone the offer if they need it, though.
I'll be back at the end of the week after I rummage through my closet for a good Fashion Forum Friday item!