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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Pleased

At Bible Study this morning, several of us were discussing the tension in parenting of how we deeply want our children to know they are loved unconditionally and no matter what we are pleased with them, but we also don't want them to take that grace for granted. We love them so much that we want them to make good choices and we want to steer them in the right direction.

For my oldest, she struggles with the first issue. She thinks every time she does something wrong, it affects my love for her. She is always afraid of getting in trouble because she doesn't want to disappoint me or anyone else. I have to tell her constantly that I love her dearly, no matter what she does and even if she has to be disciplined, I am pleased with her. On the other hand, my son pushes the limits. He knows I love him and he often takes my love and my grace for granted. He is so unconcerned with my opinion and knows he is unconditionally loved which leads him to believe that he can do as he pleases.

The same tension exists in our walk with God. As I have mentioned before, I am a born people pleaser. That trait leaks over into my relationship with God. My tendency is to constantly strive for God's approval instead of resting deeply in His love. I have to constantly remind myself that my God is a good Father who loves me no matter what and when He looks at me He is so pleased by me. I don't need to constantly strive to do X, Y and Z to earn His love. I can't do anything to earn His love. Because of Jesus, I am a deeply, unconditionally loved child of God. He looks at me like I look at my daughter- He is pleased with me in spite of my constant striving, not because of my constant striving.

Some people may take God's grace for granted and their relationship with Him may look like the relationship I have with my son. They know God loves them so they presume on His grace and do what they please.

But, I would dare to guess that many of us need to hear today that God loves us deeply and He is so pleased with us. His desire is for us to rest from our striving and lean into His love for us.

I have to remind myself of these truths on a daily basis. No matter how hard we try, I don't think we can ever fully understand the depths of God's love for his children. Paul said it perfectly in Ephesians 3:18 when he prays that we "may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ". And that is my prayer for all of us, may we more fully comprehend how pleased God is with each of us every day of our lives.

He is a good, good father. It's who He is and we are loved by Him. IT'S WHO WE ARE!

Oh, I've heard a thousand stories
Of what they think You're like
But I've heard the tender whisper
Of love in the dead of night
And You tell me that You're pleased
And that I'm never alone
You're a good good Father
It's who You are, it's who You are, it's who You are
And I'm loved by you
It's who I am, it's who I am, it's who I am
(Good, Good Father, Chris Tomlin)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Applause of Heaven

"To the proud, the applause of the world rings in their ears; to the humble, the applause of heaven warms their hearts." Ezra Taft Benson

Who's applause do I seek? Speaking of the Pharisees in John 12:43, Jesus says, "...for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God." Jesus constantly chastises the Pharisees for seeking their own glory through religious practices. They were zealous and pious not to glorify God and to serve others, but to glorify and serve themselves.

Ouch! Those words sting. As humans, we all struggle in some way with seeking the approval of others. For some of us, it's a big struggle. I was born a people pleaser. I've "lived for the applause" for as long as I can remember. I am a born teacher, story teller and extrovert. And with all strengths there are weaknesses. 

With the strengths of the natural born extrovert, comes the visceral need for people's approval and applause. Applause in and of itself is not a wrong desire, the problem comes when my desperate need for approval and praise stunts my relationship with God and others because I want the facade of me to be who people see, not the real me. Oftentimes, us people pleasers have put up the facade so well and for so long, we don't even know who we really are anymore. 

For the Christian people pleaser, the problem goes even deeper spiritually. When we are constantly seeking the applause of others, we allow that applause from others to drown out the applause of God. When we receive the applause we are so desperately seeking, we swell with pride. And when we don't, we allow people's perceptions of us cloud how we know deep down inside God sees us. 

Not only does caring about the applause of others more than God's damage our relationship with Him and others, it also stunts our ability to do BIG things for His kingdom. I often sit around wallowing and saying to myself, "Why am I not being used by God to do the ministries I know He's called me to do?" 

Proverbs 16:2 says, "All the ways of man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit."

Even today, the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit pricked my heart with this question- "Are you not ministering to others as you feel you should be, because God has weighed your motives and not found them pure?"

Going back to the quote at the top of this post, what warms my heart more- the fickle applause of my fellow man or the faithful applause of the God who formed me, calls me and sustains me?

I don't need my name in lights
I'm famous in my Father's eyes
Make no mistake
He knows my name
I'm not living for applause
I'm already so adored
It's all His stage
He knows my name (He Knows My Name, Francesca Battistelli)