The Pursuit of Pleasure

chocolate-devotional

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Pleasure’s benefits are brief and never as sweet as the lasting pleasure seeking God brings.

Scripture of the Day:

Psalm 1:1-2

“How blessed is the one who does not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand in the pathway with sinners, or sit in the assembly of scoffers! Instead he finds pleasure in obeying the Lord’s commands; he meditates on his commands day and night.”

Mmmm. The silky smooth milk chocolate glides through my mouth as I bask in the enjoyment of all its flavor. Unless, of course, it is cheap, generic chocolate, wrapped prettily but lacking in substance.

Ah, yes, I am a connoisseur of all things chocolate. Ok. * Sigh *  I am a recovering chocoholic.

But what drove me to this fascination with chocolate? The taste buds that God gave me, and the pursuit of the pleasure I feel when indulging in the sweet bliss of all things chocolate. This pleasure, however, is somewhat fleeting, as the scale reminds me the next day of the cost of that pleasure.

So why did God create tastes buds in the first place? Maybe if we did not have them, we would not delight in food. It seems the senses, in general, can get us into trouble.

Funny things is, God wants us to delight – He wants us to enjoy and experience – even pursue pleasure. The object of our delight often falls so very far of what He has for us, though. Everything around us was not meant to satisfy our deepest need, only our Creator could do that.

We hunger for this satisfaction of the soul and try to fulfill it with the outward senses, but when the temporary fix wears off, we are left wondering why it did not last and what will please us next. Like the Israelites, we hunger for the wrong thing and sometimes blame God when we don’t get what we want.

Then there’s this battle with gratitude. God gives us just what we need and blesses us so abundantly, but we tend to not know our limits. We like His blessing so much we want more and more and sometimes are not content with His provision and can complain when it is removed, as if we deserved it.

I am preaching to the choir here, people. Me, too. I confess that chocolate and I are close – perhaps a little too close, sometimes. But when I realize how I have allowed the creation to become my delight rather than the Creator, it brings me to a place of humble worship.

He alone is my soul’s delight. I have an inner thrill when I consider His incredible care and sovereignty. Wow. Instead of finding delight in things, we can ask God to help us delight in obeying Him and meditating on His Word. It is in this pursuit that we find lasting pleasure that the world can never take away.

Lord, You are our treasure, the delight of our souls. May we never search for satisfaction for our souls from an unspiritual world, but only find our complete joy in God.

Finding Joy at Christmas

finding-joy-at-christmas

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Sometimes we have to lose joy to find it.

Scripture of the Day:

Psalm 124:1

“If the Lord had not been on our side”— let Israel say this!— if the Lord had not been on our side, when men attacked us, they would have swallowed us alive, when their anger raged against us. The water would have overpowered us; the current would have overwhelmed us.  The raging water would have overwhelmed us. The Lord deserves praise, for he did not hand us over as prey to their teeth. We escaped with our lives, like a bird from a hunter’s snare. The snare broke, and we escaped. Our deliverer is the Lordthe Creator of heaven and earth.”

Christmas can be a difficult time for many.  The celebration of Christmas does not deliver what we hoped.  Painful memories echo in our minds of family members who left us or harmed us.  Thoughts of what should have been or could have been – regrets and longings can loom large and steal our joy.  Maybe you do not even want to read this or dare to hope that there could actually be real joy at Christmas – keep reading.

The world offers many solutions for this emptiness of our soul. Entertainment, satisfying the flesh, avoiding the pain.  God’s prescription is quite different – feel the pain in all of our humanity, but come to Him, Who can heal our souls.  It is not a “just be happy” or just “choose to be happy” solution, but it is a choice to come to God and a real answer in the face of real pain.

One of my favorite books of the bible to read from when I am bummed is the book of Psalms.  A songwriter myself, I cherish David’s songs – a heart cry to His LORD. If anyone understands what it is to have emotional torment, it is David.  He could have been diagnosed with many labels in his day – PTSD, panic and anxiety disorders, even depression.  He said as much in many of the Psalms.  But He was looking to One who he knew would resolve the battle within.  David demonstrated again and again what looking to God for help would do – give hope and peace – even joy again.

That is what Christ does for us.  He offers us hope through His trustworthy promises and deliverance.  Christ understands suffering, too, and when we look to the Christ child this Christmas, we see a God Who is our Master, but Who also walks beside us.  He chooses to call us friend – we are friends with a King!  Now a King can grant any request – so it is with our God.  Happiness at Christmas or any other time is not based on getting what we want, but on being content with what God has allowed.  We can trust Him and He can bring real lasting joy more than a day ever could.

Pain is real – what do we do with it?  The pain may not be absent and scars might last the rest of our days, but there is a healing balm in Jerusalem found in an infant Who changes our heart, understanding and perspective.  The compassion gained through our pain is a beautiful gift we lay at the feet of our baby King, and He is pleased.  May we lay down our idols as gifts much like Frankincense, gold and Myrrh, of what we wanted from life and Christmas and humbly accept the gift of life that God has given us.  This is when joy enters our soul and we are relieved of the burden we have been holding onto. Give it all to Him and ask Him to help deliver you.  He will do it and His grace is sufficient to all who call on His Name.  It is going to be a Merry Christmas, after all, friend.

Thank You, LORD, for the amazing gift of your baby Son.  What a treasure, what a delight!  We lay our burdens at Your feet and trust You with all of what life brings our way.  Amen.

#JesusIsTheCureForDepression

30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness: Day 25 – Our Merciful God

copy-of-copy-of-copy-of-copy-of-copy-of-copy-of-copy-of-copy-of-copy-of-copy-of-30-days-4

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Christ’s bloodline trumps ours and the verdict upon our souls by His amazing mercy.

Scriptures of the Day:

Romans 3:24-25 (NLT)

“Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past.”

Exodus 25:21-22

21 “You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony which I will give to you. 22 I will meet with you there, and from above the atonement lid, from between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will command you for the Israelites.”

Before a Holy, Righteous, Perfect Judge, mankind stands condemned. A Holy standard was set and we did not meet it – we never could. But there is mercy in seeing our inability to obey God’s commands. This revelation that pierces our hearts also draws us near to cry out for mercy; and when we cry out to our Righteous God, He hears us and chooses to sit on a seat of mercy.

We did not deserve such lavish grace when we had so clearly violated His law. But we have a merciful God – One Who loves to demonstrate His lovingkindness and compassion, despite our sinful rebellion.

He would have been just to sit in a place of judgment for we will all come before Him one day in the final judgment, but He is long-suffering, not wanting any to perish. When we confess and turn from our sins, He hears and heals.

Christ’s bloodline trumps ours and the verdict upon our souls by His amazing mercy, which I am eternally grateful for. Christ, our High Priest to Whom we will give an account, Who rules over all the earth and is our righteous Judge – chooses to sit on the mercy seat.

Oh God, thank You for Your rich mercy and for paying our sin debt! May we never forget this mercy extended to us.

A Season of Thankfulness: Day 10 – A Relational God

Photo Credits:  www.spspblog.com

Hebrews 2:11, 14, 15, 17

“For indeed he who makes holy and those being made holy all have the same origin, and so he is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, 14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, he likewise shared in their humanity, so that through death he could destroy the one who holds the power of death (that is, the devil), 15 and set free those who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest in things relating to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 For since he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.”

Ever feel like people do not understand you or cannot relate to you?  As humans, we tend to let personality, skin color and culture divide us from understanding one another.  Narcissistically we identify with people who are like us, pridefully thinking we are the standard.  Not so with God.

How humbling it is to consider that the King over all chose to associate with those who were nowhere near His worth.  Not because we were like Him, but because He loved us.  He radically left His throne in Heaven to be like us in the flesh so we could understand and know Him more, to set us free from our bondage to sin and fear of death.

He could have chosen to just rule over us, could have left us in our sin.  But by relating with us, He made us forever Holy – covering our iniquities and unconditionally loving us.  This relationship between God and man is the most intimate relationship to be found.  There is no part of us that He does not know completely, no hint of inequality or favoritism, no rejection.  No head games, no sinful tendencies at all.  He is our safe harbor to which we can run to at all times.

He did not have to create us, did not need our fellowship; yet He delighted to draw us near to Himself to the point of His own death for our sake.  This relationship with God is not temporary or dependent upon close proximity.  It is eternal and has no end.  Forever we will know our God, the Lover of our souls.

Lord, thank You for choosing us to know You.  There is none like You.  Help us, oh God, to never stray and to draw ever nearer to You.  I love You, Lord!

Worshipful Wednesday: Determined Praise

Psalm 108:1

I am determined, O God!  I will sing and praise You with my whole heart.”

2 Timothy 1:12

“Because of this, in fact, I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, because I know the one in whom my faith is set and I am convinced that he is able to protect what has been entrusted to me until that day.”

Determination.  The mere word sparks images of situations which required a decision in the face of fear or apathy.  A child learning to ride a bike decides that they will take off the training wheels and plunges headlong on a two-wheeled vehicle, despite every part of their being that cries out against it.  In that moment, determination overcomes every argument that attempts to intervene.  How?  The costs are weighed; the benefits of triumphing over fear and riding in freedom instead of being constrained by training wheels wins.  The achievement is worth it, even if a couple of scraped knees happened along the way.

Being determined when learning something new is challenging, but perhaps not as challenging as ruling the heart when tempted to fear, doubt, or become pessimistic or bitter in the midst of life’s harrowing challenges.  It is a decision made, a setting of the will to choose to not focus on the outward seemingly impossibilities and to set our hope on God’s ability and promises.  This kind of determination cannot be half-hearted.  It cannot be void of passion.  It requires all of our heart and our being.  Our members might try to sway us from a determined stance due to fatigue or discouragement; but giving in to fleeting emotions will not grant us the sweet victory that sticking firmly with a belief or conviction will.

Knowing the One our faith is set upon is the source of all our determination.  Our hope is not futile, it is grounded on the Rock, our LORD Jesus, Whose faithfulness convinces our souls.  Our enemy and our flesh will seek to pick away at believing in God above all things, but we must remember in those moments to ask God to strengthen our feeble knees and to grant us faith.  The Nike slogan, “Just Do It” can be helpful to inspire athletes to pursue health goals, but it does not have the power to motivate long-term a consistent determination like the power of the Holy Spirit that believers can call upon.  Here lies before us today a decision: will we trust God or be tossed to and fro?  Be determined, my friends.  Choose to praise God in all seasons and experience the joy and fruit that determined praise brings.

Lord, I praise You!  I believe You are in complete control over everything and choose to trust in You!  I praise You with all my heart and pray that You will awaken Your bride to be determined to praise You and reach this world with Your love.