Today, the song “I Exalt Thee” suddenly popped into my head as I was driving. You know, the one that goes, “I exalt thee….I exalt thee…I exalt theeeeee…ohhh Lord.” It began as a quiet whisper in the corner of my heart and then gradually increased in volume until I was practically shouting the words of the song at the top of my lungs: “I EXALT THEEEEE….OHHH LORD!” Thankfully, I was driving solo so no one (but God) had to listen to my slightly (okay majorly) off-key voice.
The interesting thing was that the more I exalted Him with my words, the more my heart became convicted of ways in which I really wasn’t living them out. I began to see how I really wasn’t exalting Him above all else. One by one, the Holy Spirit began to reveal to me other things, people, ideas and dreams I was glorifying and exalting to higher importance and value over Him. Somewhere along the lines, the passion I once had to bring glory to His name had been replaced with a passion and pursuit of bringing glory to a name that begins with an “A” and ends with an “i”. Yep, you guessed it.
The cool part about God though is that once we realize our sin, mistake, wrongdoing or whatever it may be, and sincerely confess it and repent (turn away from it), He is there to forgive us and embrace us with open arms. One of my favorite verses lately is:
“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
His compassions truly are new every morning. Every single morning. But we must go to Him to receive them. When we do go to Him each morning, He will not only shower His love on us and renew our hearts towards Him, but He will also give us the power of His Spirit to help us live out this life of faith. We are not alone or on our own. He resides within us and guides us each step of the way. That is, if we allow Him to.
I am grateful that God revealed the gunk and grime that had built up around my heart, causing me to lose sight of His awesome wonder, beauty, splendor, power and grace. This revelation–though difficult to face at first–has sparked a new passion in my heart to glorify His name in ALL I do. It is my prayer that all that is written here will reflect that, exalting the name of my Lord and Savior, my rock and redeemer, Jesus Christ.
Join me in listening to “I Exalt Thee” (don’t be alarmed if you find yourself suddenly belting it at the top of your lungs) and allow the Holy Spirit to gently call out, convict and correct ways in which perhaps you have been striving to bring glory to your own name, rather than His. Let Him show you where you might be exalting other things and other people above God. Be truthful. Be open. And be ready to hear from Him, even if it’s ugly. And once you do, be prepared to make some serious changes in your life; changes that will reflect God’s rightful place, which is high high high and so so so lifted up.
Listen, ponder, reflect and be blessed as you exalt His name above ALL names today and every day!
…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
I love Christmas. Though I must admit, my love for the season is not always rooted in its true reason–Jesus. The magical appeal of shopping, strolling and sipping hot drinks to Michael Buble’s holiday hits in front of a crackling fire…can often overshadow the true meaning behind this time of year, which of course is celebrating the love God showed us by sending His Son Jesus into the world to forgive us of our sins so we could have a personal and eternal relationship with Him. Even as I write this, I am reminded anew of what an incredibly awesome and undeserved gift this is and yet, how easily I can take it for granted. Father forgive me, forgive us…and help us bring our focus back to YOU!
I was challenged by a friend recently who asked whether I had given any thought to the gift I was going to give to the One we are supposed to be celebrating. I was stumped. Did she say the gift I was going to give Jesus? I had never thought of Christmas in this way. How would I even go about presenting a worthy gift to say thank you for His amazing gift of love?
Then I was reminded of something Jesus told His disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). Perhaps our gift to Him could be loving those around us this Christmas. I mean radically loving them with a Jesus kind of love. Like going out of our way to say kind things, do nice things and serve their needs whatever they may be. Difficult, I know. It may even seem impossible for those who may be facing difficult circumstances. But we must choose to believe that with God’s help, all things truly are possible. Even loving the unlovable.
So this Christmas, as we are running around frantically like chickens with our heads cut off, or even if we are chilling in Starbucks sipping our favorite Peppermint Mocha (make that skinny, extra hot)…I hope we can be mindful of where our hearts are in the midst of it all. Is Jesus at the forefront of every thought, deed and need? Are we asking Him to help us see others as He sees them and love them as He would love them?
I want to share with you a clever idea a dear friend of mine came up with as a way to give Jesus a precious gift of loving others this Christmas. If you are feeling so inspired to step outside of your normal Christmas rush routine, please, read on.
The Jesus Challenge Christmas Gift (Created by Angie and Ed Wright)
The challenge: do your very best to think, act, and make loving decisions just as JESUS would for one entire day before Christmas. See how closely you can live your life loving everyone that you encounter JUST as Jesus did. Then, sit down for a few minutes and journal your feelings about what it was like to try to live your life as JESUS would. Finish by writing out a prayer thanking God for all He has done for you. Put what you write in an envelope and place it under the Christmas tree. If you would like, share it with your family on Christmas morning. Maybe some of your loved ones will want to take the challenge with you!
Be blessed this Christmas as we seek to keep JESUS at the center of it all!
Sharing a beautiful prayer by a great woman, Ruth Bell–Billy Grahams wife. Be blessed sisters!
I pray, all unafraid, as girls are wont to be
I do not want a handsome man
But make him, Lord, like Thee.
I do not need one big and strong, nor yet so very tall,
nor need he be some genius or wealthy, Lord at all;
But let his head be high, dear God, and let his eye be clear,
His shoulders straight, whate’er his fate, whate’er his earthly sphere.
And let his face have character; a ruggedness of soul,
And let his whole life show, dear God, a singleness of goal.
And when he comes, as he will come, with quiet eyes aglow
I’ll know, dear Lord, that he’s the man I prayed for long ago.
J.I. Packer once said, “Knowing God is a matter of personal involvement–mind, will and feeling. It would not indeed be a fully personal relationship otherwise.”
I’ve wondered at times whether it was possible to have a fully personal and intimate relationship with a God who is, well, invisible. Sometimes I laugh out loud at how odd the whole faith concept is. I mean really, becoming ‘intimate’ with an invisible God?
But in the past five years of getting to know my Creator, I have become so totally convinced of His reality and His desire to be close to His children, that I am willing to sound like a complete kook in order to get this point across, that yes, it is indeed entirely possible to foster an intimacy with God closer than any human relationship.
Stay with me here.
The very word intimacy means “close familiarity or friendship… closeness…the intimacy between a husband and wife.” I may not be married yet, but I do know this: intimacy with another human being comes through spending quality time with the object of your affection. The same is true with God. In fact the Scriptures say, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us…”(James 4:4).
God yearns to spend time with us. What a thought!
Here are some practical tips I’ve learned over the years that have helped me develop greater intimacy with God through spending time with Him each day:
- Pick a Place. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35). If Jesus knew the value to retreating to a quiet place to spend time communing with His Father, how much more us? Pick a spot in your home or in nature that feels comfortable and make it your special Secret Place where you and God meet. Brew a hot cup of coffee or tea. Nuzzle in and greet your Father in heaven with a “Good morning Papa, how are you doing today?”
- Pick a Time. Not everyone is a morning person. I am NOT. But I have found there is no better time to spend with God than first thing each morning. It just feels…right. We must quiet our minds and still our souls in order to get into God’s presence. This takes time. You may start with 15 minutes and slowly increase, but I have found I need at least an hour to really have a meaningful quiet time. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God” along with Martin Luther, “Be still and let him mold you.” Be still!
- Pour out Your Heart. We sometimes assume God knows our every thought so why the need to share it with Him right? But Psalm 62:8 says, “Pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Intimacy requires constant and consistent communication. He desires nothing more that to listen to us. Whether we are feeling lonely, sad, lost, weary or confused, God is there to hold us in His arms and assure us He is there.
- Practice Listening. God also has a heart He wants to pour out to us. He begins to let us in on intimate secrets that are meant for our very own heart and soul. Psalm 25:14 says, “The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.” It is in our special Secret Place with God that He unloads His Words, visions, dreams and so much more. It is there that He draws us into the deeper side of His heart and plans.
If we want God to mold, shape, guide and direct us in the way to go in life, then learning the art of being still on a regular basis is a must. Us and Him. Alone. Quiet. Disconnected from the world and connected to His Spirit. Making it a priority to connect with Him each day–through Word, Worship, Prayer, Silence– is the single best thing we can do in our efforts to know God more.
Eventually, being still before Him turns from a nagging discipline to a necessity we crave in the early morning hours each day. Magic meets His Holy magnificence and there’s no turning back.
*What are some tips you have found helpful in growing closer to God? Share in the comment section below!
If you’re anything like me, you’ve definitely said (or shouted) these words at a loved one at some point or another. Or perhaps you’ve had them shouted at you. I suppose we all need to be reminded on occasion that we cannot remain in our childish ways forever.
The same is true of our spiritual lives. The Apostle Paul, along with Peter and others, emphasized over and over again God’s desire for us not to remain as infants forever, but to ‘grow up’ in our faith to become mature believers. 1 Peter 1:2-3 says:
“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (emphasis my own)
I believe Peter gave this instruction to the church at that time because too many Christians were turning out to be like newborn babies with stunted growth. After they accepted Christ and ‘got themselves into heaven’, they stopped there–at salvation. O what a shame! There is so much more to experience in God as we continue to ‘grow up in our salvation’ throughout our entire lives. It is a process and progression of growth over a lifetime.
So how to we grow from newborns to mature adults in our faith? I have recently had the privilege of watching a dear friend nurse her newborn baby girl. Here are a few things I learned that we can apply to our own spiritual development:
- Newborn babies form an intimate bond with the mother while receiving milk.
- Newborn babies are dependent upon the nutrients of the milk to grow and develop.
- Newborn babies need milk each day.
In the same way, we must form an intimate bond with God, as the Source and Provider of our ‘spiritual milk.’ We do this by spending time with Him reading His Word, praying and listening to His Spirit. It is not a ‘one off’ thing, but a daily dependency on Him for health and survival. Only then will His divine milk begin to flow in our lives in a very real way, nourishing us and transforming us into His likeness. As we begin to grow up along our faith journey with Him, He will entrust to us greater responsibility in our Kingdom callings and assignments. What a joy!
Choosing not to drink our spiritual milk on a regular basi is like committing spiritual suicide. We need to be nourished with the Truth of His Word, the strength of His love and the power of His Spirit each day to survive. As the saying goes, ‘Milk…it does a body (and spirit) good!’
Have you had yours today?
**What are some ways you stay spiritually nourished in the Lord?