What God Did To Me During Lent

One of the things I took up during Lent was to only listen to Christian music. I've never taken on a lenten practice before, so I was excited to see how God would use this to draw me closer to Him.

First, I want to clarify what I mean by the phrase 'Christian music'. I would classify the music I listened to into two categories: Worship songs and soul songs. This categorization is a bit black and white, but for the purpose of this post it's okay.

Worship Songs
I define these types of songs as ones that contain deep biblical truths and are primarily centered around Christ's holiness and our desperate need and desire for Him.

Soul Songs
These are songs that speak primarily to ones current life circumstances. I wouldn't expect to sing these types of songs on Sunday at church, and wouldn't want to, but that doesn't mean they don't contain words that reflect biblical truth and words that speak into ones life circumstances.

Here are three things I gained during Lent.

God Was On My Mind. A lot.

I went to bed with Christian songs in my head. I woke up with Christian songs in my head. I got out of my car singing Christian songs. My mind was constantly on Christ and the truths that were being sung in the songs. Therefore, it was easier for me to come to Christ in times of temptation/attack, desperation, and concern for His work in my life.

God Reminded Me of My Sin

A line in the song, All I Have is Christ, sings "I had no hope that you would own a rebel to your will." I have been burdened by this line for the past 40 days. We are not for God - our flesh is against our Spirit (Gal. 5:17). Romans 3:10-12 shows that none of us seeks God or does anything to merit salvation. We would not seek God if He did not seek us first. Praise God that it is only through Him that we have come to know Him.

As I woke up one morning, in my still barely conscious state, I Shall Not Want was playing in my head. It was a stinging reminder of who I am in the flesh (my sin) and who I am in the Spirit. We need to put away our sinful desires and our will for our life and seek God's desires and His will for our life. Doing this can be very painful, but also very freeing. Our flesh is powerful, more powerful than we give it credit for. Our flesh is waging war against us. Should we not also wage war against it? We must take extreme measures to pursue Christ. I think of Matthew 13:44. If we come upon the great treasure that is Christ, are we willing to sell all that we have to obtain it?

It was painful, being reminded of my sin, but God did not leave me there. He pointed me to the cross and reminded me of His love for me and my position in Christ.

God Reminded Me of the Joy I Have in Him

Because my mind was constantly on Christ and the truths in the songs, I drew close to God throughout my day and I desired to be closer to Him. I paid close attention to the words in each song, and for many of them I tied the truth in the song to passages in the Bible. The song gave me a hunger for truth and I fed that hunger by going to the scriptures and discovering more truth. Drowning myself in God's truths on a daily, and hourly, basis helped me love and desire God more.

The thing I came to love the most during this practice was many times when I woke up, no matter what hour the Lord woke me up, I had a song playing in my head. Often times the song was very timely in regards to events and my current circumstances. For example, I woke up Good Friday morning with Mercy Tree playing in my head, "Death has died, love has won". Praise God for that timely reminder! A central theme to these early morning wake up songs was either a call to repentance or a reminder of reliance. What a way to start the day.

This was the first time I committed myself to something during Lent. I really loved it and I look forward to doing it next year, and throughout this year. All of the songs I listened to on a daily basis impacted me in one way or another. I wish I could expound on each of them here, but I think I will leave it up to you to take on this commitment, or one like it, and experience first-hand what God does to you.

My Top Songs

  • Hidden by United Pursuit, Will Regean
  • Whom Shall I Fear by Chris Tomlin
  • All I Have is Christ by Sovereign Grace Music
  • I Shall Not Want Audrey Assad
  • Yearn by Shane & Shane
  • Set a Fire by Will Regean
  • Behold Our God by Sovereign Grace Music
  • Refine Me by Travis Cottrell (some faithful/courageous/dangerous words in this song)
  • Hard Love by NEEDTOBREATHE

Spotify Playlist: Mix Tape

Lord, Keep Me Close

I pray this phrase almost every day, "Lord, keep me close". I think I began praying this several months ago in reaction to 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. In this passage, Paul is describing a thorn that was put in his life, basically for the purpose of keeping him close to the Lord. How great is it that we have a God who wants to keep us close to Him? (I could continue writing on 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 because there is so much there, and verse 10 is insane, but I need to restrain myself and stay focused on this thought.)

In recent months, and even more so in the past couple weeks, I've dwelled on what has been in the back of my mind for a while. And that is, there is some friction, a nervousness, in my heart when I pray this. I think thats because praying this can be scary.

I utter this phrase countless times a day in my own prayers and in prayer with and for others. I think this phrase says many different things at different times, but most often it's saying, "Lord, help me trust you more today". I think there is a scary version of this, and a not-so-scary version. The not-so-scary version is that I'm asking God to change my heart into a heart that trusts Him more. We must not lean on our own ability or understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6). We must seek God in everything, everyday, and that requires us to mindfully shift our focus to Christ.

The scary version is that God will put me in a situation that requires me to trust Him more. That is scary, and it can be extremely painful, but it can also be very exciting.

Recently, I was talking with a friend who expressed some stress over a debt she had to pay. The money just isn't there every month for her to pay the minimum payment. I sat there with her and explained how great of a situation she was in. Every month she can pray that God will somehow work and help her pay this debt. She has the opportunity to trust God and see Him work on this specific thing. There is joy in trusting God to work in an opportunity.

We should desire to be close to God. Our sinful flesh doesn't want it, but praying daily for it makes His thoughts our thoughts and His ways our ways. So, yes, despite the friction and nervousness in my sinfully fearful heart, I will continue to pray, "Lord, keep me close".

I wanted to try to work in Isaiah 55:6-9 more, but there is a lot in it and I couldn't get there for this post. For the sake of meditation, here it is anyways (and some others).

Isaiah 55:6-9
"Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Proverbs 3:5-6
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths."

2 Corinthians 12:7-10
"So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, ha messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Rest & Reflection

I began the summer of 2016 in anticipation of resting. In regards to church and community, the beginning of this year was emotionally and spiritually taxing. I had imagined my resting would look something like this: I would go to church each Sunday and go home; I wouldn’t talk to anyone and they wouldn’t talk to me. I would have been quiet, taken in the preached word and kept to myself. Basically, my resting would have consisted of me doing nothing and being bothered by no one.

However, God is good. His plans are greater than our plans and his desires for our lives are greater than our desires (1 Cor. 2:9). Praise God that His version of rest is not like our version of rest!

I spent this summer being in community with a close group of Christian friends. We did bible studies, book studies, movie nights, game nights, hikes, lunches, late night dinners and ice cream. We even filmed a music video! I have never been more social with a group of people in my entire life.

What I was reminded this year was how easy all this 'being social' was. In the past, I’ve always found being around people for extended periods of time emotionally, and sometimes physically, exhausting. But this year was not exhausting. I didn’t feel tired or overwhelmed. I felt rested.

When I use the word rest, I’m not talking about my energy level, or getting enough sleep. I’m talking about spiritual rest (Heb. 4:9-10). For Christians, this world is a battle (Rom. 8:13). Sin is war and the enemy seeks to destroy us by whatever means possible. Life takes its toll on us. After months and months of pouring out, with little being poured in, I needed rest.

God has spoken into my life a lot this year. Here are two of my big take aways: 1. God will deliver the things we didn’t know we wanted. God knows what we truly need in order to accomplish His will (Matt. 6:33) and He will give us those things over what we think we want. 2. If we want something good, God can one up us and deliver more than we expected. God is not content with giving us the good things we desire. He is always orchestrating something much larger than what we see.

As we move into 2017, I’m looking forward to a season of learning and building deeper friendships. I urge you all to prayerfully seek what God wants for your life during this next season. What does God want you to do? How do you want God to work in and through you?

Intro

I am not a writer. Most of what I write is found within a .m file or after these things // or in-between these things /* */. Although some of the stuff I write after these things // is really good, I’m not convinced that anything I write about warrants a public post.

This is not a blog. The term blog implies a certain level of consistency and commitment that I’m not comfortable with (yes, I'm single). I don’t intend to become a blogger and I don’t intend to have some sort of regular posting schedule. This is a simple pet-project.

In the coming months you will see posts about some of the topics I’m most passionate and some things I’ve been thinking about. I hope you enjoy what I write. Feel free to share the things I write on social media or read them aloud to an age appropriate audience. 

Enjoy!