The Kingdom of Me and the Joy of Christ

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Often, it’s the good things, the “God things” that most keep me from Him. It’s sad how easily my heart becomes swayed. One would think I’d learned by now, that I’ve become adept at putting effective guardrails in place and being extra diligent to guard my heart. But so often, busyness and pride and selfishness seeps in and my service that began with such pure intensions becomes ugly and self-elevating.

I’m all too proficient at building my kingdom, when my efforts should be centered on the things of God. Last week, we talked about chasing God ordained dreams. This week, let’s consider the dangers that come with doing so as we intentionally remind ourselves Woman sitting with text from postwhere every God-given dream leads—to Himself.

The more I surrender to Him, the more I yield to His Spirit within and align my heart with His plans and purposes, the more joy and freedom I feel. The more I slip, bit by bit, from this, the more miserable I become.

At every moment, I’m worshipping someone—God or myself.

The god of self is a vicious, defeating, deceiving contender, one I’ve found quite difficult to kill. She rises up when I least expect her to, whispering lies in my ear, making promises—to give me joy and fulfillment—which she has no power to fulfill.

As C. S. Lewis put it, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Every promise made by my Savior is certain and true, and here’s what He tells me: joy, peace, and deep, soul-enriching fulfillment is found only in Him. He is my prize, and He alone can fill me to overflowing, in abundance, with the very life I crave.

This is the promise He’s made to all mankind. This invitation to love and live loved, made by our Creator Himself, resonates so deeply, upon hearing it, our souls leap for joy. Until we encounter something flashier or louder or momentarily more alluring. And we begin amassing our wealth, our toys, our successes, and our homes, until the voice of God, the call of God, fades.

Unfortunately, building the kingdom of “me” comes much too easily.

This was certainly true for the ancient Israelites, returning home after captivity. Their journey had been long and arduous. Their sorrow deep, when they arrived in their beloved city to find the Temple of God—the place where He Himself communed with His people—reduced to a pile of rubble.

And yet, they began to rebuild, for a time, until opposition hit. Then, they started building the kingdom of me. “‘My house lies in ruins,” says the Lord of Heavens Armies, ‘while all of you are busy building your own houses’” (Hag. 1:9, NLT).

And note, God was speaking about so much more than a building, as glorious as this manmade structure once was. His Temple housed His presence.

God was inviting His people into relationship. To leave all their false gods behind, once and for all, and to connect deeply and intimately, with Him. And like we read last week, they responded enthusiastically for a while, craving the very thing God promised.

But then they stopped and shifted their focus.

I get it. I’ve been there. And unfortunately, I’ll likely land there again. But when I do, God offers me the same invitation He did His people, so long ago. “Return to Me,” He says, “and I will return to you” (Zech. 1:3, NLT). He is only a prayer or repentance away, and He offers much more than the kingdom of Me ever can. He gives Himself without Woman staring out at horizon with text pulled from postmeasure, inviting us to meet with Him, to be held by Him. To be loved deeply and completely, and in this, to be filled with joy and peace.

“I will fill this place,” God says, speaking of His Temple (Haggai 2:7), which, thanks to the blood of Jesus, is us. He alone can fill our deepest, darkest, most hidden placed with Himself.

And in that moment, when the power and glory of our Creator fills us completely, we’re reminded yet again, He is our prize, and He is enough.

More than enough.

Let’s talk about this! Can you relate to my ongoing struggle? When does the god of self most threaten to rise up within you? How to beat her back?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Speaking of idolatry, you may also enjoy my latest article on Bible Study Tools. You can read it HERE.

And if you haven’t done so, join Wholly Loved’s Facebook group, a safe, grace-filled place where you can connect with other women seeking to grow in Christ, ask questions and share struggles and celebrations.

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When Set Backs Hit

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For some, dreams come easy. Most of us want to feel significant, to know we’re called to something miraculous and eternal.

But others have long since lost that childlike expectancy and have traded thoughts of what could be to settle for what is. Maybe an opportunity came that felt so right, so us, our hearts leapt with joy. And we immediately began envisioning where God might take us and that thing. But then opposition hit, and though we persevered for a while, eventually our passion and strength waned until both felt nonexistent.

So we quit.

We stopped trying. Stopped hoping, stopped longing for more or better.

Maybe after years of rejections and setbacks, we came to believe God could never use that gift in that way. Or maybe not at all. Perhaps after years of marital silence and what felt like unanswered prayers, we relinquished our hopes of happily ever after and slowly, quietly, our hearts hardened. We ceased praying for that family member, quit believing that wayward child would return. Quit trusting God would one day give us victory over that sin.

And so, over time, we joined the disillusioned and discouraged, convinced Christ’s promise of abundant life was nothing more than hyperbole.

But at each moment, God gives us a precious gift: the chance to begin again. To send one more letter, offer one more prayer, make one more phone call, or type one more line. Because He’s fully engaged in our journeys, not just our beginnings and ends. As the saying goes, the God who calls us to it, whatever it may be, is the same God who will bring us through it.

All He asks is that we lean on Him and keep stepping. We tend to see difficulties as text pulled from post with background image of mountains and a valley between them.dead ends and detours, but in Scripture, again and again, we see those things that appear to be obstacles are simply opportunities for God’s power and grace to shine.

Imagine being part of the rebuilding crew King Cyrus sent back to Jerusalem. If you’ve been following this blog series, you’ll remember, after a long period of captivity, God stirred the hearts of His people’s captors to send them home—with abundance. He was calling them to rebuild their Temple, the place where He said He’d dwell. I imagine, in this, they would also be rebuilding their faith after having spent decades in a foreign, pagan land where all their desperate pleas for aid appeared to go unanswered for so long.

But then, just when all seemed hopeless, God came through and sent them off with absolutely everything they’d need to fulfill the task He’d assigned. Can you imagine the celebration they felt, upon leaving Babylon? The images and memories that filled their heads as they traveled closer and closer to their homeland?

You can sense their excitement in Psalm 126, written to celebrate their return:

“When the Lord brought back His exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, ‘What amazing things the Lord has done for them.’ Yes, the Lords has done amazing things for us! What joy!” (vs. 1-2, NLT).

Scripture tells us the people joined together “with a unified purpose” (Ez. 3:1) and, though frightened of the locals, began building with courage (Ez. 3:3, NLT). Everyone, including the priests and Levites, who’d returned from exile, worked together. Then, once they laid the foundation, they praised God with trumpets, cymbals, and songs of thanks.

Oh, what a glorious beginning! What joy to be called and commissioned by the King. But then came the opposition. The locals first tried to deceive them, then frightened and discouraged them until, eventually, the building stopped.

They shifted their focus off of the things of God and onto themselves, off of the glorious and miraculous and onto the mundane. They settled for “what was”—a life of ordinary houses occupied by ordinary lives—instead of what could be.

At least for a time—until God once again revived their hearts. Just as He does with us, when we begin to feel tired and discouraged. If that’s where you’re at now, hear this truth: God’s with you. He has a plan for you, and He is, at this moment, walking beside you. He will turn every struggle and setback you encounter to good. Trust Him in this, lean on Him, and keep stepping.

Let’s talk about this! Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below, and join Wholly Loved’s discussion in our Facebook group!

Our online community is a safe place where women can share their struggles, insights, and celebrations. This is a “closed” group where only members can see posts shared and where confidentiality is practiced. We share prayer requests, hurts and insecurities, and ways God is meeting us in our struggles each day. And you’re invited to heal and grow and learn with us!

And make sure to check out our daily devotions on Crosswalk. You can find them HERE.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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Update on Keep Your Eyes on the Call Post

Hey, y’all,

Sorry for the double post this morning, but I updated the previous (find it HERE) to include a Bible reading plan and didn’t want those of you who receive my posts in your inbox to miss it (as I don’t believe you receive posts a second time when they’re revised).

As I almost always write out of whatever God is showing me during my prayer or Bible reading times, and I will likely be camped out in the time when Ezra and others are rebuilding God’s Temple …

For those wanting to follow along with my Bible reading (as I have a feeling many of my preceding posts will stem from that), here’s a daily reading list. (I’m reading out of a chronological Bible so am simultaneously in Ezra, Haggai, Daniel, and Psalms.) I’ll share some questions you can use each day to help you process what God might be telling you below. They’re pulled from Day One Option One of Wholly Loved’s Becoming His Princess Bible study.

Day one: 2 Chronicles 36:22-23, Ezra 1:1-11

Day two: Ezra 2

Day three: Psalm 126, 147

Day four: Ezra 3

Day five: Ezra 4

Day six: Spend a day reviewing, journaling on, and praying over what God showed you during your day one-five Bible reading time.

Questions you can work through as you read your daily Bible passages:

Who are the main characters in this passage?

What does this passage reveal about the human condition, such as:

  • Mankind’s rebellion against/obedience toward God?
  • Mankind’s attempts to fill their needs apart from Him or relying on Him for their needs?
  • Mankind’s attempts to reach Him on their own terms?

What does this passage reveal regarding God’s nature?

What does/might this passage reveal about God’s plans?

How might this passage reveal mankind’s need for the gospel?

In what ways are you/have you been similar to one or more of the characters in this passage?

What might God want you to know through this section of Scripture?

What might He be asking you to do?

End your reading in prayer, asking God to help you apply the biblical truths discovered and live out whatever you sense Him impressing on your heart.