Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Battle's On!

As I wrote in my last post, the Lord is helping me to see that to battle FOR joy really means to battle AGAINST sin. It's not about living perfectly, it's about living faithfully...faithfully confessing, repenting, and grabbing hold of the hem of Christ and the victory that has been won by His death and resurrection. It means walking by the Spirit and enjoying the blessings of being "in step" with Him....our Comforter, Counselor, and Keeper!

Again, MacArthur had some great thoughts in the battle against sin. I so appreciated the wisdom of what he said that I had to pass it on!

"Here's a practical way of dealing with sin: Eliminate a major sin in your life and the rest will follow. When the general is killed, the troops scatter. Think of what happened when David killed Goliath. By the means of grace available to you as a believer, slay the sins you find most compelling and familiar - your pet sins - and the others will soon disappear. And when you fall into sin, quickly set out to conquer that sin....and fall back on the forgiving grace of God, and it will strengthen you for battle."



Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"Who Will Then Make You Glad?"

I'm reading a book by John MacArthur called, "Saved Without A Doubt". And while I am fully convinced that Jesus Christ has saved me from my sin and from the Father's wrath...I find that my saved life so often does not resemble how Paul put it so eloquently and accurately in 1 Corinthians 2:9: "What no eye has seen, and no ear has heard, and what has never come into a man's heart, is what God has prepared for those who love Him."

Why? Why do I feel so "hum drum" sometimes, so "in the middle of the muddle"? Where is the peace that passes understanding and the deep abiding joy that should fill my heart and overflow to those around me? Where is a patient heart that reflects my Father's patience towards me and why does my love often look little like "denying self" and more like "selfishness"? Where is the grandeur of chapter 2 verse 9 in my own life and heart?

The answer is all wrapped up in verse 10! "Now God has revealed them to us by the Spirit, for the Spirit searches everything, even the deep things of God."

In Christ, I have been given the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is spectacular! He produces amazing fruit that I can walk in and, therefore, live a life that is pleasing to the Father and that brings Him much glory!  Thomas Brooks says this about Him, "The Spirit is the great revealer of the Father's secrets, He lies in the bosom of the Father, He knows every name that is written in the book of life; He is best acquainted with the inward workings of the heart of God toward poor sinners; He is the great comforter and the only sealer up of souls to the day of redemption. If you grieve by your wilful sinning He that alone can gladden you, who will then make you glad?" MacArthur followed it up by saying that  if "you grieve or quench the Spirit by walking in the flesh, you short-circuit His ministries to you".

Wow! My own heart was quickly convicted that much of my "hum drum" may very well be because I am not "in step" with the Spirit. I have taken my sin too lightly, treated God's grace too carelessly, and, as a result,  have had a "short circuit" in my fellowship and communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. How quick I can be to "broad stroke" my sin when asking forgiveness from God instead of taking each sinful thought captive, doing battle against it, and crying out for God's strength and power to overcome as well as His grace and mercy to forgive me when those thoughts  turn to words and deeds!

Could my battle for joy be because, as Thomas Brooks put it, "if you grieve by your wilful sinning He that alone can gladden you, who will then make you glad?"

Much to meditate on...but also, I find my heart rejoicing. Rejoicing in God's Word, rejoicing in  godly men's wisdom, rejoicing in the indescribable gift of the Holy Spirit and the conviction He brings, and rejoicing in the victory over sin that is mine because I am "in Christ"....the One who conquered sin and death! Hallelujah, what a Savior!!!!



Tuesday, December 31, 2013

This year, I want to be more FAT!

I'll never forget a Bible study that Bryan taught to teens we were ministering to in Yakima several years ago. He told them all that they needed to be FAT.

Faithful. Available. and Teachable

Faithful: Over a decade ago, when I was in the midst of some seriously discouraging parenting times, my mom shared a precious truth that has stuck with me ever since. "God does not call you to produce fruit in your child, He calls you to be faithful. The fruit is up to Him." Faithfulness does not mean you will have everything go your way. Faithfulness means you can rest in God's plan and watch HIS will unfold in HIS timing!

How many times have I been found faithless instead of faithful, though? More than I could ever dare count. Yet, my precious Redeemer has a track record so unlike mine. Faithful....every single time. And, because of His death and resurrection, His record of perfect faithfulness has been credited to MY account. It's unfathomable!

The depth of the riches He gives is unsearchable and His kindness and grace lead me to repentance and a heart that swells with a desire to be faithful. One baby step at a time....in all the mundane moments of life and in the bigger decisions, too. In all my writing, facebooking, speaking, actions, and the roles God has called me to as a wife, mother, family member, sister in Christ, neighbor, patient, and friend. Faithful to love Christ above all things and have that love spill over and affect every relationship in my life. Faithful to cling to God's Word and find my daily sustenance in His life-giving words. Faithful to speak words that build up and give grace to those who hear. Faithful in repenting of sin and asking forgiveness. Faithful to take my thoughts captive to obey Christ.

Faithful to clean up the kitchen with joy and not grumbling. Faithful to have the teaching of kindness on my tongue with my kids when they are all arguing and being rude and I just want to send them all to their rooms and tell them they are being brats. Faithful to give thanks and rejoice in God's mercies that are new every morning...especially when I find new sticky fingerprints all over the fridge handles, new crumbs and dried on "who knows what" on the countertops, and strewn articles of clothing and shoes in all the wrong places. Faithful to be a genuine helper to my husband and not a dripping faucet!

Martin Luther once said: "What you do in your house in worth as much as if you did it up in Heaven for our Lord God."

Available: My life is not my own. I have been bought with a price. All that I do should be for the honor and glory of the One who now calls me His own. There is nothing I have that I did not receive from His hands...and that includes my time.

I don't want to live life thinking I deserve "me time". I don't want to live life as a slave to the schedule that I made up at the beginning of the week. I want to live with an open heart, open hands, an open door, and open ears. I want to be quick to lay down what I want to do for the joy of obeying God and being ready and available to meet the needs of others. I want my comfort to never be the main thing. God used Matt Chandler to convict my heart with these words: "Comfort is the god of our generation, so suffering is seen as a problem to be solved, and not a providence from God."

Teachable:  In order to be teachable I have to be humble. There is no room for something that I often make plenty of room for: my pride. I don't have it all figured out...not even close. And, even in the things that God has grown me in and taught me a lot about, I still sin. I truly know what Paul was saying in Romans 7! The very things I don't want to do, I still do...and the things I want to do I don't do.

Sanctification is a lifelong process and that means there will never be a day that I don't need to have a spirit of teachability. If I can learn this truth...not just with my head...but truly believe it in my heart, I will be quicker to accept rebuke, more speedy in asking for forgiveness,  and find myself running to seek the face of God through His Word and in prayer. I'll also be more diligent to pursue the wisdom that God has given others...through asking advice, reading solid books and blogs, and listening to sounds words from pastors and teachers.

By God's grace and through the Holy Spirit's power alone, I truly want to be FAT this year. How about you?






Thursday, September 26, 2013

Knowing God

It made me chuckle just a bit to think that the post I am about to write now comes right on the heels of my high recommendation of a parenting book.

Let me explain.

I am so thankful for good, sound Christian living books. So very thankful. God has used them to grow me in my parenting, my role as a wife and pastor's wife, in spiritual disciplines, in homemaking...and I could go on. Their value has been immeasurable and the list of those I still want to read is sky high.

But.

My heart has been stirred and a wee bit convicted that I spend much of my reading time trying to learn and know what God wants me to be and not nearly enough time seeking to "simply" know God!

"But let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”  Jeremiah 9:24

The more I read, study, and meditate on GOD means the more I will KNOW Him. And the more I know Him, the more I will become who He wants me to be in all the other areas of my life.

"We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit." 
2 Corinthians 3:18 


“Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life's problems fall into place of their own accord.” 

“The healthy Christian is not necessarily the extrovert, ebullient Christian, but the Christian who has a sense of God's presence stamped deep on his soul, who trembles at God's word, who lets it dwell in him richly by constant meditation upon it, and who tests and reforms his life daily in response to it.”
                                                                                                                                                  -  J.I Packer

So, one of my aims this year is to read fewer books about "how to be_____", and more books on the attributes, character, and words of God.

Above all, though, may we all be students of THE Word, the Bible, as we seek to know God!



Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Glimpses of Grace

I've had some help in the "glimpsing grace" department through a fantastic book that I read over the summer. You'll never guess the title?!

"Glimpses of Grace" by Gloria Furman is chock full of encouraging and insightful tid-bits that got my soul savoring and celebrating God's amazing grace. If you have not picked up her book yet (it's only been out since May), here are some quotes that just might get you asking for a copy for Christmas!

"If God doesn't rule your mundane, than He doesn't rule you. Because that's where you live." (a "re-quote" from Paul Tripp


"Peace and quiet are not ultimate. Activity and responsibility are not ultimate. Because Christ is ultimate, the loss of any of these things - solitude or circus- makes no difference in the sufficiency of Christ or in His ability to give you everything you need for life and Godliness." (Wow! I want to paint that one on my walls!!!)

"To live in the reality of the gospel each day.....means that you see things as an opportunity to talk with God, talk about God, and receive wisdom from the Bible throughout your day." (I love this quote because, in the recent years, we keep hearing so much about "gospel-living" but it is often not defined. I love the practical way she put exactly what that looks like.)

"A cheerful attitude and a sense of hopefulness are wonderful by-products of rejoicing in God while in the midst of our homes. But that's just what they are...by-products. The source of our faith, hope, love, joy, and gospel-grounded optimism is God Himself and not our stuff or our circumstances." 

"If there is discontent bound up in your heart, then there is no room in your house where you can go and feel peace. You will, as I have, attempt to create the perfect environment that is rid of distraction so you can focus. At the end of the day you will find out that the chaos isn't your environment - its in your heart." (How often I forget the sin that is bound up in my OWN heart!)

"We need faith to trust that God doesn't merely "know what's best for us," but that He IS what's best for us no matter what our circumstances are."

Hmmm...after reading those quotes, will you even make it to Christmas to read this book?!:) 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

When it feels like grace has gone on a vacation...

Grace.

As born again believers, it's a word we hear so often that I fear it doesn't impact our souls as it ought to. Pastor John MacArthur has an article in which he shares some truths about grace...what it is, and what it isn't. It's a great starting point...keep reading!:

"Many professing Christians today utterly ignore the biblical truth that grace "instruct[s] us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age" (Titus 2:12). Instead, they live as if grace were a supernatural "Get Out of Jail FREE" ticket-a no-strings-attached, open-ended package of amnesty, beneficence, indulgence, forbearance, charity, leniency, immunity, approval, tolerance, and self-awarded privilege divorced from any moral demands.
But here's what I propose — let's start by laying down a biblical definition of grace with this simple question: What is grace?
Grace is a terribly misunderstood word. Defining it succinctly is notoriously difficult. Some of the most detailed theology textbooks do not offer any concise definition of the term. Someone has proposed an acronym: GRACE is God's Riches AChrist's Expense. That's not a bad way to characterize grace, but it is not a sufficient theological definition.
One of the best-known definitions of grace is only three words: God's unmerited favor. A. W. Tozer expanded on that: "Grace is the good pleasure of God that inclines him to bestow benefits on the undeserving." Berkhof is more to the point: grace is "the unmerited operation of God in the heart of man, effected through the agency of the Holy Spirit."
Grace is not merely unmerited favor; it is favor bestowed on sinners who deserve wrath. Showing kindness to a stranger is "unmerited favor"; doing good to one's enemies is more the spirit of grace (Luke 6:27-36).
Grace is not a dormant or abstract quality, but a dynamic, active, working principle: "The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation…and instructing us" (Titus 2:11-12). It is not some kind of ethereal blessing that lies idle until we appropriate it. Grace is God's sovereign initiative to sinners (Ephesians 1:5-6).
Grace is not a one-time event in the Christian experience. We stand in grace (Romans 5:2). The entire Christian life is driven and empowered by grace: "It is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods" (Hebrews 13:9). Peter said we should "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18).
Thus we could properly define grace as the free and benevolent influence of a holy God operating sovereignly in the lives of undeserving sinners."

Did you read all that? I mean...really read it? Go back, read it again! :) God's grace wasn't just appropriated when we were saved...we live by that grace....we are strengthened by grace. 
So, why do I sometimes feel that my life is not full of grace, as though grace has gone on a vacation and left me behind? Why do I often feel dry? Why are there times when I feel like there should be more but nothing seems within reach? 
Because I forget. Plain and simple.  I am not steeping myself in the truths of God's Word so I am unable to preach God's Word to my own heart and let it permeate my thoughts, actions, and focus (think tea here ladies! ) When this happens, my gaze never goes UP, it looks all AROUND me. And when I look all around me I start seeing mess after mess...inside my own heart and in the lives of those around me. At this point, because my eyes are not fixed on Jesus, the ONLY Author and Perfecter of ANYONE'S faith, I start trying to control situations and people. Of course, if you have ever tried that, you have learned (and, unfortunately, I seem to be a very SLOW learner...so I keep having to learn it over again!) that this sort of control only leads to hopelessness. Hopelessness breeds discontentment and, once we are there, we can't find grace anywhere.
Feeling discouraged? DON'T! As the saying goes, "the beauty for ashes" is that the reason I can't find grace anywhere is because of my sin, my warped perspective, and my ungrateful heart. God's grace is still amazing and unchanging. His mercies are still new every morning...and every minute thereafter. I don't have to live one more moment in hopelessness, because the God of hope is my Saviour and Lord! I can repent of my sin, find forgiveness at the foot of the cross, and run to Him and sit on the "lap" of His Word! 
God's marvelous grace can be ours...and ours in abundance...not tomorrow, not next Monday, not at the beginning of the new year...but RIGHT NOW. Let's take off those glasses that make everything look like one big mess and put on our eternal glasses that help us see everything through the sovereignty of the Lord.  Let's open God's Word and start "steeping" not just reading!
If we do that, we'll see "Glimpses of Grace" everywhere!





Monday, September 9, 2013

What you don't hear often....

....is about all the bad days people have. The sinful, ick ones that you wish you could redo, but simply have to rest in what Christ has already done on your behalf (praise the Lord)....and then go back to everyone in your family, including the dog, and say sorry!

I had one of those "days" this morning. It started with doors slamming and too much noise way too early in the morning, followed by a peed in bed. Add that to kids who forgot to do things they needed to do yesterday...so what needed to be done today was taking far longer and throwing everyone's routine into a tizzy. Did I mention that I stayed in bed a few minutes too long, and Al Mohler's "The Briefing" (which really is great and so helpful!) ate up more time of Bryan's and my morning "date" than I would have liked which led to almost no time to talk or pray together. (Insert irked attitude right about here) So, off I rushed to pull an egg bake out of the oven that had been in the oven a few minutes too long, only to have children not ready to eat on time because of all the "need to dos" that didn't get done.

Everyone is sitting at the table somber, I'm grouchy, and at this point, family devotions have officially been pushed back to dinner time as we have run out of time. None of us are all too happy with each other and the conversations that have flown around have most certainly not been "pleasing in His sight".

Yes, there were hugs and "I love you's" as they all headed off to school, but it might be safe to say that we were not "rejoicing in the day the Lord has made". The "one big happy family" balloon had popped before it had even been blown up all the way!

I don't share all this with an attitude of indifference, nor do I find it something to laugh about and forget. (Although, some laughter might have done a world of good this morning!) I don't share this to tear down my precious family or make light of our disobedience. I share it simply to say...

God is good and we are not. God is perfect and we are sinful. God is "gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness" and we are in desperate need of that grace and mercy every single day. God is faithful even when we are faithless. God's power is magnified through our weakness.

THEREFORE, I will boast...not in my own greatness as a wife and mom (that lasted a whole 2 seconds this morning!)...but I will boast in Christ, and Him crucified. We can be forgiven because Christ bore our sin on His perfect body. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!

Days like today remind me that there is not one moment of any day in which I do not need to run to Jesus and hide myself in Him. For there I find hope, joy, peace, patience, forgiveness, and strength for all that He has planned for me!