Monday, April 13, 2015

Uncomfortable Grace

In our small group, we are reading "What Did You Expect?" by Paul Tripp. In Chapter 13 he shared something that is worth repeating...and worth thinking about long after I put down the book. He is applying this specifically to marriage...but the applications are far reaching, in my opinion. Paul says:

"I really do think that there are moments in our marriages when we are crying out for grace, not recognizing that we are getting it. We are not getting the grace of relief or the grace of release, because that is not the grace that we really need. No, what we are getting is something we desperately need, the uncomfortable grace of personal growth and change. With the love of a Father, your Lord is prying open your hands so that you will let go of things that have come to rule your heart but will never satisfy you. With the insight of a seasoned teacher, He is driving you to question your own wisdom so that you will find your understanding and rest in His. With the skill of the world's best counselor, God is showing you the delusions of your control so that you will take comfort in His rule. With the gentleness of a faithful friend He is facing you toward your inadequacies of your own righteousness so that you find your hope in His."

Uncomfortable grace.

Oh Lord, help me to see through Your eyes. Help me to behold and worship You in each situation that You bring my way! Forgive me for desiring comfort and ease more than I desire to be holy, to be like You! Help me to rejoice in Your grace...even Your uncomfortable grace!

"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."  Romans 5:1-5


Monday, April 6, 2015

Let Down Your Nets

"When (Jesus) had finished speaking, He said to Simon, "Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch." "Master," Simon replied, "we've worked hard all night long and caught nothing! But at Your word, I'll let down the nets."  Luke 5:4-5




Do you ever feel like Peter? I do. Feeling as though I have tried everything or have looked at all the angles or just plain feel tired and want to give up...and, through God's Word, Jesus calls me to "let down your nets". He says "my grace is sufficient and my power is perfected in weakness". He says to "store up treasures in Heaven and not worry about tomorrow". He calls me to "fix my eyes on what is unseen" and "walk by faith and not by sight".

And what a joy it is when I answer as Peter did that day on the shore: "But at Your Word, I'll let down the nets". For Peter, the results were pretty immediate. "When they did this, they caught a great number of fish, and their nets began to tear. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them; they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink." vss. 6-7

God's answers in my life might not always be so immediate but they are always right on time...not my time, but God's time! "Yes, I have spoken; so I will also bring it about. I have planned it; I will also do it." (Isaiah 46:11b) Philippians 2:13 reminds me that "it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to will and to act for His good purpose." I don't have to worry, fret, manipulate, strategize, or come up with a better plan. I can rest in God's perfect plan knowing that He will accomplish it for my good and for His glory. And I know, first-hand, what it looks like to be quiet in my spirit and watch the Lord work! AMAZINGLY GLORIOUS!

"Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgements and untraceable His ways! ...For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen." Romans 11:33,36

When Peter beheld Jesus at work, there was only one thing he could do. Luke 5:8 says that "he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, because I'm a sinful man, Lord!" He saw Jesus for who He was and Peter saw the sinfulness of his own heart and in that moment, he was humbled. 

I love what Kimberly Wagner has to say about humility in her book Fierce Women: "In reality, humility has little to do with how I see myself but has everything to do with how I see God. Humility is the true response to a proper view of God. Humility opens the door for God's presence to be at home in our hearts (Isaiah 57:15) and His grace to move in to the situation at hand (James 4:6; I Peter 5:5). Jesus compared this condition to that of a little child. It's the recognition that we are helpless; completely dependent on Him. Humility doesn't grasp for, or demand control, but it gladly surrenders to the Master's control. When we maintain a steady gaze on God, childlike humility permeates our thoughts, attitudes, and actions."

So, here is what I am learning (and relearning!) in a nutshell: WALK obediently, even when you can't see more than the next step in front of you. WAIT on the Lord, confident in the reality that He will accomplish all His purposes for your life. WATCH Him work and WONDER at His majesty in such a way that you are humbled by His awesomeness and find your thoughts, attitudes, and actions changed more and more into His likeness! 

Wanna let down your nets with me?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

March Madness

...and I'm not talking about basketball...I'm talking about sickness. 

Flu, fevers, runny noses, stuffy noses, hacking coughs, ear aches, sore throats, pink eye, and surgeries. By the time March comes to an end, we will have seen it all...not only from our kids, but one of our dogs, as well. It's been quite the month for sickness in the Pichura house.

I know we are not alone. I know so many of you could share your own stories of illnesses that seem to linger and days that seem so long. And, others I know, are going through grief that makes the flu look like a walk in the park. Their pain is deep and their loss is great. They battle not to keep a fever down, but to trust God's sovereignty in the midst of a broken heart.

I am reminded that the roads we walk have been paved by our good and gracious Father. Before time began, He ordained our moments, days, weeks and yes, even this March madness for our sanctification and the exaltation of His name. We are hemmed in behind and before!

I have been blessed by a couple of blog posts the last two days:

"Your Mom Has A Blog" said: "The future spreads out like an undiscovered playground, and it looms like a terrifying storm, and in both things I see it is true. God knows. He knew what joys this day would hold and He knows what sorrows tomorrow may hold, and whatever comes we know that we little unknowing ones are held close. We are intimately known and exquisitely cared for."

And in "Out of the Ordinary": "I tell you again, if there be any pathway in which there be not fire, tremble, but if your lot be hard, thank God for it. If your suffering be great, bless the Lord for them, and if the difficulties in your pathway be many, surmount them by faith, but let them not cast you down" (Charles Spurgeon)....Temporal sufferings, like temporal blessings, are an opportunity to bring glory to God. If we who have Christ as our model don't believe that, a lost and dying world never will."

May we all live lives that show our husbands, children, family, friends and the watching world that God is enough! My His joy be in our hearts and on our faces and may these words from Psalms be the theme of our heart's cry:

"Whom have I in Heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my life and my portion forever. " Psalm 73:25-26

P.S. My dear sweet momma has been going through intense physical pain for the last couple of months...and she has been a living example to me, my kids, and so many others of suffering for the glory of God. Mom, in sickness and in health, you are a sweet aroma of Christ and a testimony of His sufficient grace. I feel so blessed to be your daughter and to grow in grace as I watch you cling to the One who is "your life and the length of your days". I love you!


Monday, March 23, 2015

Perspective

             Perspective: A particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; point of view


As the years go by, the more I realize that my perspective on life (situation and people) plays a huge role in the way I live out my life....and, the older I get, the more I realize just how easy it is for my perspective to be skewed. Just how easy it is to be sure that something is one way, only to find out it is really another.

You know the old saying, "The grass is always greener on the other side". Until you live on the other side or experience the other side, it's so easy to make assumptions or to see things not quite as they really are. After all, "the grass on the other side still has to be mowed" as the saying ends.

Most often, my perspective goes awry when I don't filter words, behavior, and situations through the Word of God. I watch, listen, take it all in, and then I jump to a conclusion...but, without sifting those thoughts and observations through the Word of God, I am prone to end up with a wrong conclusion or at least a half-baked one. I am prone to think the worst, not believe the best. I am prone to "lean on my own understanding". And that is dangerous ground. As the preaching pastor of my brother's church said this Sunday, "We cannot distrust ourselves too much and we cannot trust God enough!"

Perspective....I think it's one of the reasons that wisdom (typically) comes with age. The older you get, the more you experience. The more you experience, the more you realize how different things are than you thought they would be. The more different they are the more humbled you become. The more humble you become, the more you see your need for Jesus. The more you see your need for Jesus, the more you crave His Words...the Bible. And the more you immerse yourself in the Word....the more you realize that you have only touched the surface of His greatness and you long to know Him more. You long to have His thoughts be your thoughts, His ways be your ways, His perspective be your perspective!

"Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgements and how inscrutable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor? Or who has given a gift to Him that he might be repaid? For from Him, and to Him, and through Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen."  Romans 11:33-36

My prayer is that I will filter each person and every situation in my life through the mercy and grace that God has so freely bestowed upon me. That my perspective will not be shaped by my flesh and the sin that so easily entangles my thoughts...but that I will live out the truth that I have "the mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:16) and, with my thoughts taken captive to obey Him, I will "put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience" (Col. 3:12).








Friday, March 13, 2015

What's Wrong with Those People?

I read a great blog post this past week by David Prince. He talked about the fact that, as we read Scripture, we need to start by finding the "bad guy", then look for the "hero" (though still sinner) who emulates Christ, and, finally, look for the true Hero, Christ, in that passage.

He goes on to say this about the bad guy: "One of the problems many people have in rightly interpreting and applying the Bible is that they immediately attempt to identify with the hero in the text and not the bad guys. We should personally identify with the bad guys in the text. Simply coming to the text and asking, “How am I like the people in the text who are doing the wrong thing” is transformative and beneficial in gaining a gospel perspective in understanding the text. This approach helps us to remember that the Bible is not a book of rules or a manual on morality; it is a story of God’s grace to sinners, and ultimately, the only perfect hero of the story is Jesus."

I got to giggling because I couldn't help but think that my blog posts this past week have followed that model....between the Israelites and Peter....I'm more "bad guy" than I'd like others to see. Yet, old habits die hard, and I found myself shaking my head and wagging my finger at the Israelites this morning as I read through Deuteronomy 6-11. The blessings God promised to pour out on them was amazing!!! God was giving them "a land with large and beautiful cities that you did not build, houses full of every good thing that you did not fill them with, wells dug that you did not dif, and vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant..."(6:10-11) Could it get any better than that? Could the blessings pour down more?
Couldn't the Israelites have just obeyed? Couldn't they have wiped out the inhabitants off the land instead of marrying them and worshipping their false Gods? What is wrong with those people???

The answer is pretty simple....Nope, they couldn't obey. And neither could/can I apart from the saving work of the Lord and His indwelling Holy Spirit. In fact, I really have to go a step further if I truly understand my own depravity. There is nothing good I CAN do to earn any of God's favor or blessing. I only deserve His wrath and condemnation. The only good in me is Christ in me and I can stand before God ONLY because Christ lived the perfect life I could not live and died in my place so I could be covered with the cloak of HIS righteousness!

In fact, anything more than hell is all mercy and glorious grace. Even when I do receive material blessing from the Lord...it may not even be because God is blessing the "path of obedience" I am on. In the end, He's most concerned with His glory...and my blessing may simply be a byproduct of that! Hear me out. The Israelites received all that "good stuff" not because of them, but IN SPITE of them!

"When the Lord your God drives them out before you, do not say to yourself, "The Lord brought me in to take possession of this land because of my righteousness." Instead, the Lord will drive out these nations before you because of their wickedness. You are not going to take possession of their land because of your righteousness or your integrity. Instead, the Lord your God will drive out these nations before you because of their wickedness, in order to keep the promise He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Understand that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are stiff-necked people." Deut. 9:4-6


If that doesn't humble us all, I don't know what will! Yet, that is exactly where God wants each one of us....aware of our sin, broken of pride, and in awe of God's holiness. He wants us to fear Him...to have a heart of worshipful submission, reverential awe, and obedient respect for our great God. And when we truly see ourselves for who we are and God for Who He is....we will find ourselves rejoicing and giving thanks from the tops of our heads to the tips of our toes! We will find great peace in walking by faith and not by sight...because we trust the One Who's name is above all names! His marvelous grace will amaze our hearts!

"Then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with joyful shouting; Then they said among the nations, "The Lord has done great things for them." The Lord has done great things for us; We are glad."   Psalm 126:2-3

"In that day they will say, "Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him, and He saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in Him; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation."  Isaiah 25:9


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Servant of Satan


Almost 25 years ago, God opened my eyes to my need for His saving grace and gave me the gift of faith to believe. The new birth that I walked in freed me from being a slave to sin and mercifully made me a slave to Christ. From that moment on, He was and is not only my Savior, but my Lord and Master...for He must be received as both, or He will be neither.

I would never dream of being called a "servant of Satan". It may have been what I once was before salvation...but no longer! The thought of serving Satan puts a pit in my stomach. He is the enemy of my beloved Lord and the father of lies. He prowls about like a roaring lion seeking to kill and destroy. He is the embodiment of all that is evil. 

Yet, sometimes, I am his servant. 

WHAT?

Read the words from Mark 8:31-33:

"Then He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, be killed, and rise after three days. He was openly talking about this. So Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But turning around and looking at His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind Me, Satan, because you're not thinking about God's concerns, but man's!"

Jesus had made it clear that God's plan for His life included His death and resurrection. It was a good plan, because it was God's plan...and God does all things perfectly, for our good and His glory. Peter jumps in and basically tells Jesus that God's plan is a bad idea...Peter saw the need to "set Jesus straight". And, in that moment, he became a servant of Satan. His thoughts were not on glorifying Christ, magnifying the gospel, and lifting high God's redemptive plan. He thought only of the temporary, only of his own desires. He was in direct opposition to God...and Jesus rebuked him in a way that makes me shudder..."get behind me Satan". 

I shudder because I realize that, when I take my eye's off of God, when I am not renewing my mind with His Word, and meditating on all that He is....I become very short-sighted in my thoughts and concerns. I have stopped "thinking about God's concerns" and have focused on "man's", namely, myself. When I do that, I stand in opposition to God and His Word. And, without even realizing it, I have aligned myself with Satan, the enemy. I have sought to serve his purposes instead of God's....just as Peter did. 

It's sobering. It deserves our thought and meditation. It helps us see the wickedness of our sin before a holy God. It causes us to fall to our knees in repentance and rise with a heart of thanksgiving for His forgiveness, mercy, and faithful love. It causes us to press in deeper to "take hold of that for which Christ Jesus has taken hold of me" (Phil. 3:12). 

I know there are many times I have followed in the footsteps of Peter in this regard. I pray that, with each passing day, my footsteps would follow more and more closely behind Mary's when she said...

"Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." Luke 1:38








Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Living within the Cloud

"Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, abiding there, the people of Israel remained in the camp and did not set out, but when it lifted they set out. At the command of the Lord they camped, and at the command of the Lord they set out. They kept charge of the Lord, at the command of the Lord by Moses."  Numbers 9:22-23

As the years go by, the more I read about the Israelites in the Old Testament, the less my heart condemns them because "my sin is ever before me" and I am aware that, in my flesh, I would have been right there with them complaining, complaining, complaining. Yes, I pray that I might have had a "different spirit" like that of Caleb and the Spirit-filled courage of Joshua...but I find myself mourning alongside of Israel's sin as I mourn over mine.

And as I think this way, I find myself reading not as an innocent bystander...but walking in their shoes, imagining life in the midst of this great assembly. What was it like to gather manna and quail, to have shoes that never wore out, and to see the awesome power of the Lord on display around every turn?

But, mostly, I have been thinking about the Cloud.

The Cloud of the Lord...His presence in the midst of His people. When it lifted they were to move on and when it rested, they were to stay. Could be just overnight, a month, or even more. They did not know from day to day when it would be time to move on....they had to live, each day, with the Cloud in view....with a readiness to go and yet, at the same time, a willing heart to stay and wait. They could not make any long term plans for themselves...the only long term plan had to be that of eyes fixed on the Cloud...on the Lord.

Oh, the similarities to our own lives as believers today! We have a Cloud without and a Cloud within! The Holy Spirit lives inside of us...convicting, counseling, illuminating...and the Lord continues to be the Cloud of glory that we are to fix our eyes on: "Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith". (Hebrews 12:2) And He bids us to daily deny self, take up our cross, and follow Him. (John 9:23)

He calls us to faithful living moment by moment though we know not what the day, the week, or even the next year holds. He calls us to walk by faith because without it, we cannot please Him. He calls us to trust Him with our whole hearts and lean not on our own understanding (or plans for the future). He promises to direct our paths, in HIS timing, as we fix our eyes on the Lord.

I have to remind myself of this so often because I love to be in the "know". I like control. I like to schedule and plan. If I were an Israelite, I would have been begging God for a schedule of when the cloud would rise and settle. I often want to walk by sight instead of faith.

"...remember the former things of old, 
for I am God, and there is no other; 
I am God, and there is none like me, 
declaring the end from the beginning 
and from ancient times things not yet done, 
saying, "My counsel shall stand, 
and I will accomplish all my purpose..."
Isaiah 46:9-10


The end from the beginning... all that was and is and is to come has passed through His sovereign hands. Not one moment of my life will catch Him by surprise or will accomplish a different purpose than the one He intended. My Redeemer is faithful and true....and merciful, kind, and good. I live with the Cloud....and at His command I stay, and when He calls I go. When it comes right down to it, that's all I need to know!