Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Christ IN me!

Do you ever read a book or a chapter and feel like all you do is underline because it's THAT good! Well, chapter 10 of "Practical Theology for Women" by Wendy Alsup has been given much underlining. So has much of her book for that matter! Anyway, she shared a beautiful thought that I wanted to piggy back off of...here is what she says:

"If you belong to God, then you and Christ are supernaturally connected. (Col 1:17) However, instead of seeing ourselves as connected to Christ at all times, we tend to view our... relationship with God in the terms of intersecting moments during the day. We think that the more times our lives intersect with God, the more "spiritual" we are. In this paradigm, God goes on his way, and I go on my way until we intersect at another corner later that day, week, month, or year. Instead, we need to think of ourselves as walking with Jesus continuously, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you are a believer, Christ is with you, in you, holding you together at all times. The goal is for us to be aware of that reality and live in the light of it, for Christ warns us that apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15)."


 I couldn't help but think that this truth of "Christ in us" is very similar to being pregnant. When I was pregnant, I was very much aware that there was a baby growing inside of me. Sure, there were times that I didn't "think about it", caught up in the busyness of the moment. But, on the whole, my thoughts often went to the precious life growing inside. All of my life was filtered through the reality that there was someone inside of me. Should I eat this? Should I rest right now? Would this be good for the baby? What kind of mom would I have been if I didn't live in the light of the reality that there was another little person growing inside my womb?!

Jesus is IN me! My days of pregnancy are but a dim illustration of the magnificent truth that Christ is "with me, in me, holding me together at all times"!! Yet, what kind of Christ follower am I really? How often do I truly walk in that reality? How often are my thoughts, affections, and actions filtered through God's Word and empowered by the Holy Spirit? How often do I abide in His presence and remain in His presence?

I am so thankful that it is CHRIST who is holding on to me! My grasp is often so weak, and my hold easily releases. But I am kept by His power and amazing grace! Truly, thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Greatness was beheaded

I don't know about you, but if you listen to much Christian music on Pandora, or visit your local Christian bookstore, or hang around social media much...it won't take long for you to believe that you were "made for more than ordinary", you "can fly", you "were made for so much more", etc.....

You hear stuff like that for long and you start believing it. You start believing it and you quickly lose your joy when those things don't happen. Then, instead of trust, you start to question. Instead of rest, you grow worried and anxious. Instead of peace, frustration creeps in. All because you listened to others instead of listening to God through His Word.

Oh...and by the way....the "you" tense I keep using should really be "I". How often I believe the lies. How desperately I need to be washed, daily, in the truths of God's Word!

Here is some of the truth that I need to "wash over" me. Jesus said in Luke 7:28 that "among those born of women there was no one greater than John". What happened to John? He was imprisoned and had his head cut off. Forget "made for so much more" , what happened to John is the stuff our nightmares are made up of!!And Jesus said He was the greatest of all born to women?! Of course, John the Baptist stands in a long line of those who lost their lives and endured massive hardships for loving and following Jesus.

All those were following in Jesus' own footsteps, footsteps that walked a life of sacrifice and died as the final Sacrifice so that we could walk in newness of life. Newness of life, though, does not mean prosperity and ease all the rest of our earthly days. It means we are no longer slaves of sin but slaves of Christ. It means we have been adopted into God's family and we are a co-heirs with Christ. It means that all that God does for us, both the joyful and the painful,  is for our good and for His glory. It means that we are indwelt by God Himself through the Holy Spirit and, therefore have ability to live out His fruits, day in and day out, as we deny self, take up our cross, and follow our Savior wherever He leads us....through dirty dishes, arguing kids, and mounds of laundry. Through seasons of joy, laughter, and refreshment. Through sickness, singleness, job loss, chronic pain, and rejection. Through the ordinary and mundane of each and every day. Newness of life means Jesus is enough. Period.

"The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him." Lamentations 3:24

You and I may never be beheaded...but may we live in such a way that we recognize that true "greatness" is having a heart like John the Baptist: "He must increase and I must decrease."

"But the one who boasts should boast in this, that he understands and knows Me - that I am the Lord, showing faithful love, justice, and righteousness on the earth, for I delight in these things declares the Lord."     Jeremiah 9:24

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

If God works all things together for good...then what's wrong with my life?

Romans 8:28...it is a verse I have been chewing on for the past week. I love this verse and will often preach it to my own heart. The problem is, I am defining "good" by my own standard. Good, to me, means it will all "work out" in a Disney movie sort of way. Good, to me, often means life will smooth out and relaxation will come. Good, to me, ...leaves me waiting for the pretty bow on the package...for children to make wise choices, for a husband to understand my every emotional wave and tide, for money issues to disappear. For me, the word "good" is a word I often see in the "prosperity" sense....though I would tell you over and over that I hate the false "prosperity gospel".

I when I preach that type of truth to myself....I am DEAD WRONG.
The "good" of Romans 2:28 is defined in the very next verse! Oh why did we not grow up memorizing them TOGETHER?!

The good that God is working together in my life and in yours (if you are a child of the King), is that He is conforming us to the likeness of Jesus Christ! And He will use whatever it takes to accomplish that purpose and see it to completion. It's a total shift of focus and perspective, isn't it?

I think we are often robbed of so much joy in our Christian walk because we keep looking for physical, tangible, "good" to come out of our trials and pain...and when we don't see it, we lose hope and despair. We may even start to question whether Jesus keeps His promises. Our perspective is skewed so our conclusions will be faulty, as well.

BUT, if we gain a proper perspective....seeing life through the lens of Romans 8:28 AND 29...we have much to rejoice in and can trust fully in the promises of God. We can rest in the fact that there is not one trial, pain, or tear that is wasted. He will finish the good work that He has begun in us (Phil. 1:6) and the good work has nothing to do with material blessings or gifts (though, many times, those are ours in abundance, too!)....the good work is becoming like Jesus...for God's glory and for our ultimate good!

I read a blog post yesterday that took all the thoughts I have been thinking and drove the nail home, so to speak. I couldn't end this blog post better than with the words of Matt Papa:

I have spent too much of my life, and my prayer life, asking for God to lead me into His “perfect will”.  “God lead me”.  “Guide me”.  “Use me”.  “Bless me”.  While I know that God is a gracious, condescending God who meets us wherever we are, I something wonder if God has been up there saying….
“Um…yeah.  I’m Your Shepherd.  That’s what I do.”
So there’s a problem revealed here.  If I really believed that God was good….that He was my dad who was all powerful and all knowing and all loving….then I wouldn’t be repeatedly begging him to lead me with this certain twinge of anxiety.  I would relax.  Dad’s got me.  Chill.
But I don’t believe it, obviously.  And yet the problem goes deeper still.  If the pulse of my prayer life is set on my future (“God lead me guide me help me”), and not on God Himself (“Our Father who art in heaven”) then this has revealed that there is really a rival god in the mix.  An idol.  “Success” or perhaps “Comfort” or “Control”.  I want my best life now, not Jesus.  Really what I have been asking is….”God make my life go perfectly”.  “Make it exceptional.”  “Make my life epic.”
Now….there’s nothing inherently wrong with seeking God’s guidance.  But ask yourself this….”If the world could read my prayer journal….all in all…..would God look more like a genie or a treasure?”
Why are we so obsessed with “it” (God’s will) unless knowing “it” is more desirable to us than knowing “Him”?
Maybe God doesn’t want your life to be epic.  Maybe He wants it to be normal.  Maybe He wants your heart to be epic.  And the path to seeing this accomplished is….your heart made more like his….will actually not come through the achievement of your plans but through their mutilation.  God, for His children, will patiently and lovingly deny them of their desires until what they desire is Him.
“One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.”
What are you seeking?  God or something He can give you.  Your happiness is at stake.  Your soul is at stake.

"Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will not be shaken. My salvation and glory depend on God; my strong rock, my refuge, is in God. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before Him. God is our refuge."      Psalm 62:5-7


   

Saturday, April 19, 2014

If sin lives anywhere, it will crawl everywhere!

Yesterday was Good Friday...and, Lord willing, you had the blessing and opportunity to fellowship with your local church body. To remember, reflect, and rejoice in the great sacrifice Jesus made in giving up His life. It was a privilege for me to sit under my husband's preaching last night. I wish I could do justice to the things God laid on his heart to share by properly writing them down here...but I'll just have to bullet point it for you...I'm still mulling over much of what was said!

-Good Friday is not a funeral...it's a celebration. When an individual dies, fellowship/relationship with them is broken. There is much heartache involved.  When Jesus died, fellowship was restored and made possible for all who believe. We were given access to God Himself! There is much jubilation that should fill our hearts as we ponder that truth!

- The fellowship and relationship with the Father that was made possible through the death of Christ was seen in the tearing of the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple. No more blood sacrifices and no more yearly visits by the high priest. Jesus was the final blood sacrifice and our forever High Priest. Through Christ, we may now "boldly approach the throne" of God!

-And talk about the mercy and grace of God on display. The very first person to have access to that throne was not a Jew, but a Gentile. And not just any Gentile, but a Roman centurion. And not just any Roman centurion, but one of the very ones who crucified the Son of God (Mark 15:39)

"Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments and untraceable His ways!"  Romans 11:33

As I ponder those truths and more, my heart wells with adoration and stands in awe of God's amazing plan and the work of Christ. But my heart also aches. The reason there was broken fellowship, the reason God's wrath was upon me, the reason Christ had to die is because of MY SIN.

Do I realize the weight of that? Do I take my sin seriously?

John MacArthur puts it this way in "Saved Without A Doubt", "Don't make allowances for any sins in your life. Take each one seriously as it comes to light, and deal with it biblically....The seasoned Christian knows that if sin lives anywhere, it will crawl everywhere."

As we bask in the reality of our salvation....of being "called out of darkness into His marvelous light"...may we not forget how dark the darkness is, how real our sin is, and the price our precious Savior paid.

 "He erased the certificate of debt, with it's obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross" (Colossians 2:14).

Friday, April 18, 2014

Tied Up With A Pretty Bow

I have a precious friend who loves using the above expression when describing situations in life. It's a real blessing when joys, events, problems, trials, or any ol' plan comes together in such a way that it's "tied up with a pretty bow". No loose ends, no snags to work out, no rehashing ideas, no figuring out a new course of action, no headaches, no more struggles....just all tied up and ready to go!

I've kind of adopted the saying myself. I like the mental image that it brings to my mind and I like the decluttering that my head and heart feel when I can "box up" something I have been working on or working through. Especially when it's wrapped up in a pretty bow! :)

But as she knows, I know, and all of you know...more often than not, there is no pretty bow. In fact, often the box is not even sealed, the contents are spilling out everywhere, and it's hard to see through the mess or even know what to do with the mess. Our plans have come undone, the to-do list is growing not shrinking, one of our kids is being defiant, the washer breaks down with a load in it and no money to fix it, the future looks unsure and unsettling, the getaway we planned is spoiled by a bout of the flu....and on and on it goes....right?!

What do I do when all I can see are open boxes and no pretty bows in sight?

The answer is as simple as the mess is messy! REST in the reality that God IS.

One of the names for God as seen in Exodus 3 is "I AM". God is not God of the past only but of the present and the future as well. He is an active God...actively at work in the lives of His children every second of every moment of every day of our lives. In her book "Practical Theology for Women" Wendy Alsup has some great thoughts on this:

"When God heats up our lives working out our pride, selfishness, and general wrong thinking, the resulting purified life is so much sweeter"

She asks several questions that helped me gauge where my own heart is at in the midst of the boxes:

"Do you believe that He is good? Do you believe His promise to work the hard things for good in your life? Do you trust that He is acting consistently with His claims of love for you? Simply put, do you believe Him? And in that dark moment, are you going to let your belief in His goodness or your despair over your struggle lead you? Truly, those who lose their lives in the arms of God's grace are the ones who finally see what true living really is."

Instead of trying to fix everything and manipulate my circumstances....or fall into discouragement and lose hope and peace...I can just REST. Rest in the sovereignty and promises of the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Rest in the knowledge that I could gain the whole world and have all of life wrapped up in bows...but if I don't have Christ, I have nothing. Rest in the assurance and great hope that God will complete the good work He has started in me. Because, one day, my faith will be made sight and I will see how every box of testing, pain, and struggle was used for my good and His glory.

And no matter what today brings or what tomorrow holds, I can rest in the joy of knowing that my entire life is wrapped in the precious "bow" of Christ's righteousness...a righteousness that was secured by His life, death, and resurrection.

There is no need to battle for bows....the victory has already been won!









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!!!!