Perfect Love for a Broken World

Easter is always a time to reflect upon love. For it was a perfect love that compelled one who lived a perfect life to be sacrificed for all of us to inherit eternal life.

This is a broken and cursed world and we are all sinners. Even so, Christ Jesus loved us so much that he gave his life for us. He didn’t wait for us to come to Him or to get our act together. He takes us all as we are and, through His love, we are changed and renewed.

As I reflect upon everything that goes on in this broken world, I am thankful for the perfect love of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Cross on Stage

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Another year comes to a close

As another year comes to a close, I wanted to take some time to reflect on the past year. I feel like I let the whole year slip away without really accomplishing much in my life; like I’m just watching it pass by, rather than really living it. The things that should be most important always seem to take the back seat.

I’ve enjoyed watching both my children grow, seeing my daughter get her first pointe shoes, and watching my son’s hair grow into an uncontrollable curly mass (he says he’ll get it cut in February). I’ve assisted my husband through his usual duties of Bible study leadership and Mexico mission trips, as well as giving moral support as he works his way through college courses. I even tried oil painting!

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I’m hoping that in the new year I’ll be able to spend some time on myself to grow spiritually and physically healthier. I really want this to be the year that I get into the good habits of reading my Bible and exercising daily. I’d like to possibly start a journal. I definitely want to make this blog more of a priority and try to post more regularly.

Happy New Year to all my fellow WordPressers. May God bless you and your families this coming year.

Craving Philippians 1:27

Our church is doing a Bible study, we’re calling Crave. One of the verses we’re studying this week is Philippians 1:27 and I just wanted to share my thoughts about this verse.

“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Philippians 1:27

My translation of this verse: In all circumstances (good, bad, neutral), control my behavior in a way that’s appropriate to my citizenship of heaven and that will serve to spread the good news of my savior.

For me, this is one of those verses that reminds me of how much more our actions, than our words, can speak for us. If our behavior stays constant even through oppression or attack, it is a larger message about the gospel of our salvation and how we portray our “king” to others.

It can, definitely, be a convicting verse if – like me – you find yourself doing things contrary to what you know to be right (gossiping, for example). I can, so easily, fall prey to my circumstances and become bitter and angry or speak with a venomous tongue about something I don’t like, especially if I feel it’s some kind of injustice.

This is not to say that our actions do all our “preaching” for us. I think, though, when people see either the changes in us from the Holy Spirit or see us handle all circumstances with a strong faith and remain joyful, they will want to know our “secret.” This is one of the ways that doors can open for us to spread the gospel to those around us and to share where our hope and joy comes from. Even if they don’t choose God immediately, I believe our actions can have a lasting effect on people and that, in time, they may also choose to accept salvation.

We are not daughters and sons of a pauper, we are daughters and sons of a king and as we move through his kingdom, we should portray the love, grace, forgiveness, and compassion that our king extends to us. In so doing, we can be the light that we’re called to be.

Stained Glass CrossDear Lord,

I know I fall short, many times, and do not conduct myself in a manner worthy of Your gospel. Please help me to slow down and consider not only my actions, but my words, and how they can affect those around me, for good or bad. Let the words that fall from my mouth be as sweet as honey and no longer bitter as vinegar. Touch my heart each day, as I awake, to remind me that I’m a daughter of an almighty king, so that I may carry myself as such throughout the day and shine Your light into this world. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

Contemplating Conformity

When did I start blending in? I know when I was in school, I never cared to fit in. I enjoyed being different from everyone else, even though it meant that I had few friends.

Somewhere along the way of getting into the work world, getting married, and having kids, I now find myself stuck in a river of people, all going and doing the same things.

I find myself contemplating my conformity after reading Radical by David Platt. I’ve gotten sucked into the subtly dangerous American Dream. As he puts it, “While the goal of the American Dream is to make much of us, the goal of the gospel is to make much of God.” (pg. 47) Even as Christians, we can all get so caught up in our accomplishments, wealth, and delusions of self-importance that we forget what our true mission is and we forget to include God in any of our planning. We blend in with the rest of society and dilute the true message of the Bible to make it more palatable to others.

I see how I am especially prone to conformity at work, where I find that I value a steady paycheck more than my faith; an unfortunate truth I loathe to admit. I’m so worried about taking care of myself and my family that I leave no room for God’s provision in my life. I don’t stand up for things I know aren’t right because I don’t fully trust in the God that I say I believe in.

Do I not trust God because I am fearful, stubborn, or ignorant? Perhaps it’s a bit of them all. I am fearful to trust because human sinfulness has broken my trust in the past. Because I’m afraid, I am stubborn about releasing control of my life to another, even to a good and loving God. Perhaps my ignorance of all that the Bible says God is causes me to be fearful and stubborn. And so, the deadly cycle goes on.

I need to break this cycle by first tackling the ignorance. I need to earnestly seek after the Lord, through His Word. As I begin to learn and understand more about the nature of God, the fear to trust will subside. As the fear subsides, the stubbornness to let go will melt away. It is my hope that with a correct trust in God, I will be free to be the radical, true Christian He calls us all to be.

What about you?

If, like me, you have God trust issues, I invite you to find a Bible reading plan (plenty to be found online) and read through the Bible with me. Post a comment to let me know you’re joining in.

If you’re now in a place where you trust God, I invite you to share a bit of your journey in the comments section.

God bless!

The Discipline of Difficulty

In the world ye shall have tribulation:
but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
JOHN 16:33

An average view of the Christian life is that it means deliverance from trouble. It is deliverance in trouble, which is very different. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High…there shall no evil befall thee” – no plague can come nigh the place where you are at one with God.

If you are a child of God, there certainly will be troubles to meet, but Jesus says do no be surprised when they come. “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world, there is nothing for your to fear.” Men who before they were saved would scorn to talk about troubles, often become “fushionless” after being born again because they have a wrong idea of a saint.

God does not give us overcoming life: He gives us life as we overcome. The strain is the strength. If there is no strain, there is no strength. Are you asking God to give you life and liberty and joy? He cannot, unless you will accept the strain. Immediately you face the strain, you will get the strength. Overcome your own timidity and take the step, and God will give you to eat of the tree of life and you will get nourishment. If you spen yourself out physically, you become exhausted; but spend yourself spiritually, and you get more strength. God never gives strength for tomorrow, or for the next hour, but only for the strain of the minute. The temptation is to face difficulties from a commonsense standpoint. The saint is hilarious when he is crushed with difficulties because the thing is so ludicrously impossible to anyone but God.

(Chambers, Oswald. My Utmost for His Highest. The Classic Edition, August 2 entry. Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour Publishing, Inc., 1963.)

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As I read this entry today, I was struck by how true his statements are, even now. So many people become Christians thinking it will make all their problems go away. They, then, quickly fall away when troubles continue to come. I love the line above, “God does not give us overcoming life: He gives us life as we overcome.” The troubles that we have to work through and see through are what will shape us into the Christians we should become; full of the life that was promised through Jesus Christ. It also brought to mind the verses in Romans 5 about perseverance and hope.

3  Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4  and endurance, character, and character, hope. 5  And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (NET)

Instead of grumbling about trials and troubles, we should remember that they are there because of God’s love for us and what He wants us to become.

Dear Lord, I pray that next time troubles come, I will remember Your love for me and what you’re shaping me to be. Please let me face those troubles with your strength and joy, so that I can reflect Your light into this dark world. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

Test me in this…

In Malachi 3:10, God invites his people to test him. It’s the only place in the Bible where He specifically tells his people to test him. Though it sounds like we get to test Him, really it’s us who are getting tested; tested in our faith. Will we believe in Him and follow his commands or will we cling to the temporary and believe it’s the way to security and happiness?

Some years ago, my husband and I decided we would take God up on his offer to test Him. We had been giving to church, yes, but not very much. We gave what we felt like we could manage. After all, we had credit card debt that somehow kept growing and growing, no matter how hard we tried to get it paid off. We felt financially squeezed, but decided to go forward and see what would come from this test. We figured out what our 10% was and began giving it each week.

I’ll be honest, some weeks it was downright painful to write out those checks, but over the months – and years, even – God had been working in our hearts and shifting our priorities. By putting Him first, all other financial priorities started falling into place. No longer were the balances on those credit cards going up, they were going down and eventually were completely paid off. This is not to say that we’re perfect, because it’s easy to get complacent and be lulled back into bad habits on occasion.

Admittedly, there are days even now when I’ll look at the checkbook balance and cringe as I write that check, out of future worries, but that doesn’t stop me from writing it (and a few more these days). Yes, there are days when I feel like our bag has holes in it and the financial experts say we need to have more in savings and be putting away for the kids’ college educations. But then the neighbor stops by, again, with  a ton of bread or other food they’ve received to pass out to the neighborhood because it’s more than they need and they give us so much that we pass some on to friends at work, rather than letting it spoil at our house.

To most people, our bank accounts might not show that we’re blessed, but our cupboards and our refrigerator are sometimes overflowing with His blessings. We don’t have the latest this or that, but our kids aren’t worried about their next meal or the roof over their heads, and both of us have kept our jobs through all the economic turmoil of the past few years. We have been blessed with great friendships coming from the Growth Groups we joined and led as well.

No, not all blessings are meant to be financial in nature and some blessings, like friendships, are more precious than gold. Anyone who says that blessings are all financial are not telling you God’s truth. And I’m not telling this story to say, “Look at me!” but rather to share one story of His blessings that came when the faith came first.

What about you? If you’re a Christian, what keeps you from tithing? Will you, now, test Him and see what blessings He has for you?

Will you love God or money?

Doubt and Insecurity

I am leading a Bible study group on a book titled, A Confident Heart: How to Stop Doubting Yourself and Live in the Security of God’s Promises, by Renee Swope of Proverbs 31 Ministries. I was writing out the answer to the following question, and decided to post my answer here as a blog post.

Question: Do you ever feel like you are the only one who struggles with insecurity or doubt? Why or why not?

I thought this was a “funny” question to choose, considering I thought most of us [in the group] would say “yes” and “no” as an answer.

I know for me, obviously, I’m not the only one who struggles. I know that everyone struggles, to some degree, with an insecurity or doubt in their life.

But, there are those times when I’m feeling really depressed and I feel like I’m the only one in the world who must feel that way; that no one else is in as deep a pit as I am as I try to scratch and claw my own way out.

As I write this, I am reminded that Jesus too, must have felt some insecurity and doubt as he prepared to give his life for us. Why else would he pray to have “this cup removed from me”? (Matthew 26:39) It is a reminder that He, too, faced many of the same problems and feelings as we face and that He understands our hearts.

Verses 1-3 in Psalm 40 also come to mind, when I think about trying to find my own way out life’s “pits.”

1 I relied completely on the LORD,
and he turned toward me
and heard my cry for help.
2  He lifted me out of the watery pit,
out of the slimy mud.
He placed my feet on a rock
and gave me secure footing.
3  He gave me reason to sing a new song,
praising our God.
May many see what God has done,
so that they might swear allegiance to him and trust in the LORD!

We may continue to study the Bible, and other books, in an effort to find our way permanently into the light, but we need to remember that many times we must cry for help [pray] to have the strength to endure the journey from the pit and to keep standing in the Truth, even when doubt and insecurities try to take us over and send us back in.

Let us pray…

Dear Lord, you know our hearts; you know our doubts and insecurities. As we study your Word, we cry out for help. Please lift us out of our “pits” and place our feet on secure footing. Give us the strength to continue to stand, even when we feel like falling down. Please help us to overcome our doubts and insecurities and give us a new song of praise to You. Help us to shine Your light so that others will see You and praise You. In Jesus’ name. AMEN!