Category Archives: Church

prison clothes and the King’s table

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ever feel like you are underdressed for an occasion?  you show up for a party in jeans and a sweater and everyone else is dressed up?  imagine that the President invites you to the White House for a dinner party… would you show up in jeans?  of course not.  You would be embarrased if you were so drastically underdressed and i’m sure you’d feel very out of place. 

growing up for the first 20 years of my life in mostly fundamentalist churches, I often heard something like this as an encouragement to wear your best clothes to church on Sunday… to dress up when you come into the presence of the King to show reverence and respect.

but the reality is, God looks much deeper than the outward appearance and examines what is truly at the heart level.   I am not saying it is wrong to wear nice clothes to church, but personally, I am not of the conviction that God is impressed by my pantyhose and knee-length skirt.  He is impressed by a heart of humility that seeks to serve his Body and worship Him for His holiness. 

but all too often I am tempted to think that because God looks on the heart, I am in trouble.  that He knows my sin and I often feel ashamed to stand before the King with prison clothes on my heart.  Aware of His holiness, my sin can feel so condemning and overwhelming.

I’m so grateful for times when God reminds me that this simply is not true.  That Jesus died not only to save me from hell, but to release the chains that are around my heart that is so prone to sin.  I am not captive to those sins anymore.  Those prison clothes are not what defines my heart.  My heart has been changed and is now ruled by Jesus Christ.

but it often doesn’t feel like that does it?  condemnation.  shame.  regret.  fear.  those things can often overcloud the 3 words so precious to me:  “it is finished.”  as Martin Lloyd Jones stated in his book Spiritual Depression, its exactly at those times that I need to stop listening to myself and start talking to myself… to start talking truth from God’s Word. 

Several years ago, I read through the Bible in 3 months.  There were a few passages that jumped out to me at that time.  One was the first five verses of Zechariah 3…

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by.

I shared this passage in Care Group Friday night along with an impression that God wanted to encourage those in the group that struggle with this very thought… with the thought of standing before God in our prison rags… that He wants to remind us that through the blood of Jesus Christ, we are accepted… our clothes are changed, our chains are gone and we are invited in as a child of God as a result of His amazing grace.

Yesterday at church, it was encouraging to see the Holy Spirit move.  Someone came up during worship and shared the exact same passage… Zechariah 3:1-5 and the exact same encouragement to the body of Christ.  It edified my heart to see God working in various means to build up and refresh his church.  And from such an “obscure” passage… 

After care group on Friday, someone shared with me another passage along the same lines… 2 Kings 25:29:

So Jehoiachin put off his prison garments. And every day of his life he dined regularly at the king’s table.

I think this accurately displayes who we are in Christ.  I pray that God encourages each of you who know Him with the hope found in the truth that we were… “once your enemy, now seated at your table.”  Jesus, thank you.

through many dangers, toils, and snares

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lately it seems i’ve been connected with and talked in detail to many other folks who suffer with severe, chronic physical pain.  this has had a two-fold effect on my soul.  first, it has encouraged me.   its helpful at times like this, when just getting out of bed is a challenge, to be reminded that I’m not alone.  i’m not the only one with undiagnosed issues and with the fears, pains and sorrow that accompanies these pains.  the thoughts and fears swarming my mind are not unique to me. 

I really do find much comfort in knowing this, for one thing that chronic pain does is make you feel isolated.  Its easy to think that no one understands my pain.  No one understands what I’m going through, etc…  How grateful I am to God for the reminder that these thoughts simply are not true.  He has placed me in a body where there are many others who not only understand, but who pray for me as I pray for them… who encourage me in my weakness and who point me to Jesus. 

My friends are much like the friends of the paralyzed man in the New Testament.  He couldn’t walk to Jesus, so they carried him.  My friends have carried me lately through car rides when I was too weak or dizzy to drive, through meals when I have been too tired to cook and through prayers when all I  seemed to have the energy to do was cry.  Thank you.

But on the other hand, the more i talk with other folks who suffer with chronic pain, the more my heart breaks.  I hate to see the rampant effects of sin.  I hate to see the sorrow and trials and fears that are simply part of day to day life.  the more i see suffering here, the more i long for the day when my Jesus will come back to judge evil and wipe all tears away… not just my countless tears, but the tears of my sweet friends as well… the tears of Jess C, Charissa, Jenn S, Missy, Wendy, Jess B, Sarah and so many others. 

And then to add on to the physical pain, I could list so many who have suffered in other awful ways as well…miscarriages, death, abuse, persecution, broken hearts, divided families… this world is a violent place.  But we have the promise that Jesus will wipe all tears away … what sweet hope and comfort I find in those words.

oh come Lord Jesus.  Come and rescue your Bride from this fallen world of suffering and shame.  Come in mercy to give eternal hope to your children who eagerly await their inheritance.  Come and rescue those like Gao Zhisheng who are imprisoned and beaten for your sake.  Come and give comfort to the fatherless, hope to the barren, comfort the widow with your presence, and come and give trust and peace to those like me who often live in fear of the unknown (or in regret and shame to the past).

but until that day, I will hold on to you.  Until the day you answer that prayer (could it please be today?), I will continue to cling with my feeble fingers to the ledge of your great grace.  I will hold fast to the One who will never let me go.  I will follow the example of the one who suffered in my place.  Give me grace to not grow weary as I seek to follow you.  Keep my eyes riveted on your grace when my sins begin to overwhelm me.  Grant hope … as you’ve promised is the result for enduring trials with a steadfast heart.

Oh God, my heart is steadfast on you.  You are the only hope for my life.  I am looking to you to satisfy, not to what makes sense to me.  Please, won’t you give my weary heart some hope?  You have consistently shown me hope and you have faithfully given me comfort and steadfast love.  Be faithful to once again answer my prayer.  Let my weariness find rest in you.  And care for my friends… remind them also of your unending love and care.

comfort

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Many are the afflictions of the righteous but the Lord delivers him out of them all.

 Listen to me o house of Jacob and all the remnant of the house of Israel.  You have been born by me from birth and I have carried you from the womb.  Even to your old age I will be the same. And even until your graying years I will bear you.  I have done it. I will carry you and I will bear you and I will deliver you.

 He who began a good work in me will complete it.

 Neither death nor hell can separate me from the love of Christ.

 The Lord is my helper. I will not fear.

 For God alone, o my soul, wait in silence.  He only is my Rock, my Fortress and my Deliverer.  I shall not be greatly shaken.

 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.  Therefore we will not fear though the earth be shaken, though the mountains crumble into the sea.

 Come to me all you who are weary and burdened down and I will give you rest.

 I the God of Israel will not forsake them.

 Fear not, do not be dismayed. For I am your God. I will strengthen you, yea, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

 Since then we have a great high priest, who is able to sympathize with our weakness, let us draw near, with hearts sprinkled clean by the blood of Christ, to find mercy and help in our time of need.

 “It is finished.”

 “I will, be clean.”

 In according to your steadfast love, blot out my transgressions.

 He drew me up out of the pit of destruction, set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.

 He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.  And though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.  For you are with me.

 The Lord is my light and my salvation. The Lord is my strength and my song.

 And we know that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame

Let us not grow weary in well doing.  For in due season we will reap if we faint not.

Put on the whole armor of Christ, that we may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  And having done all, stand firm.

When I am afraid I will put my trust in you.

Therefore my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing your labor is not in vain.

My grace is sufficient for you.  My power will be made perfect in your weariness.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go. I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

Good and upright is the Lord, therefore He instructs sinners in the way.

Be content with what you have. For He has said “I will never leave you or forsake you.”  Therefore we can confidently say “the Lord is my helper. I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

Consider your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you.  Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

Now to Him who is able to keep you from falling, to the only wise God, be glory, dominion and power forevermore.

The Lord God is a sun and shield.  The Lord will give grace and glory. No good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly.

my brain has stopped working

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you know how if you’re running 15 different programs on one computer that after a while it just stops working due to an overload?  yup, that’s where my head is at.  there have been so many things happen in the past week that have been so encouragaing, challenging, etc that I don’t even know how to put it all into words effectively.

so instead of sharing every one of them, i’ll pick one thing that God did that really really encouraged me this past Sunday.

two weeks ago was the first sunday that our church had a prophecy mic.  for those of you who may not be familiar with this, it is a mic at the front of the auditorium, where folks are encouraged to come and share something that they believe God has given them for mutual encouragement.  its evaluated by a pastor and if it fits with the flow of the service, then it will be shared for all to hear.  Sometimes its a verse, sometimes a picture, sometimes an encouragement…

well, sunday 2 weeks ago, I felt that God wanted me to share a particular verse from Romans.  but i wasn’t sure if it was me or if it was really from God.  so i waited.  i waited until the last song and at that point it was clear that if I didn’t go up then it would be an act of disobedience.  so i went, and Jim encouraged me that it fit perfectly, but due to time constraints, that he was going to ask me not to share this week.

fast forward one week… this past Sunday.  during the second song, I saw this picture in my mind of foks standing by a waterfall.  some of the group were enjoying the rush of the waterfall while others were standing by, simply observing.  i felt that this was a picture of worship that morning, that there were many (myself included) that were struggling for one reason or another (be it guilt over sin or just plain weariness) and were having a hard time “jumping in” and finding their hope in God.  and then God reminded me the verse in Hebrews that encourages us to come boldly and find grace and mercy in our time of need. 

I felt pretty strongly that this picture was from the Lord but I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to share.  So as I was praying about this, I felt God say “no, you’re not supposed to share…someone else is going to say this in about 5 minutes and I just wanted to let you know as well so that when this happens you will find yourself encouraged.”  So I went back to my struggle of half-hearted worship. 

About a song and 1/2 later, Dale Cook came forward and shared a picture he had of a waterfall and of folks standing on the sideline hesitating to jump in.  he encouraged us that all we really needed to do was just jump… not anazlyze our sin or what needs to change but rather just approach God and worship boldly, knowing our confidence is through Jesus Christ.

I was blown away.  I can’t even tell you how encouraged that was for me to hear.  Not only was it encouraging just to hear Dale share it, but it was so personal, to have God share this with my heart not 5 minutes earlier.  Worship, and the rest of the day was a struggle for me still to some degree.  but God was intentional on encouraging me and helping my weak fragile faith to grow… to grow in my confidence in Him.

grace… and your deepest darkest secret…

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so last night at care group i was freshly reminded of grace… God’s grace to me, an undeserving sinner.

During worship, it seemed each song was a reminder of how faithful God is in the midst of our failures.  I had talked with my care group leader, Matt, a while ago about sharing a specific area of my life where God had been at work.  But its an area that has been well hidden.  its an area that is combined with much shame and fear on my part.  Yet, somehow, its an area of my life that God is working to redeem.  And though my own sinful desires would rather not share it, I knew last night that God was calling me to.  He was calling me to open up and share things I didn’t know how it would be received.  And He was calling me to do this and trust in Him to deliver me of fear and shame.

I’m honestly not sure what all I said.  What I remember is that after I shared, one of my friends asked if they could pray for me.  So, everyone gathered around and prayed that God would work as a result.  I was so encouraged, I can’t even begin to put it into words.  I am so grateful for the gift that God has given me through my friends at my church.  I pray that God would be at work in our group, in allowing us to grow together on a deep level, so that we know no matter what, that God is our hope.

After care group, I can’t tell you the number of people that came and thanked me.  So, God is already at work.  Somehow through my sin and lack of trust and failure over and over again, HE is receiving much glory.  And comforting my heart too.

I was reminded of an amazing passage yesterday… Psalm 78.  It talks about the Children of Israel, and just how many times they turned away.  But the focus isn’t just there…According to verses 1-7, the story is meant to be told so that people would set their hope in God, not forget His works and so that they would keep His commandments.  Its not a story of the Israelite’s failure as much as its a story of God’s faithfulness.

“They forgot His works and the wonders that he has shown them… He split rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep.  He made streams come out of the rock and caused waters to flow down like rivers.  Yet they sinned still more against Him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert.  They tested God in their hearts by demanding food they craved.  They spoke against God saying “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?  He struck the rock so that water gushed out and streams overflowed.  Can He also give bread or provide meat for His people?”  Therefore, when the Lord heard, he was full of wrath… because they did not believe in God and did not trust His saving power.  Yet he commanded the skies above and opened the doors of heaven… he sent them food in abundance…and they ate and were well filled… but while the food was still in their mouths…despite the wonders, they did not believe…

their heart was not steadfast toward him, they were not faithful to his covenant.  YET HE, being compassionate atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath.  He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and comes not again. How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert.  They tested God again and again and provoked the Holy One of Israel.  They did not remember his power or the day when He redeemed them from the foe…but He led out his people like sheep and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.  He led them in safety so that they were not afraid…Yet they tested and rebelled against the most High God and did not keep his testimonies…but He chose the tribe of Judah… which He loves.  He chose David his servant and took Him from the sheepfolds; from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people… With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with His skillful hand.”

I’m so glad my God is faithful.  I’m so glad my growth to become more like Him is not dependent on my effort alone. I fail every day. But I’m so glad that my God leads and guides me gently, provides for me in my need and comforts me in my weakness and despair.

the last 18 months… and a very faithful God

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I just want to take a second and look back to remember what God has done, specifically over the last 15 months of my life. All too often, I get discouraged by an apparent lack of growth or what I perceive as changing too slowly. But God in His faithfulness is training me and keeping me at this marathon pace, though my heart would rather be zooming along at a sprinters pace.

February ‘08 – on Sunday, February 24th, during worship rehearsal, Katie Britt came up to me with a little piece of paper. On the paper were these words… “His strength is made perfect in weakness.” Little did I know how those words would define the next season of my life. I woke up the next day with a splitting pain in my head. Imagine a migraine. Then make it exponentially worse. That day was the start of many long and painful months ahead… months of confusion, months of crying out to God, and months of things just seeming to only get worse. This month also was when I began writing poems.

March ’08 – On March 7th, I had my first MRI of my brain. I was terrified and in so much pain that I didn’t know how I would stay still throughout the procedure. And since the doctors were running ahead of schedule there was no time for sedation. God brought to mind the passage of 1st Peter 1 that I had just memorized. He reminded me that He was working… that He had a plan for me (an inheritance that is sure) and that even in my current trial, that His goal is that my faith and hope would rest in God… my loving Father. It was a sweet time, yet I was overwhelmed and confused as to what God was doing.

April ’08 – I had to stop teaching German. The migraines continued. I lost count of the doctors I visited and the tests that were run. There seemed to be no answers.  And though my body was exhausted, sleep wouldn’t come.  Matt preached a sermon that when God brings us into the waves, He is always behind us, holding us secure. He won’t let us drown. He is doing this because He cares for us and wants us to know the freedom found in trusting Him.

May ’08 – May was a month of answered prayers.     I got a new position at work, which was an answer to several years of praying.  I was diagnosed with and treated for a bacterial infection in my brain (similar to meningitis), which had been one cause of the migraines.  I think God was just reminding me here of His faithfulness… and that He hadn’t forgotten me.  However, May was also a month of new trials.  I became very sick with what I thought was the stomach flu.  New Attitude (singles conference) was a struggle.  I had gone expecting great things from God.  I left disappointed that there was no “thunder and lightning” simply a “I’m faithful… trust Me.”

June ’08 – I found out in June, shortly after my 27th birthday that I am allergic to dairy, wheat, oats, food dye and several other things.  Unfortunately I found this out the hard way, after weeks of not being able to keep food down.  On June 26th, my good friends Dave and Melissa lost their baby.  Melissa was 6 ½ months pregnant and went into labor.  I will never forget singing “blessed be your name” while standing in front of a casket not more than 1’x2’.  Their steadfast faith through that unthinkable trial encouraged me to keep looking to our loving Father, no matter what.

July ’08 – on Sunday July 13th, I was baptized.  July was a month of trying to figure out what I could eat and what makes me sick.  My grandparents celebrated their 53rd wedding anniversary.  Doctors visits continued.  Migraines started coming back as I was testing food options.  July was a month of learning that blessing and suffering go hand in hand.

August ’08 – August was the month of diagnoses.  The doctors found out that what I thought was a stomach flu back in May, was actually salmonella food poisoning from a puffed wheat cereal.  This was a mixed blessing because though it threw my body into overload, the doctors were able to also diagnose that I have Celiacs disease, something that has gone undiagnosed for about 10 years.  This month was another month of physical weakness.  I had no energy and constant migraines.  The Worship God conference was encouraging and this month began my study of the Psalms.  The Psalms CD quickly became one of my favorites.  At the worship conference, I was able to see God miraculously heal my friend Dave Johnson, after suffering for many years with kidney stones.  Still to this day, he has not had one!

September ’08 – Migraines began getting worse.  Due to the fact that you can’t take migraine medicine every day, the doctor put me on an anti-seizure med that is effective for treating migraines.  After a few increases in the doseage, the migraines began subsiding.  This was a month of ups and downs, along with very little sleep.  September was also the month I decided to move from living with a family in the church to getting an apartment with two friends.  Emotionally, there were many struggles, as I was working through where God was leading me to.

October ’08 – I started having some severe reactions to the medicine and the doctors had to quickly take me off, depsite the risk of seizures.  This was one of the scariest times I have ever faced, not sure what was happening, if I was dying or what to do.  Thankfully, my pastors were extremely helpful in reminding me of my hope in God, the God who knows all, is in control of all and who loves me.  The doctors changed my medicine and I only got worse.  I met with my pastors one afternoon and they prayed that God would heal me.  Sleep was unknown at this point now.  Oh, and on top of that there was the physical and emotional stress of moving, yet again…for the 7th time in 5 years.

November ’08 – November was a hard month with relationships.  And with dealing through issues from my past.  I found a new doctor who diagnosed me with sleep apnea, and a severe vitamin B deficiency.  We were able to take me off all the migraine meds, except to treat the occasional migraine.  I am grateful to have found this new doctor.  I am grateful because slowly, it seems that God began healing my weak and dying body.  I didn’t know He was just beginning to work on the heart and emotions.

December ’08 – if i had to summarize December it would be “face your fears.”  December was a difficult month as I continued working through some pains from my past, thanks to the help of Matt and Julie.  My body continued to improve.  I started having more energy, but still wasn’t sleeping.  In December, the doctor did a second sleep test. Oh, and during my Christmas break from work, I almost died of carbon monoxide poisoning and an allergic reaction to wheat.  Both in the same week.  It was a draining week.

January ’09 – As the new year began, I was continually reminded of the word “peace.”  I was reminded that God is the One who brings peace and that this was His goal for me in the coming months… to learn peace, not because there are no storms, but because I am held by the God who controls those storms.  “the flame shall not hurt you I only design your dross to consume and your gold to refine.”  God seemed to be saying that the coming months would be a clear picture of God’s care and a refining of my dross.

February ’09 – in February I took a trip to Charlotte NC to visit a friend.  I was encouraged to realize that some of my sin struggles are the same things she struggles with.  I felt God say that this weekend would be pivotal in freeing me from certain sins and strongholds in my life.  I returned home, only to fail.  As I saw those waves of condemnation crashing down, I again became very discouraged with my lack of trust and faith in God.  And the emotional scars continued and in some ways only seemed to increase.

March ’09 – God continued to remind me that He brings beauty from pain.  And that my life, which has involved a good deal of pain, is meant to bring Him glory.  Each step I’ve taken and each tear I’ve cried was not lost to His care and love.  As my hours kept getting cut at work due to the economy, I found trusting in that love a struggle.  But I remembered where I was a year ago, in the tube for the MRI, and was refreshed to remember that my God is providing for me.  Since I still wasn’t sleeping, the doctor put me on a sleep med, for the next 3 months to try to train my body to sleep again.

April ’09 – Migraines are more an occasional occurance now instead of a daily trial.  Physically the changes in my body have been phenomenal since last October when my pastors prayed for God’s merciful healing hand to touch me.  I’m even training for a half marathon at the end of this summer!  Lord willing, I’ll have the physical strength to make that goal a reality.  The struggles to trust God to provide financially became greater as I saw to greater depths the mess I’ve created.  I was confronted about a relationship issue that I had left unresolved.  God used that to show me grace in a new and special way.  I was surprised to see such grace to me… a clearly undeserving sinner.  God overwhelmed me with that grace.

May ’09 – Again, God has overwhelmed me with His grace.  I’ve had many nights of restful sleep.  He has provided for me financially in some spectacular ways and has again and again proven Himself to be my faithful Provider.  I’m also amazed at what a gift my friends are and how God has used them to show me His care.  They have sacrificed so much just to simply show me God’s love.  I’m grateful… and overwhelmed.

So, that’s the last 18 months.  I don’t know what the next ones will contain.  But I know that the faithful God who has carried me through many physical, emotional and financial pains time after time, will continue to carry me through every storm He has ordained for me.  I continue to struggle with fear… fear of the unknown, fear of future pain.  But God is faithful in comforting me with the truth that no matter what trials come, He is with me.

who were you five years ago?

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yesterday when I was meeting with Matt (my pastor) we were talking about God’s power to change lives.  Often I feel that its up to me to change myself… that its up to my great faith (oh wait, i don’t have that).  I get discouraged when change doesn’t happen as quickly as I think it should.  I feel like I’m letting God down by not “holding up my part of the bargain.”  After all, He saved me, its my job to “return the favor” by living for Him, right? 

As I’m writing this, it seems absurd to think this way.  Yet I find this thinking is so pervasive in my life.  When things are hard, I naturally assume that its because I did something wrong or failed to trust God fully or that its judgment for something I did wrong in my past.  And when things go well, I assume its because I did something right and God is pleased therefore He makes my life easy.

So Matt asked me to list ways that I am different from 5 years ago.  He wanted to know specifics of what has changed and what caused those changes.  To be honest with you I didn’t know where to start…   Really the only thing that is the same now is my name.  And the fact that I’m employed full time.  But even where I’m employed is different. 

Here are a 5 things that have changed in my life in the last 5 years:
1.  Five years ago I did not care about God.  I did not love God.  Today, I’m aware my love for Him is very small, very imperfectly offered and not nearly as passionate as it should be, but I do in fact love Him.  And my desire is to love Him more and more each day. 

2.  Five years ago, my desires, passions and lusts controlled every aspect of my life.  I lived for what I wanted.  I did what I wanted.  I didn’t care who didn’t like it.  But God drew me to Him by showing me His kindness.  He showed me that His love is so far superior to the desires of my flesh.  He gave me a hope that was so far greater than sex, drugs and uncontrolled passion.  I want to know this God who gave so much to prove His love for me.

3.  Five years ago, I was a thief, drunk, druggie, controlled by the passions of my flesh.  I was controlled by my sins.  I could do nothing other than carry out those desires.  But God grabbed me from that slavery.  He showed me immesurable kindness.  He gave me this gift, changed my desires and now I can say that none of those desires control my life.  That’s not who I am anymore. 

4.  Five years ago, when I first began coming to Sovereign Grace Church, it was because they had something to offer me.  I could get something from them.  They gave me free meals, they gave me intelligent (well, sometimes) conversations, they gave me friendship.  And they asked nothing in return.  I came for what I could get from them.  And for several years, I simply came and took.  Today, by God’s grace, I still am receiving so many benefits from my friends but now I actually call them friends.  And I try to be a friend to them as well.  I desire to pass along the same kindness and mercy they showed over the past five years.  I desire to reconcile when differences arise.  It is a highlight of my week to talk each Sunday with my dear, sweet friends, pray with and for them and serve them in many little ways.  Again, I’m aware that I still take more than I give, but its only by God’s grace that I’m there at all… and that I’m giving at all.  So, that gives me faith that one day I’ll give more… more freely and with more joy.

5.  Five years ago, life was about me.  I’m often tempted to despair because I see so much of my life is still about me.  And I know that needs to change.  But five years ago, my heart desired only to serve myself.  After God captured my heart and offered me salvation, my desire is now to live my life for Him.  And I know that desire didn’t start with me.

 

So, there you have it… a brief snapshot of what God has done.  Matt then reminded me that everything I had just told him was all a work of God’s grace alone.  I did nothing to change myself.  Every change that has happened in the past 5 years was a result of His loving hand working in my life.  It wasn’t because I desired to change or because I made myself change.  I can claim no part in those changes.  They are all a work of God’s grace.  He went on to read Galatians 3 where Paul asks the Galatians if they are so foolish to really believe that what God started they must now finish.  Matt then reminded me that, just like the Galatians, I didn’t begin this work and its not up to me to finish it.  Actually, even if I wanted to, I couldn’t.  It is a work of grace from a God of grace.  None of it is a work of my own ability… God designed it that way so He would get the glory and so that I wouldn’t boast. 

That’s very humbling… on two fronts.  First, that God would really love me that much.  That He knows all my sin and weakness and failure and that He simply offers to me His open hand full of love.  And He asks nothing in return.  I wish I had something to offer to thank Him for that gift.  But He says even if I did, He wouldn’t be pleased with that.  And second, its humbling because there is nothing I can do other than stand in awe of a God that is that great.  He began this work in me.  He is currently working in me.  And He has promised to complete it.  All I can do is sit back in thankfulness and be amazed at such grace.

 

So, my question for you is this… How has God changed you in the last 5 years?   How have His amazing works of grace transformed you from who you once were?