Category Archives: grace

God has promised sustaining grace

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God has promised to sustain us by his grace.

He has promised us the sustaining grace of forgiveness, so that we can stand before him unafraid. He has promised the sustaining grace of enablement, giving us the strength to do what he calls us to do. He has promised us the sustaining grace of protection, delivering us from evil. He has promised us the sustaining grace of wisdom, protecting us from our own foolishness. He has promised us the sustaining grace of perseverance, keeping us until the final enemy has been defeated. He has promised the sustaining grace of eternity, giving us the hope of a day when the struggle will be over.

Whiter than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp

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is this what normal feels like?

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its funny, at times we get so used to the “abnormal” that when things settle down to “normal” again, it seems weird.  (who defines normal, anyways?)

i’ve spent the last several years struggling with insomnia and other major health issues.  typically the way it looked for me is one month i would sleep no more than 2 -3 hours a night, and then the next month i would sleep on average 5-6.  and about once a month i’d spend a day or two in bed too exhausted and sick to even move.  it was really to the point that i could anticipate… “i’m not gonna sleep much for the next month” and then i’d mentally prepare myself for this. 

well over the past 2 years, and especially the past 8 months or so, the doctors have been trying to get to the root cause of many of the health issues i’ve been having.  and slowly, i’ve begun to see some pretty major improvement. 

i’m not on seizure meds anymore. i’m not having to take migraine meds as often, and i’m able to control most of the migraines by very carefully watching my diet (aka no wheat, barley, rye, gluten, oats, dairy, artificial color, artificial flavor, etc).  i’ve got the energy to exercise again on a consistent basis and am able to concentrate during the day.  and over the past 3 months, i’ve slept on average nearly 6 hours a night! (for me, that’s pretty amazing!)

but the weird thing is this… i feel like i NEVER have enough time now.  i’ve gone from having approximately 21 hours a day to do things and now i’ve only got about 17.  I thank God for the extra 4 hours of sleep i’ve been getting but its crazy…  

is this how “normal” people feel??? :)  never enough time?  too much to do?  does this mean i’m “normal” now? (haha!)  :)

its just a new and weird experience for me and i’m having to learn how to adjust.  i’m not reading as much anymore.  that makes me sad.  but i’m wondering when to do it… my typical reading time is from 12 – 3 or 4 am!  i miss my 2 am facebook chats with the other insomniacs.  seriously, when is there time now for a bubble bath?  or to organize your sock drawer? 

 

all these important questions in my mind as i’m readjusting to a new “normal.”  praise God for His gift of sleep!  now I just need to learn the gift of managing time.  :)

God’s work of grace in the soul

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(Letters of John Newton)

“The soil produces grain–
  first the blade,
  then the stalk, and
  then the ripe grain on the stalk.”
    Mark 4:28

The Lord compares the usual method of growth in grace–to the growth of grain, which is perfected by a slow and almost imperceptible progress.

The seed is hidden for a time in the soil; and, when it appears, it passes through a succession of changes–the blade, the stalk, and lastly the ripe grain.

And it is brought forward amidst a variety of weather: the dew, the frost, the wind, the rain, the sun–all concur to advance its maturity, though some of these agents are contrary to each other; and some of them, perhaps, seem to threaten the life of the plant! Yet, when the season of harvest returns–the grain is found ready for the sickle!

Just so is God’s work of grace in the soul. Its beginnings are small, its growth for the most part slow, and, to our apprehensions, imperceptible and often precarious.

But there is this difference in the comparison: frosts and blights, drought or floods, may possibly disappoint the gardener’s hopes. But the great Gardener of the soul–will not, and cannot be disappointed. What He sows–shall flourish in defiance of all opposition! And, if at times it seems to wither–He can and He will revive it!

For the most part, God’s people are exercised with sharp trials and temptations; for it is necessary they should learn not only what He can do for them–but how little they can do without Him! Therefore He teaches them not all at once–but by degrees, as they are able to bear it.

“The soil produces grain–
  first the blade,
  then the stalk, and
  then the ripe grain on the stalk.”
    Mark 4:28

 

every day shattered lives are restored

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I saw this commercial the other day and was freshly reminded that God has the power to change lives.  He has changed mine so drastically. 

Remembering this gives me fresh hope to believe that God can change hopeless relationships, fix battered lives and make blind eyes see.  All to often, I lose hope, and fail to trust God to work. 

It was a reminder for me to not stop praying for that person who in my eyes is “too far gone”… God is not limited by our human understanding.  Trust Him, as the faithful God that worked a miracle in giving your blind eyes sight, that He can still work in the lives of those you may have given up on.. 

Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t give up?  I sure am…

what are you doing, God?

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ever have those times where you ask “What are you doing, God?”  I know His ways are higher than mine.  I know that He loves me and give and takes for my good.  I know what He’s given me, He also has the right to take away when He should choose.  And I know looking back that every time God has taken something from me its always been for my good, even though immensely painful and gut-wrenching at times.  I know that though things can be taken, that nothing can separate me from His love.  How I need that love to hold me close today.  How I long for my war-torn heart to rest there. 

God seems to be shifting me from one furnace to another.  And I am as unhappy with this appointment as I was with the last.  How I long for it to end.  Trials are a funny thing like that… you beg and beg for them to end and as soon as they do you realize that you’ve learned so much more than ever possible had you not gone through that trial.  So as incomprehensible as it seems to your feelings, you find yourself thanking God for what you just walked through.  And simultaneously you pray that you’d never have to go through it again.  In many ways, that’s where I’m at.  I’m grateful for the trials that God has carried me through because I know to a greater degree the depths of His love, care and compassion towards me.  But as I face yet again another trial, I approach it with the same dread and horror as I faced the last.  Horror because as God is calling me to pick up my cross and follow Him, I’m seeing the death, pain, suffering and heartache that accompanies that cross.  And nothing in me wants to go there. 

Yet somehow my loving Shepherd has promised to be with me each step of the way.  He has promised to complete what He has begun.  He has already cared for me time after time and He is faithful.  Because of that, through His strength to hold me, with His help, I will rest in His control over this.  I am choosing to look past the pain, to look past the cross to my Strong Deliverer, who defeated the power of death and the cross.  He will preserve me by His mercy.  He is my Rock in the middle of the storms.  God has promised to complete what He’s begun, therefore I can have hope that He will keep me safe and true in Him…even here, even in this, even though nothing in me wants this.

Somehow I’m excited to see God provide.  As He keeps taking and in my mind its getting even more difficult for Him to provide, I look to my Jehovah-Rophe with hopeful anticipation to meet my needs and comfort my sorrows.  I haven’t really known what to say lately because it seems there are no words to describe the unutterable ache in my soul.  Nothing seems sufficient other than crying to my Maker… the One who knows me and will never leave me alone.  So, in my loneliness, I look to the One who will never leave, abandon or forsake.  In my pain, I look to the One who suffered in my place.    In my despair, I look to the only One who was ever forsaken by God with gratitude that He will not leave me here.  And in my moments (or days) when I just want to complain, I remember how good He has been to me.  The God who restored my broken soul and gave me life, the God who gives me a reason for joy in my mourning, the God who drew me through His kindness and irresistable love… that God will not quit.  So I look to Him.

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?

amazing grace

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yesterday at church we sang the hymn amazing grace.  i love the words “was blind but now i see.”  over the past few years that song and the story behind it has become more and more meaningful to me.

in 1748, John Newton, a captain of a slave ship,  faced a terrible storm at sea.  Though the ship made it through the storm they lost most of their supplies and thought they would starve to death or be forced to cannibalism.  the following is a prayer written by John Newton some 20 years later upon his reflection of that time:

My Gracious Lord, Thou hast preserved me to see another anniversary of that great, awful and merciful day, when I was upon the point of sinking with all my sins and blasphemies upon my head into the pit which has no bottom, and must have sunk, has not Thine eye pitied me, and preserved me in a manner which appears to me little less miraculous, than all the wonders Thou didst perform for Israel in Egypt and at the Red Sea.

O I have now cause to praise thee for that terrible storm, which first shook my infidelity, and made me apprehensive that death was not, as my corrupt heart had persuaded me, an eternal sleep.

I thank Thee, likewise, for the subsequent month, when we expected to be starved, or reduced to feed upon one another and it not been for this protected season of distress, my first impressions might have worn off, but Thou fixed and increased them, so that by the time we arrived in Ireland, I was no longer an infidel. Not one of my fellow sufferers was affected as I was. Well I might say with wonder and gratitude, Why me O Lord, Why me?

 

How I long for the grace to have that perspective.  To say, like John Newton “Your grace taught me to fear, but then that precious grace relieved my fears.  You led me here, through so many dangers and snares, You kept me safe through every one and I know you will lead me home.”

and yet somehow I know my God has led me here.  I know He has ordained each trial and each tear and each unanswered question and pain.  I also know like John Newton did that the Lord has indeed promised good to me.  I know that because its secure in His word.  And because of that I can cling to Him as my shield and portion.  I just need grace to believe it and grace to live it.

I also would have sunk were it not for pity from my God’s towards me.  I pray that He uses this time in my life like he used the months after that storm for John Newton…to fix and increase my impressions of Him as a powerful, intimate, and caring God.  

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see!

 
T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear,
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.