Category Archives: motive

when treated unfairly…

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Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.  1 Peter 2:18-23

I read this verse today just after finding out about something at work that is completely unfair.  It seems to me as if I’m being taken advantage of and am struggling with how to respond.  I know that my current job is where God has called me to be in this season, but there are days like today when I just struggle with that current placement for my life.  So, I guess the question is “how do I respond?”  Do I look at the injustice and demand my rights?  Do I stand up for what is “fair”?  Sometimes the answer to that might be yes.  I’m sure there are times when we need to stand up for something and fight against “the man.”  But God has made it clear to me that my response in this situation should be like that of Jesus in 1st Peter 2.  I am being treated unfairly.  God knows that.  I want to cry because it honestly just hurts.  Jesus understands that pain.

When He was treated unfairly, he did not respond in sin.  He trusted God.  In the middle of his suffering, he did not utter threats or retaliation.  He was quiet in the middle of that storm because He was at peace with God’s purpose and plan for his life.  According to Phil. 2, I am commanded to let the mind of Christ dwell in me.  I am supposed to follow that example.  I am supposed to trust God in the middle of storms too.  I have a coffee mug that says: “peace: it does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work.  it means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”

I think that’s the heart of this matter for me.  Am I calm in my heart? Am I trusting that God knows the unfair actions?  Am I trusting my own ability to vindicate that or am I trusting my sovereign God?

Its funny, I wrote a devotional post about that this morning…. about thanking God in ALL things because every situation reveals another opportunity for us to see God at work.  So, where is God at work in this injustice?

He is at work in me… in teaching me humility (aka I don’t have to demand my rights).  He is empowering me to respond like Him and He is growing my faith in His plan for my life.  Does that feel good right now?  No.  But all I need to do is look back at the events of my life.  Every step, every valley, every storm shows the imprint of a faithful God’s hand upon my life.  So, I will trust Him in this too.  He is good.

  • “Do not fret because of evildoers, be not envious toward wrongdoers, for they will wither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herb. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday” (Ps. 37:1-6).
  • “But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord: He is their strength in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in Him” (Ps. 37:39-40).
  • “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
  • “Wait for the Lord, and keep His way, and He will exalt you to inherit the land” (v. 34).
  • “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things”

final countdown

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the final countdown to my wedding day is here.  today is 2 weeks away from the day i’ll be walking down the aisle to meet my groom.  to say i was excited wouldn’t even come close to describing it.  i’m thrilled. i giggle a lot. i can’t wait. :)

we’ve finalized the layout for the reception, the details for the cake, and today we will be talking with the florist, caterer and picking up the marriage license.  yay!  i’ve picked up my dress, picked out the jewelry and am starting to pack up my apartment and prepare to move.  i’m monitoring the weather in Niagara Falls so I know what to pack for the honeymoon.

on top of that, i’m training for additional responsibilities at work.  i’ve spent nearly every day for the last few weeks in meetings and training sessions and taking notes and learning a whole new project that as soon as we get back from the honeymoon i will be taking over the responsibility for our plant.

its been a struggle to keep it all balanced… to be focused on work while at work, to focus on wedding stuff when I need to and to focus on relaxing and spending time with God too.

I read through Colossians last night.  I was encouraged because it seems that Paul either had never come and visited them or that he hadn’t been there in a long time.  but there was a closeness and a unity through Christ that was evident in his letter.  The Holy Spirit reminded me that his words were for me as well, and though I’ve never met Paul either, that through Christ, it applies to me too… and I need to listen and seek to learn from him.  One of his charges to the church was the following:

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. (Col. 2:8-10)

Its so easy to get taken captive by the philosophy of the world when it comes to wedding planning and work responsibilities.  The world says that your wedding day is the most extravagant, “princess-like” day of your life.  to one degree, i completely agree in that it should be a very special important day, but in reality, it is still merely a picture of the excitement and joy I should have in anticipation of the return of my Jesus.  The most important part of my wedding day is not the human traditions that Ted and I will choose to include in the ceremony and reception… its not the spirit of the world that we want to display… its the spirit of Christ… a model of love and humility that is foreign to our unsaved friends and family who will be there.

Christ is my authority first and foremost.  Christ is Ted’s authority.   That’s why with joy I can do as Ephesians says and submit to him out of love for Christ.  I’ve been filled with Christ.  My body belongs to Him.  My will conforms to His.  that’s why I don’t want to be deceived by the world’s philosophy that submission is a bad thing… I don’t want to be caught up in traditions and events and miss what God is doing in and through me.

In the same manner, I want to keep that perspective at work.  Though I’ve been called to do this job and the new responsibilities are important  and I need to see it with all seriousness and diligence, it is not the most important thing to me.  The reason that God has me in this job is so that I can bring glory to Him, whether in words through sharing the gospel with my coworkers, or in deed by doing everything to the best of my ability for the glory of God.  According to the spirit of the world, a successful career is one of the best blessings I can ever get in life.  But according to the Bible, I am supposed to put to death my old self and be renewed in the knowledge of my creator (Col. 3:10).  Me seven years ago wanted to be the Ambassador to Germany or in some other governmental position involving language and intelligence.  I wanted to be somebody.  But I praise God that He continually closed those doors I pursued and has led me along pleasant (albeit sometimes painful) paths of righteousness.

I want to reflect Him… no matter the season or change, I want my life to mirror the greatness of God and to be a light to the darkness around me.  I don’t want to just preach a gospel message at my wedding and count that as “enough”, I want my life to be a picture to my friends and family of the grace that has captured me.  I want to be different than what’s around me.

thy way not mine, o Lord

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Thy way, not mine, O Lord,
However dark it be;
Lead me by Thine own hand,
Choose out the path for me.

Smooth let it be or rough,
It will be still the best;
Winding or straight, it leads
Right onward to Thy rest.

I dare not choose my lot;
I would not, if I might;
Choose Thou for me, my God,
So I shall walk aright.

Take Thou my cup, and it
With joy or sorrow fill,
As best to Thee may seem;
Choose Thou my good and ill.

Choose Thou for me my friends,
My sickness or my health;
Choose Thou my cares for me
My poverty or wealth.

The kingdom that I seek
Is Thine: so let the way
That leads to it be Thine,
Else I must surely stray.

Not mine, not mine the choice
In things or great or small;
Be Thou my Guide, my Strength
My Wisdom, and my All.

Horatius Bonar

God’s grace in failure

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The past few weeks have been crushing for me. God has strategically been destroying me… who I am… what I value, etc. I’ve hated every moment of it. The trial started with a description of my sin revealed to me in a disgusting way and has left me shocked in a sense. I know I shouldn’t be shocked by my sin, but I was. I thought we had moved past it… I thought I had grown. I was shown a few weeks ago that the only thing that had grown was my self-dependence and pride.

Then came another shock… mercy. God used a friend of mine to show me what the Father’s mercy is like… in spite of my failure, in spite of my direct sin against that person, they showed me undeserved and lavish. And since that day, there has been not an ounce of resentment or guilt pressed upon me by this friend… rather they have accepted me 100% and have time and time again gone out of their way to remind me of their care and affection. Not because I deserve it, but rather, because it is true. Forgiveness because they love me, not because they have to forgive.

God has used that powerfully in my life. To see such mercy in repayment for my sin simply blows my mind. I don’t know what to do with such kindness other than in joy resolve to live in a way so as to not hurt them again. And so it is with God… as He has revealed and shocked me with my sin and complete inability to change, I am being met with mercy… mercy that overwhelms… mercy that knows me completely and loves me unfailingly. Mercy that picks me up out of my self-made messes and rescues me.

That truth was never so clear as it is right now…

On my vacation, I received a speeding ticket. When I was pulled over, I knew I was speeding yet was begging God to “let me off the hook” or show me “mercy.” He had something else in mind. The officer came back to my car with a ticket for reckless driving… apparently anything over 80 is considered reckless in the state of Virginia and I was clocked going 82 in a 70.

I was crushed. I am barely “making it” as a result of all my stupid financial decisions in the past (and sadly, present). God’s been working on my heart for a while now that I need His help to overcome this sin area in my life. But how can I ask God to help when I’m so aware that I’m in a mess of my own making? How can I cry out to Him for mercy when if I were only wiser or more cautious, I wouldn’t be in this boat?

And yet my God has been saying to me “I am a God of mercy… come. Come broken and ashamed and humbled and I will heal your wounds. Come not in your typical “I can fix this” arrogance, but rather come needy. Come desperate and watch Me work. Come trusting. Come expecting to receive mercy and grace in your time of need, for that is what I promise to you. Come in faith that My promises are true and that My love will never let you go! Come with empty hands and watch me fill them.”

So, I have come. Come and asked God to do the impossible… to fix what I have messed up. To heal what I have broken. To restore what I have crushed.

Last week my hours were cut at work… again. Is this God’s way of answering prayer? By making things worse?? Really?!?!?!?!? Yet in my frustration and questioning, I still heard simply “Come. Trust. Look. Believe. Know.” So, I have been praying and asking God to provide… not because I deserve it, not because I have earned it and not at all as a result of my works, but simply as my friend did… out of love and because of His faithful compassion.

Because I often have bad dreams, I leave music playing throughout the night… I find it helps me refocus my thoughts if I wake up scared (which I often do). I woke up several times last night… not from bad dreams, simply because… Every time I woke up there was a song playing on the radio that spoke specifically of God’s relentless faithfulness to the unfaithful or His love to the undeserving.

When I woke up this morning, my first thought was “it’s Monday… a new day and a new week… that means that God is promising new mercies and new help today too.” Now believe me when I say that this is NEVER my first thought in the morning. Its typically “is it morning already?” “why does my body hurt so bad?” or “geez, I overslept again!”

From there, God just began to overwhelm me with His kindness. The first way was through a conversation on facebook which served as a reminder of what He has saved me from, granted me freedom from and the hope He has given me through it all.

Not 10 minutes later, God again reminded me of His care. This time it was through a dear friend, who stopped by my apartment at 7am with a card. In the card was a check… blank. The card stated that God had impressed on them to pay for my ticket… to pay off the debt that I earned and owe. To pay it willingly, aware that it was my own fault which caused this debt.

I am overwhelmed. Speechless. There are no words to adequately describe this. It is humbling. But I am rejoicing. I am low. Yet elated. Gratefully forgiven. Yet humbly aware of my weakness. I’m beginning to understand what Paul meant when He described himself as sorrowful yet always rejoicing. What a dichotomy this life is.

How great and humbling it is to know this God, who is not limited or hindered by my sin. Who loves me with all my weakness and who simply says “Come. I love you just the way you are.”

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.

when feelings win

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ever have one of those days when feelings win?  or one of those weeks?  months?  yeah, you get the point… 

i’m curious what you do at those times.  for those of you who read but rarely comment, this is your chance to speak up.  for those of you who comment regularly, this is your chance too.  :)   i want to know… what do you do?  at those times when everything in your gut tells you to just quit.  or when you feel that you have no strength to take another step.  how do you effectively preach truth to yourself?  are there certain truths / aspects of God’s character / verses or songs that you find especially helpful? 

in many ways the last year or so of my life has been characterized by a melancholy cloud.  i know that much of that is simply my sin in allowing emotions rather than truth to guide my life.  i’ve read many scripture passages and many helpful books, such as the hidden smile of God by Piper, Spiritual Depression by M. Lloyd Jones, Job by Piper, When the Darkness will not lift by Piper and many more.  I find glimpses of hope yet so often find myself quickly circling back around to hopelesness. 

i know that my Father chose me, loves me and is in control over each second of my life.  i know that my Jesus forives my sin, that there is no condemnation for me.    i know that the Holy Spirit empowers me to resist sin and to live a life of godliness that is pleasing to my Father.   i know that i must continually be killing sin in my life, empowered by the Spirit.  I know that there is an inheritance kept in heaven for me.  And i know that one day I will see my Jesus face to face.  I know that one day there will be no more pain and my sweet Jesus, who suffered for me, will in joy wipe every tear from my eye. 

i am just weak right now.  and i need reminders.  so as my friends, will you please remind me?  share with me once again the hope that lies (albeit right now hidden to me) within me?  physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally and every other way possible, i feel that the battle is greater than my God.  but i know that’s not true. 

so, my request for you is two-fold… first, would you pray for me?  pray that my hope will be in God, not my ability to fix or my utter inability not to.  and second, would you share with me some of the promises of God that have encouraged you?  thanks!

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?