Category Archives: sanctification

a look back

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thanks for your patience with me as i’ve been noticeably absent the last month or so.  i hate that my blog has taken a back seat so drastically, because if for no other reason, it is always encouraging for me to go back and look over what God has done in my life.  I was especially encouraged a few weeks ago to look back and see an overview of what God did in the past few years.

So, keeping up with the tradition, here is a brief overview of 2009…

The year started off on a very low note – with me working through some very difficult issues from my past and having to face some personal heartache that I would have much rather left buried.  Thanks to the help of Matt and Julie and many others from my church, I continued to learn what forgiveness looked like, but not without many tears.

That struggle began several months of discouragement and at times hopelessness.  Looking back now, I am so grateful for my friends who stuck with me, upheld me, and encouraged me each step of the way… and at times, did everything necessary to turn my gaze off myself and back to the hope found in the cross.

I learned through that time, that my safety and comfort must be found in Jesus alone.  That though others disappoint, and at times cause severe hurt and pain, that Jesus never fails.  I learned that like Eustace, in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, that at times God strips away ourselves, but it is always done with a hand of love and mercy.

2009 also was a year in which I started to see my health improve.  This year brought for the first time in years the first consistent season of sleeping normally and the first period of weeks with no migraines.  I’m grateful to God for the help of the doctors and others, but ultimately, for His hand guiding my health and my life.

then began a season of questions… should i remain at my job? where should I live? should I pursue moving to another state?  if so, where?  i began pursuing a long-standing desire… to move to the Washington DC area… for months, I investigated, prayed and talked with people.  By late spring, I felt a peace about pursuing it and by mid summer I was convinced I was moving… as soon as God provided a job.  I spent 10 days in the DC area on a fact finding mission, found a place to live, spent hours driving in traffic and was excited about the pending change.  Then God closed the door.  It was clear to me that the door was closed tight and that I was not to pursue any further.  Yet it was also abundantly clear that this change was for my good and was given to me by a God who knows what is best for me.  So, my roots are in Greenville.  But my hope in God grew through that time, and though the “move” was unsuccessful, the lessons learned were well worth the months of questioning.

This fall brought changes once again to my life.  September 13th was my first date with Ted Riley, a man whom I have since grown to love.  We met in August via e-harmony and i am grateful for how God (not merely 29 dimensions of compatibility) brought the two of us together.  I could not imagine a better fit for me and look forward to seeing what God does with our relationship.

The past 4 months have been times of continuing improved health (despite the doctors telling me in August that they thought I could have pancreatic cancer) and new areas of learning to trust God.  Contentment looks different in this season (not “is there even possibly a good guy out there who would like me?” but “when will I get married / when will I have kids / when does the next “season” start?”) but the struggle remains the same… so I keep learning that no matter the circumstance, that my confidence and hope must be in the only One who remains unchanging.

In October, I began writing weekly online devotionals for Devotional Christian.  It has been an encouraging and challenging step for me… in learning to be more thoughful about what I write and growing in being more theologically informed.

I’ve seen reconciliation in relationships this year.  I’ve seen improvement in health.  I’ve seen new changes.  But through it all, I’ve learned more of the faithfulness of our God.  Through every change, He has remained true to me.  And through every time I haven’t remained true to Him, He lovingly corrects and draws me back.

What a God we serve.  I look forward to the challenges and blessings of 2010, confident that through every step, He will be by my side.

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

sanctification and blessing

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i’ve been thinking lately about sanctification.  since becoming a Christian, i seem to have grown the fastest and learned the most about God through trials i’ve faced.  i think i started to equate sanctification with suffering in many ways.  but the past few months, there has been a shift.

since the start of my relationship with Ted, I have been blessed beyond measure.  through his love, I have come to understand more clearly the love of my God.  through his patience with me, I see the mercy and faithfulness of my Savior.  through Ted’s forgiveness and desire for reconciliation (the few times we have disagreed), I better understand our God, who is eager for reconciliation and a growing relationship with his Bride.

its true that God brings sanctification through trials.  i’ve experienced that countless times.  but its also true that He doesn’t use trials alone to bring this purpose about.

i’m learning what that means…

she is ugly

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Wonder, O heavens! and be astonished, O earth! that this most glorious Immanuel, the Prince of Peace, whom angels worship, and before whom the seraphim bow–should from all eternity engage to come and seek His Bride from this poor world, and claim her for His own!

Yet so it is!

But she is filthy and polluted! (Ezek. 16:6; Job 15:14-16; Isa. 64:6) Then His own precious veins shall pour forth the rich crimson flood to cleanse her, (Rev. 1:5) and His Spirit shall open the fountain to wash her from her sin and uncleanness. (Zech. 13:1)

But she is naked and bare! (Ezek. 16:22) Then He will cast His skirt over her, (Ezek. 16:8) and will for her, weave in the loom of the Law (Rom. 5:19) fine linen–clean and white–a robe in which she shall be fit to appear at His court!  Moreover the Spirit shall bring near the righteousness of Jesus, (Isa. 46:13) clothing her with “the garments of salvation,” and covering her with the “robe of righteousness,” “as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

But she is diseased! (Isa. 1:5, 6) She is a leper! (Ps. 51:5)  Yet will He bring her health and cure, for He says, “I am the Lord who heals you;” and He is actually made to be sin for her, (2 Cor. 5:21) that she might be made “the righteousness of God in Him.”  

But she has no personal charms—she is ugly!  Then He will put His loveliness upon her, and through it her beauty shall be perfect.

But she is poor! So He bestows Himself and His fullness upon her–and thus endows her with unsearchable riches!

But she is unwilling, and has no heart to the match, for she obeys a hostile prince! (Eph. 2:2,3) Her delights, too, are in the world and the flesh. A new heart will He give her, and a right spirit will He put within her. The Holy Spirit shall make her willing in the day of His power. “I will cause you to forget your images of Baal; even their names will no longer be spoken.” (Hosea 2:17) So that, prostrate at His feet, she shall say, “Lord, our God, other lords than You have ruled over us, but we remember Your name alone!”

And now that the Spirit has touched her heart, she feels she is diseased, and discovers her filthiness and nakedness, knows she is ugly and poor, and cannot think the Bridegroom’s heart is towards her, or that she can find favor in His eyes. And therefore she cries out, “I am black!” “Behold, I am vile! My loveliness has turned into corruption!” But He overwhelms her by responding, “You are all beautiful, my love, there is no spot in you!”

Then she exclaims, “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death!” He replies, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!”

Now she ventures, with a captivated heart, to declare, “My Beloved is mine, and I am His! He is the chief among ten thousand! He is altogether lovely!”

“May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it!” Ephesians 3:19

(“The Marvelous Riches of Savoring Christ, The letters of Ruth Bryan” October 31, 1849)

when your sin stares you in the face

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“Where sin abounded—grace did much more abound!” Romans 5:20

Heavenly Father,
Deepen in us this day, contrition for our vileness, as miserable sinners in Your sight. How often without resistance, have we floated down the stream of evil! We do not cloak our wretchedness. Our lips are ready to confess—but our hearts are slow to feel, and our feet are reluctant to amend our ways. We bring our hard hearts unto You. Break them by Your Spirit—and then bind them up by Your grace. Wound them to the core—and then pour in the Gospel-balm!

Such is the blindness of our fallen nature, that we cannot see sin’s deformity—except as You are pleased to unmask it. Such is our deadness, that we cannot hate sin—except as You shall graciously implant abhorrence. Such is our infirmity, that we cannot flee sin—except as Your strength enables. Conscious of our total inability—we come to You for light, for help, for strength, for blessing.

Our sins without number stare us in the face! They are piled as mountain upon mountain. Their height reaches unto the heavens! But their full extent is open only to Your omniscient eye. The burden of our known transgressions weighs us to the dust. But the burden is light, compared to the mass which the scales of Your justice hold. We see but little, because our light is partial and our sight is dim. How must we appear, as seen by You, before whom the very heavens are not clean! You charge Your holy angels with folly. What must be Your estimate of our polluted souls! Humbled for what we see and feel; fearful for what is known only unto You—we meekly cry, “Pardon all our sins—for Jesus’ sake!”

We smite upon our breasts, as utterly unworthy of the least of Your gracious and unfathomable mercies. Hear now our cry, and work in us by the omnipotence of Your Holy Spirit, more profound and abiding repentance. Give us more and more of that godly grief, which ever fears and trembles, and yet ever trusts and loves—which is ever watchful and prayerful, and yet is ever confident and hopeful. May the remembrance of the sad past—quicken us to walk in entire newness of life. Grant that through the tears of penitence, we may see more clearly—the brightness and the glories of the saving Cross!

Oh! blessed Jesus – we flee to You!  We cling to You. Our countless iniquities condemn us—but You will wash them all away!  Our tears of penitence cannot remove one blot—but Your blood has all cleansing merit. Our prayers can earn no pardon—but Your mercy says, “Your sins which are many—are all forgiven!” The more we loathe ourselves—the more we love You! Our vile demerits—commend Your glorious worth!

Henry Law

learning to walk with a limp

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There is something strangely beautiful and wondrous about scars. If you’ve ever studied the body’s healing process, you can’t help but marvel at the mystery of it all. Scars are reminders of a hurt that took place, but scars are also reminders of healing that followed. God could have easily designed it so that wounds would heal leaving absolutely no trace of the pain, but the more you read the Bible, the more you realize that God doesn’t work that way. God is pretty big on creating “mile markers” along the pathways of life…

It’s a shame, really, that our modern society doesn’t have any similar practice of leaving visible markers along our paths to serve as reminders of an encounter with God. But we do have scars — spiritual scars that each has a story to tell of a time when God touched us and left His mark on us. And the truth is, no one in history has ever had a genuine encounter with the God of heaven and walked away unchanged… unmarked… un-scarred.

Sometimes the scars God leaves on us come from a wound in our heart that He healed with a gentle touch. Other times the scars are more severe, and cause us to walk with a limp for the rest of our lives, because God — as our loving Shepherd — had to break our leg in order to keep us from wandering away from the flock. I have both…

No one encounters God and walks away unchanged… and Jacob was certainly no exception. During that strange wrestling match, God put His mark on Jacob — scarred him, if you will. God touched Jacob’s hip and caused him to walk with a limp. At the conclusion of that story, the Bible says that Jacob had seen God face to face and lived, and then it says, “The sun rose above Jacob, and he was limping because of his hip.”

Wow, what an amazing scene! Jacob, the deceiver, goes into an encounter with God — arrogant, cocky, walking just fine on his own two feet… and he comes out with a new name, a new purpose, and a limp that will serve as a reminder to him every day for the rest of his life. I imagine there were many mornings from then on that Jacob got out of bed and started to walk across the room, and when he took that first step and felt his hip give way… his mind went back to that life-changing meeting with God… and he remembered!

Don’t underestimate the power of scars. Don’t underestimate the importance of learning to walk with a limp. They are blessings in disguise. The fact is that no one — not a single one of us — will ever truly understand what it means to walk with God and see our lives make an impact for Him until we have learned to walk with a limp. It’s proof, you see — proof that we’ve been with God, that we’ve wrestled with Him, and that we have not walked away unchanged. Every time you see one of your scars… every time you are reminded of your limp… take a moment to remember. Number yourself among the blessed ones who carry the marks of God, and rejoice in knowing that those scars are proof that He knows you by name, and that He has come close enough to touch you.

read the entire post at Phil Pike’s blog: The Journey.

thoughts on “the room”

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I remember the first time I read this story by Josh Harris called “the Room” (see post below).  It was shortly after I had become a Christian and I was reminded in such a powerful way of the amazing grace shown to me.  What a cause for rejoicing.  What peace this story brought to my soul.

How I need this reminder though every day… not just 5 years ago.  This past week, I was having a conversation and the other person accused me of something falsely.  I tried to point out that what they were saying was not the truth and the response I heard was “well, you are a liar.  you have shown a consistent pattern in your life over many years of lying.  things like that don’t change.”

How happy I am to know that those words are simply NOT true.  It is an accusation that Satan tries to use quite often in my life to cause me to despair.  But I know without a doubt that I am not that same lying punk kid I was 5+ years ago… the gospel has the power to change lives… even mine.

How do I know this?  I mean, if you look at my life, you still see lots of sin.  I hurt friends, I fail God, I don’t live with the righteous obedience that He requires of me.  So  how can I say so confidently that I am not the same person anymore?

Its because I’m no longer bound to my former sins any more than Jesus Christ is still bound to the cross on which He died.  The resurrection proves that His death was sufficent.  Those precious words “it is finished” applies for every CURRENT struggle… not merely the pre-salvation ones.

I pray my friend understands this truth one day… that the gospel does indeed have the power to change a wretch like me.

I’m not at all excusing my sin or saying that its not serious. My sins were so serious that Jesus Christ had to suffer and die for them.  But I have the confidence and hope that in His suffering and death, my condemnation, guilt and shame were absolved.

what a glorious truth!