Category Archives: Sermon Application

truths that are true no matter how i feel…

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Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6

Daniel 4:35 (ESV) all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”

For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Psalm 95:3-5

Jeremiah 32:17,26-27 (ESV) [17] ‘Ah, Lord God! It is you who has made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you…. [26] The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: [27] “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?

Isaiah 26:4 “Trust in the LORD forever, For in GOD the LORD, {we have} an everlasting Rock.

Nahum 1:7 The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble, And He knows those who take refuge in Him. ]

Psalms 36:7 How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.

Romans 11:33 (ESV) Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

Job 11:7-9 (ESV) “Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty? [8] It is higher than heaven—what can you do? Deeper than Sheol—what can you know? [9] Its measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea.

Hebrews 4:13 (ESV) And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Chron. 6:14 (ESV) and said, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven or on earth, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart,

Neh. 9:17 (ESV) They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.

Psalm 36:7 (ESV) How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

Psalm 98:3 (ESV) He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

Psalm 136:2 (ESV) Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Micah 7:18 (ESV) Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.

Romans 8:39 (ESV) nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 John 3:1 (ESV) See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

Eph. 2:4-5 (ESV) But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, [5] even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—

Romans 8:28 (ESV) And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Hebrews 11:6 (ESV) And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.


Trust is not a passive state of mind. It is a vigorous act of the soul by which we choose to lay hold on the promises of God and cling to them despite the adversity that at times seeks to overwhelm us. – Jerry Bridges

“To say that God is omniscient is to say that He possesses perfect knowledge and has no need to learn. But it is more: it is to say that God never learned and cannot learn.” – A.W. Tozer

“Wisdom is the application or use of knowledge to devise the best ends, to be accomplished by the best means possible” – Bruce Ware

The wise man is not afraid of his inability, because he knows that Christ’s grace is sufficient. However, the wise man is afraid of the delusions of human strength, because those delusions will keep him from seeking the grace of Christ. The wise man can glory in weakness because he knows of the sufficiency of Christ. The wise man is approachable, able to be corrected. The wise man is humble, waking up every morning saying, “I am a person of great need. Thank you, Lord, that you are in my life. There’s hope for me.” – Paul Tripp

pictures

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the last 2 years of my life in “pictures”:

1. suitcases at the cross, covered fully in blood. red sheets all around, overhead. completely forgiven.

2. seed in ground. Master Gardener knows how much water and heat it needs to grow. seed doesn’t know the end result, but the Gardener does. He will tend his plant perfectly until it grows into what its supposed to.

3. child in waves. Father takes her there to train her. He won’t let her drown, even when she’s scared to death… even if she swallows some water. She will be okay because He is behind her holding her up, even when she can’t feel it.

4. dark night. stars are still shining. don’t forget to look up, its not completely dark.

5. out of valley. up to a mountain. the climb is hard. the road is steep and there are dangerous cliffs. there is fog. God goes before and is behind and on each side and guards each step.

6. looking at life with a pillow in front of my face. my problems and trials are the pillow. its all i can see. but learn to move it aside and see all God has done. give thanks. He has richly blessed me.

7. army attacking. standing alone in green field. thousands coming on every side. no armor. cried for help. looked back up and see angel warriors surrounding me. fighting for me because i’m precious to God. He won’t forsake me or let me die… i’m His precious child and He paid a costly price for me. He will protect me.

8. the battle is over. i’m not harmed. but i’m too weak to stand. its the middle of the day but all i want is sleep. i can’t move. i’m afraid the army will return. then i realize i’m being held. i’m safe in His arms.

9. acorn falls from a tree. the acorn thinks it fell prematurely. needs to stay and grow. instead its planted. the weight of the dirt seems unbearable. at first it fights, death is painful. it rains. the acorn is cold, alone and sad. then it remembers what it was told earlier… death comes, then comes a beautiful tree. pain, then growth. the acorn longs for that growth, longs to be a big beautiful tree. knows death is the only way.

10. walking on a road. the path is dark. the light guiding me is dim. forces in the darkness are attacking… loud, relentless and mean. the light seems smaller. must keep following. must keep trusting. no matter what, keep moving and trusting. He is faithful… remember His promises. standing still is not an option. sitting down would be wrong. walking cannot be done in own strength. must walk by faith. must put into action what seems impossible. go.

epic failure

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this week has just been one of “those weeks.”

you know the ones I mean, right?  the one where everything seems to be a mess.  and when it can’t get messier, it some how does?  yup. one of those.

 if i had to pick a theme for this week, it would be “epic failure.”  my mistakes this week for some reason have not seemed like “little” ones, rather “heroic” mistakes.  ha.  :) 

tuesday night I came home from work to make homemade spagetti sauce with tomatoes from the garden.  lo and behold, the tomatoes had simmered for too long and were hopelessly beyond hope.  after trying for 2 hours or so to doctor it up, we ended up dumping it out and saving the veggies to use with some new tomatoes. 

i cried. 

thanks Sarah, for once again, faithfully pointing me to the cross… pointing me to to the humor and hope found in that silly situation and for making me smile as you shared your story of the chocolate cake that catapulted off the counter.  :D

its been a good week at work, just long.  we are running out the production of a vehicle at the manufacturing plant where I work and I am in charge of all the planning details for the runout.  Needless to say, there’s lots to remember. lots of details to coordinate and lots of miscellaneous things that can fall through the cracks.  There was a major computer error today, and, I had no clue how to fix it.  I spent about 3 hours trying and thing just kept getting worse.  Praise God for a helpful IT support guy in Germany that was willing to stay at work late to fix the issue and reset the program!

Despite my feelings, despite my failures and despite my countless sins, my God has proven Himself faithful to me yet again through these past few days.  there seems to be nothing to cling to this week as I look around and see all my fruit in ruins on the ground, but the Master Gardener seems to still be lovingly (albeit painfully) tending the branches still.  He has surrounded me with people who have patiently loved me in spite of my sins, people who have loved me as necessary and corrected me as necessary.  Praise God for both, as they are both a valuable asset to our Christian walk (and praise God for friends He’s given me that are “friend” enough to do both!!)! 

He has given me department managers that despite my lack of experience in my new job, are thankful for me and make an effort to mention that (on almost a daily basis).  Wow.  I don’t want to forget the gift that is.  I’m very aware their thankfulness is not a result of my “great” ability to do my job (because I mess up daily) but rather is a gift from God – an instrument used by my Savior to encourage and bless me.  I’m thankful for my health.  I was able to go to the gym last night for the first time in a few weeks (just finished the body detox program that I was on for the last few weeks). 

I can see God working.  I know He will continue.  He is faithful.  He will not forsake.  I can trust in that.  When I look around and as a result of my “tree,” I see fruit that keeps falling off and lying on the ground in what seems to be a useless way, I can still thank my God for the fruit that He produces in my life.  That fruit, even the fruit that in my mind is not as “perfect” as it should be, can still bring glory to Him.  I long for my life to bring Him glory, whether that is a life of successes or a life of epic failures.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I would much rather have a life of successes.  

But I long for the song we sang last Friday in care group to be the cry of my heart:  “shall I take from your hand the blessings, yet not welcome any pain?  shall I thank you for days of sunshine, yet grumble in days of rain?  you are good when I’m poor and needy.  you are true when I’m parched and dry.  You still reign in the deepest valley.  You’re still God in the darkest night.  Oh, let your will be done in me. In your love I will abide.  oh, I long for nothing else as long as you are glorified.”

Musings on Motives

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… heart motives in my life as it applies from the sermon yesterday…

1 Peter 2:13 -17 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

… so, as I have been thinking throught the “free-fall” sermon from yesterday, my heart and mind went to motives. what’s my motive for what I do? Is it my own personal gain or God’s glory? do I love others simply because its God’s will? do I fear God and honor everyone simply because its the right thing to do? or is there more to the “why” of what I do?

in order to do this – in order to live my life with others for the will of God, I must have something deeper motivating my actions. Otherwise it turns into a legalistic, joy-deprived, meaningless ritual.

So, on to the idea of motives… why do I want to get out of debt? Is it simply to have freedom from those chains or one day bless my husband with the painfully learned spiritual discipline of discipline itself? or should there be more to it than that?

what should be my motivation to lose weight? so I can buy new clothes? so people will notice and compliment me? so I will be more attractive? so I can simply live a healthier life and enjoy more activities? is that all that motivates this or is there really something more behind this?

what makes me able / willing to say no to my fleshly desires? why do I love others? submit to authority? obey my leaders? why do I serve with gladness? how is it possible to love “the unloveable”?

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

I should be motivated to change / motivated to obey because of His love. Because its the work on the cross of Christ that controls me, my desires for prideful self-advancement and self-glorification is not up to me to control. Its power was crushed that day on that cross through the words “it is finished.” I am not ruled by those desires, though at times they seem overwhelmingly strong. What rules me is a freedom found in Christ as Ruler. What motivates me is the mercy I see through Jesus. The humility of my glorious risen Savior is what empowers me in humility and service to others.

Because Christ loved and died for me, I have been given the strength to love others and die to myself. Because of my union with Christ, the obvious conclusion would be that I have died to my old self and raised again to New Life. That new life means service. But its not a drudgery… its a service of joy and gladness to a God who has freed my chains. Its my little way of sharing with others the grace He’s shared so lavishly with me.

… I’m not there yet. Well, in some ways I guess I am… I already AM one with Christ. I already AM able to resist temptation through the power of the Cross. But daily, I fail in acting upon that ability. And without action, the ability is meaningless.

This truth, fully understood, must result in change, according to James. God doesn’t want me to simply show honor to everyone, love my brothers and sisters, and fear Him because its the right thing to do. He wants it done in light of the cross, through His strength, in view of His mercy.

Wow. I’m seeing yet again how needy I am. I am completely reliant upon His grace to act upon me. I am needy of His ever-sutstaining grace.

The Importance of Being Earnest

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I Peter 1:22 -25 “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.”

There is a transition in 1st Peter from faith to hope to love. Our faith results in hope, that hope and faith results in an outworking of love to others. Revelation (faith) always requires a response (hope and love). To Love means to be loving in our actions, speech and attitudes.

  • Definition: “earnest”
    Serious in intention, serious in purpose, serious in effort, to be sincerely zealous
    showing depth and sincerity of feeling.
    Fell seriousness as of intention or purpose
  • Synonyms: ardently, diligently, energetically, strenuously, intensely, intensively, painstakingly, throroughly, entirely
  • The Greek word earnestly could be translated as: Strongly, deeply felt and fervent
    This word is only used two more times in the New Testament:
    In the Garden of Gethsemane: Jesus prayed earnestly
    Peter was in prison: the people made earnest prayer- then the angel released him

Questions to think about:
Are you earnest enough?
Are you ardently (diligently) loving your family, who are Christians?
Children, do you intensely love your mom and dad who are Christians?
Parents, do we painstakingly love our children?
Do we entirely love our spouse/ friends or is our love conditional?
How is our earnestness? Is it enough?
Are we diligent with our Christian friends?
Are we energetic and strenuous enough in our love for those in our caregroup? If friends and caregroup don’t go together, then we are not earnest enough. It is not about others – this is about ourselves and whether we are earnest enough.
Are we intensively loving those in our local church?
Are we painstakingly and unwaveringly loving our Christian “enemies” – even though they are our brothers and our sisters?


So, with that in mind, what’s the importance of “being earnest”?
Part of it is this … revelation requires a response. If I’m not earnestly loving those who God has placed around me, then that shows some other serious issues. If I’m not painstakingly seeking to serve, then I must question why the glorious revelation does not affect my steps. If I’m being unmerciful, maybe I should stop and look at the log in my own eye. If my actions don’t show love, can I truly say that I do? Love is not a feeling based on common understandings and goals – it is sacrificial – look no further than the cross.

I think that often in my life, I only tend to repent of as Jim called them “sins of commission” and I negelect the “sins of ommission.” It’s obvious that if/when I lie, I should confess. But when I fail to serve (fail to love), my response should be the same. I should be as brokenhearted and convicted over not loving my friends as I am when I deceive them.

We don’t have to be permanently dysfunctional because of our past. Even though everything in my heart condemns me, God is greater! “Woe is me” in Scripture leads to change, not a self-pity standstill.

What is the solution to all of this discouragement? verse 22 “obedience to the truth”. Our response to the gospel is because of our transformation by the gospel (we are to love one another earnestly). “Since you have been born again” – this is our hope for obedience in loving one another. Our hope is that our seed will not go away – the seed of the gospel, that will grow in us, is an imperishable seed, that will not go away, that will not perish – the gospel is alive and active and it abides in us – the new life we have been given will never be destroyed, it will never fade or fail – the seed is imperishable.

Because of who we already are, we are to act this way – loving one another earnestly – and our confidence begins and ends in the hope of the gospel. This command is not meant to be burdensome. Love one another earnestly is impossible but if we have faith in Jesus, we can do it through the gospel. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes – it is the only hope for change.

We have been born again and because we’ve been born again, we are to obey and we can only obey because of the gospel, resting in the gospel. The gospel is the power and motivation for all obedience. It is our example, our motive and the power for everything that we need. The gospel is the Word of God, all that we need for life and godliness.

Looks like we’re back to the 2 answers: the gospel and pride. how do I love? by repenting of my pride / seflishness / etc. not by an “I’ll do better” attitude, rather by repentence and dependence on the gospel. My hope for love is the gospel. The importance of being earnest is because my life is a picture of the gospel. By being earnest, I display grace and Christ’s love to others.

by the way, if you look closely at the picture, you will find one guy confessing sin and the other sitting across the table just smiling. =)

Forsaken

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Mark 15:34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Something that hit me on Sunday was the fact that because of this verse – because God forsook his Son, He will never forsake me.

I did a searh this morning on http://www.biblegateway.com/ for the word forsaken. It’s amazing the # of times we (or the children of Israel or the disciples, etc) forsook God. And how also, God in his wrath forsook them and let them be captured, killed, etc…

But after the cross… all it refers to is…
2 Corinthians 4:9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.

Hope

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Scripture Verse in focus: 1 Peter 1:3-9
Main Idea from the passage: We rejoice, because God has given us faith and hope and guards our faith and hope to the end.

1. What do you find yourself hoping in most often – other than Jesus? If you’re not sure – what you are hoping in could be revealed by what you are most disappointed or angry about in response to not getting it?

2. How have any of these hopes become idolatrous? Remember, an idol is not defined by what you want but that you want it too much. An idol can be anything you are willing to sin to get or any desire you sin to fulfill.

3. How was your understanding of your faith in God changed (or encouraged, etc.) as you heard about how God guards our faith?

4. Have you viewed God as a loving Father who only lets us suffer “if necessary” or have you had a different view of God? Why?

5. How can you practically change and begin to place more hope in God and the fact that He has given us faith and hope and guards our faith and hope?

6. How can you practically pursue keep your hope alive in Christ? (God keeps it but calls us to an active relationship with Him – what should this look like?)

Hope and Multiplication

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So, we’re going through 1st Peter right now at church. Its been a grand total of 3 weeks so far. And the free-fall has begun.

In ch.1 v.2 Peter says “may grace and peace be multiplied to you.” Multiplication changes numbers exponentially. And just like 8 x 28 is so much greater than 8 + 28, the grace and peace of Christ radically changes things. Because of His great mercy, we have a living hope. We have an undefiled and unchanging inheritance. We have a sanctifying power at work in us that is stronger than our sin, stronger than our desires, and greater than our failures. Because of the cross, because of His choice of obedience, we can look back to the cross with hope (and look forward to our future, both in this life and the next) with fervent anticipation and joy. Because of the cross, Christ has given us new eyes to see the substitutionary life of Christ as what it truly is – the only hope we have. His perfect life gives me hope as I stumble along the way.

My life is full of failures, disappointment, and a constant “missing the mark.” But God does not base our merit on what we often think – it is not our self-determination that makes a difference. Our hope for change is not that we have the power in our own determination to do it, No! – our hope for change is the cross of Christ. That’s it. That’s my only hope. My strength lies in the multiplication of grace and peace that God has lavishly showered upon me. His grace (free and unmerited favor) is just that. Its free to me because it was paid for by Christ’s death and unmerited by me because it was merited by Christ. That truth, that fact brings peace. Not a peace based on circumstances or my own ability, rather a peace that comes from a hope in a God that is greater than my circumstances.

I can rejoice through trials, whether that trial or suffering is getting out of debt or losing weight or simply learning self-control or if that trial is physical pain, disappointment, confusion, discouragement, etc. God is greater than all. And He will reveal Himself. My hope is not that I can “fix it” – my hope is in the cross. Every breath that I breathe is dependent on His sustaining Hand and His desire is that every step that I take is with that realization too. That I cannot perform to earn His achievement, that His forgiveness is complete. My performance must be as John Piper put it – lifting my empty cup daily to Him with the confident assurance of His power and kindness to fill my emptiness. And realizing that dependence on God is not simply words, rather a physical action and daily acknowledgment not merely my insufficiencies but greater than that – His all-sufficiency.

1Pe 1:13-16 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

God’s expectation is not that my self-attainment can ever match His requirements for holiness. As I prepare my mind for action, it is with the realization that my hope is fully on the grace of Christ. Note that Peter doesn’t say – prepare your mind because you’ve got to figure a way to get yourself out of your self-created messes. Rather, he says – prepare your mind for action – practice self control and set your hope on what Christ has done and will do. Don’t set your hope on your mind or your preparation or your abilities or your desires. Set your hope on Christ. That’s the power that enables me to be holy as He is holy. Without that grace and peace multiplied to me “you shall be holy as I am holy” is merely an unattainable target – like Sisyphus – always striving, never achieving.

But I can set my hope on my future glorification, and not be discouraged by my current struggle in sanctification, realizing that the hope for change comes from my Christ. My hope comes in what He has already done not in what strength I can muster up. It’s all because of Jesus – because of His blood. It’s because of His work that I can now have hope. He’s the hope for the struggle. He planned the steps I take and intimately cares about each step. He is with me each step of the way. That’s my hope. I will fail. I do fail. I will miss the mark that I set. But in God’s eyes – I’ve hit the mark already (His mark is dependence on Him for the process of sanctification not mustering up the ability to live a perfect Christian life in my own strength).

Through Christ, I am accepted. Through His payment and His sacrifice, I have hope for change. Not because I desire change but because He has enabled me for change. Not because I can accomplish change, but because He has already accomplished the change in my life. I am already in Him. I am already secure. I don’t “do” to earn. I “do” because I “am.” I already am accepted in His family. I have no fear of Him kicking me out of the family for failure. He will complete what He’s begun. My hope lies in that truth. He’s the Giver of every breath and the Sustainer of every step. He’s the Freedom from the curse and power of sin. My chains that I carry around are broken. They are not binding me fast – He has broken their power. Through looking to Him, those layers of chains can be removed. What a beautiful truth. What life-giving words. His grace and peace can be multiplied in my sin-filled, insufficient life not from my own merit, but because of the love displayed through His sacrifice.

Life is not Random

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Often I feel life is random – that events happen haphazardly with no justification or purpose. It can often feel life God is distant or not interested or not present or angry or…

But the dichotomy here is that I believe that the Bible to be true. I believe that the Bible contains the very much alive physical words of my God. That realization changes things. It means that life is not random, haphazard or purposeless – that God is not distant or uninterested in my life – on the contrary… the Bible tells me that despite my circumstances, that He has not forgotten or given up on me. That He is intimately involved in my affairs. That He is always in control and that He has sovereignly and lovingly ordained the steps that I so hesitantly take.

Why am I hesitant, like I’m walking on the edge of a cliff? Why does my legalistic heart convince me that I’m about to plunge over the edge? Why do I listen? Why does the belief of the truth of God’s Word not influence these legalistic, sinful, adulterating thoughts?

1st Peter talks about a God who forknew – He planned where He planted me. (refer back to my post “Trust the Gardener” http://emily-sc.blogspot.com/2007/08/trust-gardener.html). He did not just throw out the seeds of my life and… oops… they landed here – perfectly – in this job, in this church, still single, with these friends, with these pains, etc. Instead this placement (be it temporary or permanent) was/ is tender. It was loving.

In Psalm 147:3-4 we read, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.” Not only is He the all-powerful Creator of the universe who knows each star’s name, He is my God. He is my Protector. He knows my pains. He knows my needs. This God, who is infinately great, is infinitely tender. What a joy that brings to my weary soul. What a comfort that is. He’s not a tender God with no ability to help, and He’s not a mighty God with no desire to save… No, He is both at the same time. That’s why I can have confidence to say that my life is not random. That my job, my hurts, my longings, my wishes and unfulfilled desires, my prayers can be brought before the Throne of Grace to the One who is tenderly loving.

How grateful I am that God has given me such good and patient friends. Sarah, Christa, Jess, Rick and Lucia and the others so clearly display His patience and care to me. What a relief that I’m not in this alone. I’m not merely bumbling along – I have someone to pick me up when I fall (and I sure do fall a lot) and someone who God has graciously given me the ability to do the same with. I love my dear friends. They cause me to love my dear Savior more. I love their tenderness for the Gospel. Seeing that passion motivates me like Eustace to shred away the dragon layers in my life. But seeing their dependence on the Savior has increased my faith in my Father and Redeemer to allow Him to strip me of my dragonish self instead of me attempting and failing to redeem myself.

So, this post is titled “Life is not random.” Right now, though, my brain feels random. Trust is a daily struggle. Trust that He will continue to empower and lead me. Trust that as He has lavishly blessed me in the past, He is ever a faithful God. Yet, still I sin. All the signposts in my life point to the faithfulness and consistency of my God. Yet still I struggle. Every verse in the Bible tells me He is just and loving and that the payment on the cross was sufficient to cover and replace all my insufficiencies. It tells me of my eternal inheritance. Yet still, I live as a pauper. I live in the slums. I desire the mud pies of this world and forego the beach. I don’t “jump” off the counter with full confidence. And through all that He remains and will always remain faithful, patient, loving, caring and kind. Why? Because His justice, wrath, judgment and payment of my infinite debts were all paid for. That’s why for me there will be no judgment seat. When God looks at me He sees a good and faithful servant – because He sees the risen Christ in my place. I was crucified with Christ – therefore it is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me.

That should free me. That should release me to abundant joy. And the more I contemplate these things, the more hope I do have. The more I realize that my God not only forknew what would happen in my life but He paid the price I could not, provided me with an inheritance I could not earn and has empowered me for a santification that I cannot achieve alone, it gives me the desire to take another step in this painful process of sanctification. I only pray that as I continue to struggle, God will continue to reveal the never ending onion layers of joy that are found in Him (thankfully I can pray this with confidence, as James says that when I draw near to Him, He draws near to me). I want to know Him more. I want to sin less. I long to recognize the sound of His voice as my Shepherd. I want to be recentered. I want fewer ties to this dungeon we call our world. I want to radiate His greatness not my own. I want more feeling and less numbness.

musings on faithfulness…

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So, God started this “week” for me on Saturday night by showing me yet again my all-pervasive sin – allowing me to fully glimpse that depravity and then very timely providing me with an answer.

When Rick called and asked me to serve my sweet dear friend Sarah on Saturday night, my first thought was “oh come on… not again… don’t you realize I have things to do?… don’t you realize I’m “sick of serving”?… how could you impose on me like this at the very last minute?… I have a schedule you know and this request did not come before the 48 hour scheduling deadline.” The thoughts continued for several minutes. It’s amazing how in a matter of seconds so many wreched thoughts can fill your seemingly “sin-free” mind and create such a vicious downward spiral. So, instead of dealing with it, I pasted an ever-so-genuine smile on my face and headed out to serve. But God in his kindness, knew there was more to the story than I could see.

So, as Sarah and I were leaving the house, she looked at me and said “I sinned when I heard you were coming to pick me up.” To which I said “I sinned when I was asked to come pick you up.” Wow. There’s nothing like starting a conversation with two confessions of “I really didn’t want to see you.” Thankfully though instead of that reality closing the door to communication and leading to an awkward drive in silence, it wonderfully opened the door to the depths of what was truly going on. Unbeknownst to me, Sarah had received an e-mail early that morning that said “I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m praying for you, etc…” And then that afternoon, she got a call from someone else stating “I don’t know what’s going on but I’m praying for you.” Oddly enough, I was one of the only people who did know what was going on (hence the reason she didn’t want to see me when she heard I was coming to pick her up). So, the drive home turned into a lengthy deep discussion about trusting God despite the “fog” and His faithfulness despite our sin.

We talked several hours that night and then I went home to go to bed. Only I couldn’t sleep. God was flooding my mind with verses, poems, and words for Sarah. So, I wrote. And wrote. And at 3 AM finally stopped writing and went to sleep. At 6:30, I got up and headed to worship rehersal. In rehersal, Jim was explaining to us the depths of the song “for You are Holy” and how God’s holiness defines everything He is and everything He does. What an encouragement and refresher to my soul those words were. But when we went in to practice with the equipment, everything fell apart. The vocals were a mess, the mix was a mess, and the focus (in my heart) was gone. How timely – God used that 45 minute time-frame to humble me and once again show me my ever-present need for His all-sufficient grace. And to focus my heart’s gaze on Him, not the needs of my precious friend. Worship on Sunday was sweet. God was kind and as Lucy says in Prince Caspian “Aslan, you’ve grown.”

This Sunday was the day for Larry’s annual trip to see us. For me, that day is always a day of grateful reflection. Four years ago, the Sunday Larry came, was the Sunday I was in Charlotte. That trip was the catalyst leading me to where I am today. But back to now… His sermon was on the magnificence of the grace of Christ compared to the depths of our sin (see previous post for sermon notes). How timely! It’s almost like it was planned that way. :) So, on Sunday, after encouraging Sarah to have faith in our faithful God, the tsunami of sin hit my soul – the lack of self control, discipline, lack of service, lack of passion, arrogance and pride, etc. One after another, the waves started coming. And one after another, I found myself being knocked down by the current. Martin Luther said that the entire life of a Christian must be one of repentence. Either I’m in the ditch of wallowing in my sin and inability to save myself or I’m over in the ditch of “pull up your bootstraps and find a way to fix it.” How truly that repentence is needed. Daily. Practically minute by minute. But then came to mind a thought that Larry said on Sunday – confession doesn’t save anyone. Crying help doesn’t save anyone. Christ saves. The cross is what saves – not my desire to “fix it.” That’s what Paul Baloche’s new song “I cling to the cross” is all about – the cross is the only hope there is for saving me.

Since Sunday, I’m once again realizing what a “cast” sheep I am. Without a shepherd, there’s no hope for my soul. But His rod and staff – though used for correction at times, are a comfort to me. I’m a far way off from “getting it” but I think by God’s grace I’m starting to get it. Funny thing is before this weekend I thought I was doing okay. I’m grateful that God would orchestrate those events to lovingly prove to me otherwise. When I slept through the phone call Monday morning at 5 AM, Sarah’s voicemail was a sweet reminder of God’s grace despite my insufficiency. What a beautiful way to start the day! How grateful I am that I’m not called to do this alone. How I need the patient, forgiving, to-the-cross-pointing “Sarah’s” in my life. And what a joy to know that He will complete what He’s begun. What a joy and hope this brings to my parched soul!