What We Fear Reveals Truth About Ourselves

Sunset

(FreeImages.com/Tatyana Khramtsova)

As I was studying God’s Word today, spending time in prayer, and journaling what God was teaching me, God began once again to convict me and to show me some truths concerning a present battle I am facing.

I am facing the battle of fear concerning a particular situation.  Without relaying more details, let’s just say that this situation has been discouraging.  In fact, in referring to the situation, I have used hopeless terms to describe it.

This morning, God began to speak to me concerning this battle.  He began to reveal to me that the battle I am called to fight requires a long-term commitment and perseverance.  It’s not a battle that is going to be won with a few “skirmishes.”  Another way of putting it is that it’s not a “sprint” that I am called to run but a “marathon.”

God was reminding me that so often when God’s timing differs from mine, I begin to look to others, try to “help” God out by “fixing” the problem by my own methods or means, or begin to accept failure and mentally “check” the situation off as being a losing one and then try to find something else that appears to possibly be more successful.

God was speaking to my heart that the reason why I am not having victory is because I have written “failure” across the situation.  I have assumed the battle is lost or losing so I begin to “back pedal,” compromising my belief in God and His promises and as a result, compromising my actions.  Before long, what I fear comes to pass.

I believe God was prompting me to look at the significance of what I fear.

The question is, “What are we fearing today?”

What you and I fear will reveal the true condition of our heart and beliefs.  They will also be a good indicator of where we are headed.

If our faith in God is solid, we will be able to see past the temporary discouraging distractions of our present situations to the eternal or “bigger picture” of God’s purposes and plans.

Faith is the “key” that unlocks our “spiritual eyes.” 

We can know the truth, but until we believe/embrace it, we’ll never recognize or experience the reality of it personally.

Our relationship with God consists not in what we know about God but in Who He is to us.  What is He to you?

You may say and know that God is gracious, just, righteous, compassionate, etc…, but is He your grace, your righteousness, your compassion today?

Who is He to you?

How Understanding Our Position Secures Our Victory

(http://www.freeimages.com/photo/conqueror-1410207)

As Christians, we have this amazing opportunity to walk in victory and freedom — in Christ!  So often though, we do the opposite.  Why is that?

I believe it’s because we don’t understand our position in Christ.  We lose perspective, and we begin to falter.

The truth is quite simple.

We are overcomers because He overcame!

Our position is in Christ, and as such, we inherit what He has! 

Jesus said the disciples should get excited that their names were registered in heaven, because that meant the grounds of their authority were secured through God’s throne — His kingdom — and that’s why the power of hell could not prevail against them.

— Jack Hayford

We can speak with “authority” so long as we are speaking His words.

We can walk in confidence, which means in faith, because He is completely trustworthy.

The following verses are some great words of encouragement, reminding us of who we are in Him and what we have in Him:

Ephesians 1:14

14 who[a] is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

Ephesians 1:18

18 the eyes of your understanding[a] being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

Colossians 1:12

12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.

Hebrews 1:4

having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

Hebrews 9:15

15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

1 Peter 1:3-4

A Heavenly Inheritance

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,

Let’s walk in the victory Christ won for us and in faith because Faithful is He who called us!

2016 Soul Food

I am so blessed!  This is the north shore of Lake Tahoe on the way from Tahoe City to Reno.
I used the "dusk" setting on my Nikon digital camera and in Photoshop, I upped the lightness and contrast a bit.  Here's a p...

(http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=19084&searchId=635828f397ff80825e1a86d9ad9f4b17&npos=12)

The following quote/goal list is borrowed from Ann Voskamp’s blog, A Holy Experience.  Read her blog for the entire post: http://www.aholyexperience.com/2015/12/this-is-the-year-when-new-year-resolutions-feel-hopeless-you-want-some-soulutions-free-printable.  Feel free to print out her printable and make your own goals.  (Thank you, Ann Voskamp!)

2016. This is The Year
I purpose to —

* Embrace Imperfect.

This is The Year to be held by the arms of grace, not to any standard of perfection.

* Engage Silence — not screens.

This is The Year to engage silences regularly & retreat to the “back side of the wilderness.” Because when you do not need to be seen or heard — you can see and hear in desperately needed ways.

You find your true self when you look for your reflection in the eyes of souls — and not the glare of screens.

* Be still.

Be small. Be Loved. Beloved.

Let yourself be loved anyway He wants to love you. God is always, always good & you are always, always, always. loved.

Be still …. & know.

* Believe in Him for impossABLE things.

Believe in Him who makes the ridiculously impossible into the miraculously possible,
the unbelievable into the you-better-believe-it,
the never into the now.
Be the brave people who pray it bold in the space between the end of one year & the beginning of a New Year: BUT GOD.

“Ours is the God who whispers: “With Me nothing, Nothing, NOTHING is impossible.
Believe in Him for impossABLE things — because as long Emmanuel, God is with us & we are with God: nothing is impossible.

Believe in Him for improbable, implausible, impractical, impossABLE things.

* Break idols — or they will break you.

Break free, break out of ruts, break idols — or they will break you.

* Daily 3 for 10:

These 3 for 10 everyday: Word In. Work Out. Work Plan.
It’s not what you do every now and then, but what you do everyday, that changes everything.

Word in: Get into God’s Word for 10 minutes and let it get into you.
Work out: Work out. Even 10 minutes of moving is better than nothing.
Work plan: Write out the Work Plan — even just 3 things. And then just start: 10 minutes working the plan.

* Do Less. Pray More.

More than your doing hands, God wants your bended knees.

* Let Go of the Outcome.

Come completely committed to the process — and completely let go of the outcome.
In the middle of things seemingly not working out for us —- God is working out something in us.

* Learn Endurance.

Do Hard & Holy Things. Break the idols of ease — or they will break you.

* Live Given.

Because #LoveGives.
Because God so loved He gave.
Because Living is Giving.

* Give

It
Forward
Today — 3 times a day.
Give It Forward Today & be the #GIFT — give an act of grace forward, 3 times a day. Be a #GIFTivst
It’s the Giftivists are the activists who believe that radical acts of generosity counter radical acts of inhumanity. #GIFTivst

* Grow Brave. Grow in Grace

Grow Brave. Grow in Grace. Which is basically the same thing.

The Flesh Test

On Facebook news-feeds, I often see links to tests — tests regarding your IQ, personality, the popularity of your name, who your best friends are, your vision, people who like you, etc…  A lot of people are curious about the results of the “tests” and wonder if the tests might reveal something different to themselves.

Today, I don’t want us to evaluate ourselves based upon a Facebook page.  What I do want to do is to have a more honest look at our lives, our hearts, and the role that our “flesh” has in our lives.

We first need to understand what the flesh is and how it manifests itself.

  • The flesh is our human/sinful nature.  It is in direct opposition to God.
  • The flesh is in cohorts with our arch enemy, Satan.  It answers to the enemy of our soul.

The flesh is always motivated by self-glorification, self-preservation, and self-sufficiency (independence).  The “glorification”, “preservation”, and “sufficiency” is all a lie since it’s under Satan’s control.

When we think we are taking control of our lives and “strong”, we allow self to rule.  Self will always rule to our destruction; for, it is under the influence of Satan and in direct opposition to God, Who is our Source of Life.

Satan will use our fleshly desires to destroy  us in the very areas we think we are controlling.  He will use our fleshly independence to put us in bondage to the very things we think will empower us but instead imprison us.

In trying to experience glory, we’ll be left with no honor that lasts.

In trying to establish security, we’ll “protect” ourselves from anything that makes us vulnerable.  As a result, we’ll cut ourselves off from truly meaningful relationships and help, from allowing the wounds to heal, from experiencing a richer life, and from opening our hearts fully even to God.  Our hearts will be brittle and “locked up” against God and everyone else out of fear.  We will lack receptivity in all areas — including sexual relationships with our spouses, acknowledging weaknesses in ourselves, and being willing to trust.  Trust will be lacking in our lives — a sure sign of the lie of “self-preservation”.

Self-sufficiency is very similar.  We’ll take pride in our independence and “strength” without realizing that relying on ourselves makes us extremely vulnerable.  Independence from God always results in sin.

We need to also understand that Satan never desires our good.  We were created in the image of God, and therefore Satan hates us.  He hates God and wishes to destroy anything or anyone that is a reminder of God. 

Our enemy will try to get us to believe lies about God and therefore ourselves; so that in our vulnerability, we are easily manipulated to help bring about our own destruction.

Our enemies are the world, the flesh, and the devil.  The world is under the dominion of Satan.

Satan is the father of lies, which means what the world teaches, promotes, values, and lives is a lie.  What it “promises” is actually the opposite of what it produces.

Ephesians 2:1-3

By Grace Through Faith

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

How do we keep the world from pressing us into its mold?  Do we “keep” anything?

If our natural selves are controlled by the flesh, then can the flesh fight the flesh?  Will it not twist truth and light in order to serve its own purposes?

Galatians 5:16-17

Walking in the Spirit

16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

For the individual whose spirit has been saved by the Spirit of God, he/she is given a supernatural ability and “tools” (weapons) to fight within the spiritual realm.  We call this the armor of God, which is under the power of God and therefore has all the resources and abilities of God.

Plain and simple, the power is of God and through God.

When we are saved, each of us becomes a member of Christ’s body, forged with resurrection power and seated with Him in the heavenly places above all rule, power, and authority.  Nothing can alter our position.  … position is one thing; living accordingly is another.  — Kay Arthur

Grace is the triumph of the cross in our daily lives.

It is as a result of God’s grace, that salvation was brought to us, and as a result of that eternal and perfect grace, we are given the daily and minute-by-minute ability to live within the triumph of the cross — rather than under the domain and defeat of the flesh.

Romans 12:2

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Galatians 5:1

Christian Liberty

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free,[a] and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

What or who is controlling you today?  Your fears?  Your pride?  Your lusts?  Your flesh.

We can be saved by the power of God and yet still be living outside the power of God within our daily lives.  If you are having a hard time living victoriously in your Christian walk, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate, to ask yourselves the pointed questions.  Why are you not submitting to God?  What lie(s) are you believing about God that is(are) preventing you from responding in surrender to His power in your life?

Does God Ask Too Much Of Us?

(http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=354752&searchId=4641999a7679fcaef2df0e26d11e3c72&npos=10)

The passage of years told their story in the lines across his brow, “age spots” dappled generously across his body, and skin as fragile as parchment.

He had known the sorrows and joys of a living a full life.

The enthusiasm of his youth had mellowed into the resolute faithfulness of the experienced.

He knew what it meant to watch all his dreams crumble and then at the last to watch them miraculously be fulfilled.

He had experienced the humbling lessons of trying to “intercede” for God and then to see those alternate plans “smack him back in the face.”

The passage of time had taught him that the truthfulness of God’s character is dependable.

The old man had learned that “God doesn’t just speak to be heard but to be obeyed.” (quote taken from Discerning The Voice Of God)

Through both failures and victories, the old man had learned that obedience to God’s voice requires a resolute and total commitment.

Through “trail and error”, the old man had learned that God’s resources and blessings always follow His will. 

In the seasoned years of his life, the old man finally felt ready to relax and to enjoy the benefits of years of toil and sacrifice.

He was ready to enjoy the blessings of spending time with a son that hadn’t come until all hope seemed hopeless.

This son had been promised by God a long time ago, and when the old man was still young, he and his wife had anticipated God’s promised blessing.

As the years had turned into decades, the “blossom” of their dreams and hopes had crumpled along with the vitality and fertility of their youth.

The man and his wife had even tried to devise a contingency plan for God, but had discovered the hard way that God’s blessings follow God’s will — not their own.

In God’s mercy and according to the faithfulness and truthfulness of God’s character, the man and his wife did at last see the full fruition of all their hopes and dreams!

A son was born to the two of them at last!  Miracle of miracles, their son was born in the autumn of their lives!

Where there had been “decay” and “deadness”, God had brought vitality and life.

Now, the old man could enjoy his son turning into a young man, anticipating the “handing over of the reins” of leadership to his son.

Feeling the creak of arthritic knees and the pain of swollen joints, the old man sat for a few minutes, marveling over the extent of the “spread” of his camp.  The tents of his servants spread out across the plain, along with the herds of sheep, cattle, and camels.  Wells, his servants had dug, pumped refreshing water to sustain the life of his household.

The colorful array of exquisite tapestries decorated the outside of their dwellings, while the beautiful designs of intricately-crafted pottery, mosaics, vases, and jewel-like creations decorated the interiors.

The old man felt a deep satisfaction welling up inside him.  It was time to rest and enjoy this “autumn” season of his life.

Into the quiet of his soul came the Voice that he had come to recognize with clarity over the years.  It was the voice of God, compelling Him to once again obey with resolute commitment.

The old man had known what it meant to follow God with unyielding obedience.  He knew what total commitment to God’s will looked like.  He had left the stability of his home lands, the “security” of loved ones and resources, the “protection” of armies, the “provision” of fertile valleys, and the companionship of friends in order to follow God.

His commitment to God was radical in its resoluteness and thoroughness.

In spite of all the “sacrifices” the old man had previously made to follow God, this new command would test everything he believed concerning God.  This latest command would be the ultimate test of the fortitude of his commitment to God.

“Was he all in for God and willing to go all out for God — even when it meant allowing the ‘blessings’ and ‘promises’ of God to ‘die’?”

In all honesty, the old man did have the fleeting thought that ran through his mind initially, questioning God’s “right” to ask so much of him.  The thought was no sooner there than the old man discarded it.  If nothing else, the old man had learned that God is a God of the impossible.

“If God required the ultimate sacrifice, then God would provide the ultimate provision.”

The old man pushed himself up. On legs, shaking not just from the weakness of age but also from the emotions of the moment, he limped his way to the animal corral.  It was time to prepare his donkey and pack provisions for the grueling journey that he would undertake in the morning.

Relaying few details, the old man kissed his wife good bye and set off on the journey, taking several days’ worth of provisions, his donkey, a stack of wood for an offering, two servants to assist, and his most prized possession of all — his promised son.

The arduous journey would take three days of bone-wearying, mind-numbing, and emotionally-draining fatigue.

During those three days, the old man continued to trudge along in his task to fulfill God’s command.

This time, he had no contingency plans.  There was no sacrificial animal that he had brought “just in case”…

Upon reaching the foothills of the mountain that was to be their destination, the old man instructed the two servants to wait for their return.

Then with one hand leading the donkey, loaded with firewood on his back, and the other hand clasping his son’s hand in his own, the old man set out.

With the carefree nature of youth, the son soon was scampering along the path, excitedly pointing out the insects, oddly-shaped rocks, and colorful flowers long their path.

The steep path ascended up the hard face of the mountain, ending at the top.  At the top of the mount, the man and his boy stood.  It was just them and God.

With unwavering dedication to following God’s commands, the old man began to untie the firewood and began to carefully stack the wood upon an outcropping of rocks.  He placed each log carefully so that it would quickly and efficiently burn the sacrifice.

Each action he performed was resolute.  He was committed to seeing God’s commands through to the end.

Then with unwavering devotion and trust, the old man hardly flinched as he turned to his son and began to tie his sons’ arms and legs together, preparing his son to be the sacrifice.

The son had heard the story of his miraculous birth over and over throughout his young years.  He had heard repeatedly how God had promised that He would raise up a powerful nation through the boys’ descendants.  The boy did not fully understand what was going to happen, but he too believed that God could and should be trusted.

With bated breath, the boy watched as his father raised a long knife over his body.

Into the silence of time suspended in an agony of hopes, the compelling voice of God spoke.

With trembling hand, the old man lowered the sharp blade.  While salty tears trailed down weathered cheeks and gnarled hands grabbed the hand of his beloved son, the old man listened as God commended him for his obedience and then revealed His provision.

A ray of sunlight caught the glint of the metal and threw a dazzling beam of light out across the mount where they stood.  As their gazes were drawn to the blinding reflection of sun, the boy and the man saw where the beam of light seemed to point.

There, standing in a tangled mass of weeds and thistles was a ram.  The strong and beautiful animal would become the sacrifice instead.

God had provided!

The old man swept his son up into his arms and quickly cut the restraining ropes, binding the boys’ arms.

Later as the old man and his son watched the last embers of flame burn out, they heard God’s compelling voice once again speak. This time, God’s voice spoke words of praise and blessing, reaffirming the promises that had been made decades ago that God would bless the progeny of this faithful old man and his son.

As the old man and his son descended the mountain, their eyes were drawn not just to the beautiful vista below but also back to the altar.

Something powerful had happened that day in their lives!  It wasn’t just mere excitement over seeing a ram and the huge relief of knowing that God wasn’t going to require the sacrifice of the boy.  It was something greater… It seemed a truth, a message greater than the moment, greater than themselves had been relayed. 

And the old man returned home to his wife, while the youthful son, exuberantly ran off to explore a new adventure.

Though presently distracted by youthful interests, the boy would later recall that powerful moment and would ponder the deeper message of God’s faithfulness and truthfulness to His promises.

Over a thousand years later, a Father would once again be required to make the ultimate sacrifice.

This Son was the Father’s only and beloved Son.  This Son would willingly lay down His life as a sacrifice, but this time, there would be no substitution. 

The full crushing weight of becoming the sacrifice for all sins, for all of mankind, for all of time would be laid upon this Son.

God Himself was the Father, and it was His precious Son who died, carrying the weight of a sin-burdened, sin-guilty, sin-weary world upon Himself.  With the bowing of His head in surrender to death, He “crucified” the record of sin against us. 

His death became the means for the death of our own sin: its guilt, penalty, and crushing hold.

Three days later when this same Son arose from the dead in miraculous risen life, He offered the means by which we too can experience a new life of complete and radical transformation! 

The life He offers to us through His own life is that of abundant grace — the grace that brought the Gospel of salvation to us and the grace that keeps us sheltered within the embrace of lavish love.

Feet Of Clay

A potter is kneading the clay to be used to making Lord Ganesha Idols in Pottery Town, Bangalore.

(http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=12073361&searchId=88b5c637595cd7c0c9675d03efa58f0b&npos=93)

With another scandalous headline concerning the Duggar family splashed across the news, my heart began to ache once again…

The story “hit close to home” because I grew up in an environment similar to the Duggars. I was surrounded by friends and affiliates who espoused the ATIA teachings, of which the Duggar family is also a part.

This is what I have learned coming out of that environment of ultra-conservatism — how it started “wrong” and how it continued to go wrong:

Note: This was not necessarily the way I was raised or the teachings of my family.  These concepts were what I was exposed to by ultra-conservative groups of which we were affiliated, people with whom we associated, church groups, etc…

1.  There was an over-emphasis on the outward (works, appearance, actions, expressions).

A lot of attention was given to how a person dressed, acted, talked.  Spirituality was based upon those outward indicators that were “supposed” to be inward indicators.

When the outward becomes our focus, it is easy to avoid looking at the inward and to cover up our inner struggles with pretty exteriors.

2.  There was an emphasis on pleasing God, but the reason was motivated from fear — fear of God’s wrath.

Growing up in that environment, God was seen more as a holy, wrathful God — that a person must appease or constantly live in fear of His judgment.

A fearful environment produces shame, guilt, condemnation, anxiety, anger, wrath, judgment, harshness, and extremes.

3.  There was an emphasis on living a “godly” life, but perfection was what was really intended.

We were expected to be practically perfect.

Our worth was judged on our performance — how “godly” we appeared.

There was no room to give grace.  There were harsh consequences for anyone who “slipped up” — even over the smallest or most ridiculous infractions.

4.  It was taught that if you lived the “godly” or really perfect life, you would be honored by the world and would receive material blessings.

This became another form of the “wealth, health, and happiness” type of “gospel”.  There was an over-emphasis on good works, called “godly behavior”, and the results were supposed to be physical and material blessings.

5.  It was taught that you could avoid sin in your life by avoiding sin out there.

Sin was blamed on the the “world”.  So to avoid the “world” meant we could avoid sin. 

This can result in condemnation of the “world” rather than a humble love that reaches out to the world.  This can also result in the avoidance of taking responsibility for our own actions.

My above list is not conclusive or exhaustive, but it reveals some of the heart issues behind the “ultra-conservative” movement.

It’s been 15 years since I was immersed in such an environment.  Since that time, God has revealed many truths to me concerning my past and revealed the wonderful freedom of His grace.

I still try to live a “godly” life, but it is no longer based on the fear of appeasing a wrathful God.  God has been so gently teaching me that He is a loving God and full of grace.  He convicts me ever so gently in a way that doesn’t leave me condemned but leaves me with a desire and hope for growth and the future to which He has called me.

God has been teaching me that I have “feet of clay”.  This means that I am not a “paradigm of godliness or perfection”.  My claim is the righteousness of Christ alone.  My standing is in His righteousness!

When I understand my security is found in God’s grace, I am able to acknowledge my own sins and take responsibility for them.

I understand that I don’t have to pretend perfection or constantly live in fear of being found less-than-perfect.  Instead, I have a desire to run into the “arms” of a loving God who is always ready to receive the repentant child back and longs to restore us into full fellowship with all the privileges of being His child.

I understand that God’s love is not performance-based or conditional.  God chose to love me and to die for me, fully aware of my sinful and unlovely condition.

I am also learning to give more grace to my children and to stop holding them to an impossible standard of perfection.  I am still learning this though…

I am learning to accept myself and others in our all of our imperfect, messy states.  God knows we have “feet of clay” and still chooses to use us, as we yield ourselves to Him.

I don’t claim to be perfect at any of this.  In fact, as my family can attest, I mess up on a regular basis, but I have the confidence to get back up again because I have a God who loves me way more than I can even dare to hope and who won’t give up on me.  I have a God who chooses to use me, with feet of clay, to reveal the power of His grace at work in my life. 

So, when we are tempted to elevate a mere human, let’s remember that we all have just “feet of clay”.  All goodness and true righteousness and true godliness is in God alone!

Soul, take a deep breath and bask in the freedom you have to walk in His power and grace and to be completely accepted in Him.  Get back up on those feet of clay.  He’s not finished with you yet.

An Act Of Worship

this would be a sweet background!

(http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=358948&searchId=f7b0e354b768a2e09b31aa55744ef613&npos=16)

Sometimes, it’s easier to “do” church, to “do” worship then it is to really worship. 

Ever been there? 

I have been there before, thinking I was so “righteous” in my worship because I could state certain “Church-ese” phrases so eloquently.  I have thought in the past that I was worshiping God because my manner was so “holy”.  I have thought I was worshiping God because I was in a place that appeared to be worshipful.

The truth is worship is never about the outward.  It’s not about the look or feel of a place.  It’s not about the people in the place.  It’s not about the appearance of the other worshipers — their sobriety or their demonstrative expressions of worship.  Worship isn’t limited to a specific emotion.  Worship isn’t limited to a place or a group of people.

Worship is about a Person.  It’s about Jesus.  It’s about God the Father who sacrificed His very Son to give us a tangible example of what love really is.

I Googled the definition of worship off Thesaurus.com.  The following list includes other words that describe worship:

According to these other words, worship expresses a heart attitude (awe, love, veneration, adulation, adoration, glory, praise, etc…).

Worship describes a heart attitude that then expresses itself in adoration, praise, service, love, prayer, devotion, etc…

Exodus 20:3

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

God is to be the object of our worship.  Ultimately, He has the right to ask this of us as He is the One to Whom we owe our very lives, life, and eternity. 

Atheists refuse to recognize that there is a Sovereign Power that holds this universe together.  Yet, there is a “Force” keeping atoms from flying apart.  There is a Force that started matter/life in the beginning.

Even our very breaths pay homage to our Creator.  Here’s a quote from Jason Gray’s blog http://www.rabbitroom.com/2011/08/is-the-name-of-god-the-sound-of-our-breathing:

“…God’s name, YHWH, is comprised of aspirated consonants that, spoken, are the sound of breathing.”

So every time we breathe, our bodies literally say God’s name!  Is this just “happenstance,” or is it not significant to know that the God who created us would put His very name within each breath we take to remind us that our lives are truly and literally dependent upon His life within us?

Worship occurs every time we place ourselves in full surrender to God and hand over the reigns of control to Him.

So often we want everything on our terms — even our so-called “worship”.  We want to think God is limited to specific places, people, positions, practices, phrases, etc… The reality is God is worshiped among any and all who are surrendered to Him.

Every time, personal ambitions are put aside and we are surrendered to God’s working in and through our lives, God is worshiped.

Today, maybe you are feeling overwhelmed by the drudgery of your current affairs.  Perhaps, life feels bitterly cruel to you today because of current trials you are experiencing.  Perhaps, you are lonely or alone.  Perhaps, you are living in a home with an unsaved spouse or unsaved parents and siblings.  Perhaps, you are the only individual at your work who is saved or appears to be saved.

This is for you, my friend.  No matter where you are, with whom you are, how you are feeling today, you have something to offer to God.  You have yourself!

The gift God asks and wants more than anything else is You!  Yes, You! 

God doesn’t ask you to wait to come to Him or to wait to be used by Him until you are “all-beautified” or “perfected”.   God wants us to come as we are to Him.  God asks us to give ourselves to Him — just as we are. 

Dear friends, He will take the rubbish.  He will take the wounds.  He will take the sickness.  He will take the hurts.  He will take the past.  He will take us just as we are, and He will transform and redeem what we give to Him.

Yes, dear friends, this is grace!  Jesus just wants you.  It means though that you have to surrender to Him, offer yourself to Him, and stop trying to fix what you can’t fix.

It’s all about the holy act of surrender — that is the essence of worship.

Surrender to God, and allow yourself to be a gift of worship to Him, revealing the matchless grace and power of Jesus!

The glory is and always has been His all along.

He is the reason we live and breathe and hope!

Job 33:4

“The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”

Jars Of Clay

Ready for the firing

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2 Corinthians 4:7

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

Last night as I cradled my daughter in my arms in the rocking chair, I felt the weight of so many burdens pressing in on me.

I don’t claim to carry some of the heavy burdens that some of my friends are carrying, but whatever our burden is, it’s very real to us.

We’ve all had those days — those days, when the weight of this world feels like it’s going to crush us into the ground.

I don’t know why I do this so often because I know better…  Maybe because I am human and a sinner and flawed… a jar of clay…  So often when times get tough, I believe the lie that I just need to have more faith, be a better parent, live more righteously, be stronger, be like so and so, be more loving, be kinder, and then this thing called life will be easier. 

I think that if I do more of something, I will be victorious and life will be easier.

Why, oh why, do I still believe that way at times (by the way I live)?!!

It all goes back to that truth that I am an “earthen vessel” or “jar of clay.” 

Sometimes, I want to demand of God, “Why did you give so much responsibility to such a cracked jar of clay?”

So often, we take pride in being strong.  We compliment each other on that too.  Oh, the burdens we place on others that we nor anyone else was meant to carry!

So, last night as I was rocking my daughter and felt so many burdens pressing upon me, I did what I should have done much earlier on…  I did what so often we believe makes us a failure.  I admitted that I couldn’t do it.

With tears in my eyes, I began to cry out to God.  I told Him I couldn’t do it.  With the name of Jesus on my lips, I asked Him to help me and told Him, “I surrender myself to You.  Help me, Jesus.  Help me.”

I read in Discerning The Voice Of God by Priscilla Shirer that you will know God’s will when it requires you to do something that you can only do in His strength. 

Why do we pride ourselves on trying to be enough and be strong when we are anything but it in ourselves?

As God’s Word says, and I can attest to this personally:

2 Corinthians 12:10

10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Why do we dislike admitting our faults and weaknesses?

Pride and a lack of understanding of God and of who we are in Him is what prevents us from being honest before God, ourselves, and others.

It’s when we do not fully understand God’s grace that we despise any signs of weakness or failings in ourselves and/or others. 

What we don’t realize is that “strength” in the flesh is really weakness wearing a mask.

As fallible humans, the only things we are capable of producing in ourselves is just as flawed as we are. 

What happens though when God takes a flawed, broken person, a “human jar of clay” and begins to reshape and remake it, while at the same time filling that same jar with the light of His Presence?

I love what Gloria Furman said in her book, Glimpses Of Grace:

When God entrusts the gospel to us, it makes His power all the more obvious.  God delights in glorifying Himself by using jars of clay to show that the surpassing power of the Gospel is His, and His alone.

But sometimes, we’d much rather it be the other way around.  We don’t like to be weak.  We prefer to be strong.  We deny our weaknesses and failures and cover them up with pretense and excuses.

…our greatest fear is in being found incompetent, insufficient, and ineffective.

God is praised through our insufficiencies.

These powerful quotes from Glimpses of Grace say the following:

Our preference boils down to just that — we are the ones who want to be admired.  We want to live for our own glory.

When we are reluctant to exalt God and recognize His position of authority in our lives, we resent His desire to use us in our fragile, sinful states.

“When we are reluctant to exalt God and recognize His position of authority in our lives, we resent His desire to use us in our fragile, sinful states.”

When we accurately understand Who God is and who we are in Him, we are willing to hand our “jars of clay” over to Him and allow Him to use us as He works on remaking us into His image.

I love the following quotes from Glimpses Of Grace:

The gospel [of grace] is the lens through which God sees us when we have faith in His Son — the gospel is our one great, permanent circumstance.

Jesus’ blood and righteousness is sufficient for me and gives me bold access to God’s throne room.

God is asking you: “Are you willing to honor me in your brokenness?”

I have been given a job of raising five children to love and serve God.  It’s an impossible task!  I am completely ill-equipped in my own strength to handle it and to do it successfully.  When I rely on God’s strength, I have all the gifts from God the Father at my disposal.  The impossible becomes possible.  The broken becomes beautiful.  The weak becomes strong…

This is my greatest reality — not my circumstances — but the truth:

  • Jesus… is our firm foundation.
  • We are confident because we are in Him.
  • We are bold because He has gone before.
  • We persevere through trials because He is interceding for us.
  • We declare His victory over our sin because He has nailed the condemning record against us to the cross

(Taken from Glimpses Of Grace)

Welcoming People Into Your Life — Even When It Is Messy

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I am going to be honest with you and admit that I am one of those people that thrives on order and organization.  It sounds “pretty” to say that I like keeping a clean and organized home.

The reality is more often that I like my home clean and organized because I like control.

I also am often too concerned about my image, and then my house becomes an idol to my image.

I have had the privilege all summer long to have lots of guests into my house.  When I know company is coming, I run around cleaning my house until it sparkles.  I want it to look as “perfect” as it can look with seven people living in it.

Sometimes in the process of cleaning, I forget that it’s more important about having a welcoming heart than an attractive home.

God always has a way of gently correcting my heart and attitudes and revealing their true condition.  There’s no pretense with Him.

One of my dear friends recently visited me, and I mentioned to her that I have had to come to accept that with five children, my life isn’t going to be the pretty little package, all under wraps, tied up with a pretty bow, like I would prefer.

She said so eloquently, something along the lines of, “Love is messy.”

Love requires us to get messy. 

To truly love others, we have to be willing to get messy ourselves.  We have to be wiling to be transparent and to welcome them into our own messy lives.  We have to be willing to accept people in all of their disheveled, messy state of brokenness.

God has been working on teaching me that life is messy, and grace is sometimes best seen in the messiness of life.

I love the following quotes from the book, Glimpses of Grace, by Gloria Furman:

…controlling my circumstances wouldn’t fill the void in my soul.  You can’t organize your way into communion with God.

I forget that homemaking is not primarily about my personality; it is primarily to adorn the Gospel…

For many of us homemakers, our greatest fear is in being found incompetent, insufficient, and ineffective.  We prefer to look like we’ve got it all together.  We give lip service to the idea that nobody’s perfect, but we would rather die trying to prove that we’re the exception to the rule.

God chooses to use the weak and broken to show himself to be strong and sufficient.

If you struggle with developing close relationships with others, perhaps you struggle with the same problem of making your image an idol.

When we live for our own “glory” or image, we are incapable of allowing people into the vulnerable and messy places of our lives.

I love this quote from Glimpses of Grace in regards to this:

Perhaps our relationships are terminally casual because we’re not willing to disclose what’s at the heart level.

  1. Maybe we’re unsure of how we are really doing.
  2. Maybe, we’re not willing to hear from others.
  3. Maybe, we’re afraid of the truth.
  4. Maybe, we’re insecure because we’ve been burned in the past.
  5. Maybe, we’re just ignorant to the beauty of self-disclosure shared for the sake of the Gospel.
  6. Maybe, we’d rather cling to our own assumptions of others.

What’s the solution to letting go of our false need for control and pride in holding onto false pretenses?

The solution is knowing the truth about who we are in Christ and knowing the truth of Who God is.

The Gospel isn’t just giving us a fresh slate to try to get things right again.  The Gospel means that Jesus not only met God’s justice on the cross and paid the penalty for our sins, but that He also exchanged our “rags” of sinfulness for Jesus’ righteousness.  This is our means of redemption and transformation!

Glimpses of Grace says this as well:

Jesus faced our sin and our enemy and determined to remain on the cross until our debt for every last sin was paid in full.  He nailed the record of condemnation against us to the cross in triumph!

The gospel inspires in us a willingness to cede control to God over the image we are trying to portray through our lives in the home.  Through Jesus, we can be most concerned with imaging God and being conformed to His image.  Because of the gospel, we can run away from any Magic Mirrorgate, rejoicing in who God is instead of devastated by who we are.

When we are unwilling to be honest and authentic with others, we must ask ourselves whether we have the proper view of God and of our position in Him.

Glimpses of Grace said, “Don’t be a victim of identity theft. .. everything God has for you is grace upon grace because of what Jesus has done for you.  …Your image is not really about you but about Him.”

One last quote, because I love the way God welcomes us into His heart and family — even in our disheveled, messy sinful state:

“Part of your image bearing and image conforming is experiencing the joy of making God your treasured possession, as He has made you His.” (From Glimpses of Grace)