The Only Thing That Will Remain…

He Loves Me

(FreeImages.com/NatArnett)

 

This morning as I was contemplating love and its eternal nature, some truths struck me.

According to First Corinthians 13, the only gifts and work of the Spirit that will remain into eternity is love.  Why?

In Heaven, there is no need for tongues. We will all be completely in communion with Holy Spirit.  Everyone will understand all things so there will be no communication issues.

In Heaven, there will be no need for prophecy because all will understand and know all things.  All prophesies will be fulfilled at that time.  The written and spoken Word of God will be completely lived in and through us in our perfect, sanctified states.

There will be no need for Bible teaching because we will have full understanding.

There will be no need for mission work because it will be all accomplished.

There will be no need for healing for all will be whole.

There will be no need to cast out demons because there will be no evil in Heaven.

The only thing that will remain is love.  Why?

Because love is the only thing that we need for all of eternity, and Love is Jesus.  God is Love!  We will be forever surrounded by perfect, complete Love Himself.

See this passage:

1 Corinthians 13

13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Pondering love made me also realize that the only fruit that will remain is that which is sown into the fertile bed of love.  I do mean this spiritually.  Love will prepare fertile soil to receive fruit.

The only fruit that will remain is that which is sown in love.

This means that if our ministries, our giftings, and our works are not done in love, the fruit will not remain.  It will wither.

Holy Spirit is referred to in the Scriptures as “water.”  The fruit must be sown with love into fertile soil.  Fertile soil means lushLush speaks of life and moisture.  The soil has been prepared by Holy Spirit, is sown in love with the seeds of truth, and is watered by Holy Spirit to bring forth fruit.  The fruit is righteousness.

We don’t get true righteousness from our own self-efforts or self-reliance.  True righteousness comes from the work and love of God within our lives and Holy Spirit’s “watering” of the seed.  God’s Word is the seed.

I love the analogies we see in creation that reflect the Creator!

How convicting this is to recognize that the only fruits that will remain are those sown with love!

See these verses that compare Holy Spirit to water:

John 7:37-39 

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Isaiah 44:3

‘For I will pour out water on the thirsty land And streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring And My blessing on your descendants;

John 4:14

but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

1 Corinthians 12:13

For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Advertisements

My Former Life In A Nutshell…

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/growing-up-gothard

I am going to link to this guy’s blog post because it summarizes in a nutshell what it was like growing up under the influence of ATI (Advanced Training Institute/Bill Gothard program).

I love how this guy describes his home as a loving home!  Mine was too, and I love my parents!!  They did a lot of good, but we were raised within the ATI culture.  This guy’s article explains a lot of the issues I have with the philosophies of the ATI movement/teachings.

This guy is right on when he explains about the constant pressure to be perfect.  I remember that so well and my twisted view of God, as a result.

I didn’t want to get close to a God who seemed to be always waiting for my next moment of sin/failure and who seemed like He only punished with no full restoration or hope of redemption in sight.  It was taught that consequences were God’s judgment on us; there was no concept of redemption for even our consequences.

It was definitely a place of much fear!  Parents wanted to raise their kids to turn out godly.  So in fear, they pulled them from the world, even from among other Christians, sometimes family members, and society.  They thought that by secluding them, they could produce a more godly generation.

As I wrote in a previous blog post, the issue with this is, they forget that there is evil within not just without.  The heart is what matters!

They also lived from fear.  What they didn’t realize is that reacting to our fears will not lead us into freedom but just into another form of bondage.

We never want to raise our children from a position of fear but from God’s leading.  The safest place to be is always within the center of God’s will.

An interview with a former ATI student that really explains what it was like growing up Gothard: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WQy4LGUQRg.

 

Do It Broken

YMCA Horse Mosaic 1

(FreeImages.com/MichelleRau)

As I was sitting in bed this morning with my journal, Bible, and a devotional, the words began to pour out, and the tears began to fall.  Before long, I was scrambling for my pen to jot down the thoughts God was giving me — thoughts about brokenness and grace…

I was reflecting back on how so many times I have wondered why God would entrust me with five precious children to raise when I am far from perfect.  I am not the most patient person.  Loud noises and lots of activity stress me.  Chaos and messes annoy me.  I get easily stressed over crazy busyness and never-ending activities.  The humor in this is all the above often describes my life.

I seem like the most unlikely choice to being a mom of five kids.  Was it all one big cosmic mistake, or ignorance on my part?  Does that mean my kids and I are relegated to just “muck through” the rest of life until they are out of the home, and I can be back in my comfy place again?

In answer to those questions, I will share thoughts God has been teaching me and what I want to share with you today…

Religion often teaches us that God waits until we get it all right before He uses us.

Grace is about God using us — not even in spite of our imperfections — but sometimes because of them.  Why?  Because when we are broken, we are pliable — more apt to be yielded and teachable.

Grace is God taking our brokenness and making something beautiful with the pieces.  He puts the pieces of our lives together, and it forms a beautiful piece of art.  It tells a whole new story.

I wrote the following words to the leaders on my business team.  Within our business, we are often required to stretch beyond our feelings, and the following words were to encourage them: (I think they just might encourage a few of you.)

I wanted to share some words of encouragement to you this Tuesday morning. We all go through times when we doubt ourselves and when we don’t feel completely “on top of our game.” The tendency is to then “hang back” and wait for that future time when we feel more successful or like we have it together before attempting to pursue our dreams. In other words, we want our dream before we pursue it. The truth is we have to pursue our dream before we find it.

I am going to blog about this shortly, but I wanted to post this note I wrote to an ambassador for all of you. I am hoping there might be a word of encouragement in it for you…

“I want to tell you, it’s okay to do life ‘broken.’ You don’t have to wait to live life or pursue your dreams until you ‘feel’ them. The best advice I can give you is to ‘do it scared’ and do it broken.

Grace acknowledges our brokenness — not to worship the brokenness — but to give glory to the Supremacy of the cross over our brokenness.

The power of the cross is the fact that God sees you not as you are but as Christ is!!!

Grace is the cross!

Grace is God’s ability to take our anguish, our brokenness, and our failings and to use us still. It is God’s ability to use imperfection and make it perfect because of the User.

The key is our surrender. We surrender to Him and quit trying to be all perfect before He can use us.

He uses us not in spite of our brokenness, but He uses even through and because of our brokenness itself to accomplish His purposes.”

And I want to cry right there…!

I am going to repeat this powerful statement once again:

Grace acknowledges our brokenness — not to worship the brokenness — but to give glory to the Supremacy of the cross over our brokenness.

So often, we get this idea that grace is slapping a “happy face” sticker over the world’s ills and telling everyone, “You’re great where you are.  Just be happy.”

The reality is Grace sees the depths of our anguish and brokenness and then says, “Give it to me, and I will take your brokenness and give you My Wholeness.  Your brokenness will become My wholeness because I will take those broken pieces, and I will bring healing to them and make them whole.”

Today, as you return to your chaotic world and the reminders of your own brokenness, I want to encourage you to stop looking at the brokenness and start looking at the cross.

The cross is a picture of brokenness and wholeness that melded into One Perfect Being so that you and I have a future, a calling, a tangible peace, an inexplicable joy, and an eternal hope that is a reality!!!

Give God your brokenness because He wants to weld His wholeness to it.

Sometimes The Best Way To Welcome Someone Is To Be “Unprepared”

Carved-stone welcome "mat" at the Auburn Sounder station. Note that they face the boarders, not the deboarders.

(http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=2456222&searchId=fc0d07ca355de4e790053ed7db407892&npos=18)

I am a mom of five children.  It goes without being said that life is busy.

Busyness necessitates picking priorities.  I am learning that people are more important than keeping a pristine house. 

I still function better in a clean house, but I am learning that my worth isn’t found in the state of my house.

I am also learning that my worth isn’t found in the performance of my kids so that means inviting people into my life and allowing them to observe the imperfect but beautifully authentic reality of life. 

It means allowing people to see the way we interact and that we have struggles just like everyone else.  That we are imperfect people raising imperfect little people.

I am also learning that my worth isn’t based on my appearance My worth doesn’t need validation from others.  My worth has already been determined.

So this morning I knew I had company coming.   That meant it was time to clean a house that had been missing my attention due to a busy week of running, homeschooling, and caring for six other people.

My poor bathrooms!  Oh, they were in desperate need of a face-lift so I scurried around making them fit for human use.

By the time I had straightened a little, cleaned dishes, fed everyone, changed a dirty diaper, cleaned bathrooms, swept floors and stairs, I knew I was running out of time to get myself presentable.  I still hadn’t showered, dressed, or even brushed my hair.

I know it was the Lord in His grace, but the thought came to my mind, “Your company may show up any minute and maybe you are supposed to greet her this way to encourage her that your life isn’t perfect.  Don’t be stressed; just offer the gift of authenticity.”

Sure enough, the door-bell rang immediately after that thought.

I can say that without God’s gentle “coaching” I would have been stressed, embarrassed, and ashamed that I was so unprepared for company.

Yet, God in His loving way was encouraging me that sometimes what our friends and loved ones need isn’t false perfection, but what they need is our willingness to offer ourselves, to be authentic, to be vulnerable.

This dear friend so graciously entered my home and never once made me feel awkward or embarrassed over my disheveled appearance.  As we talked, laughed, and watched our active little ones, it didn’t matter that one of us hadn’t showered, dressed, or brushed her hair.

What mattered was that we were two mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, friends sharing a part of our lives together.

How refreshing it is to know that worth, friendship, and love is never about perfection, performance, or appearance.  It’s about authentic lavish love — love that God Himself has so richly poured upon us.

Because of that love, we are given many opportunities to share the gift of ourselves and the gift of the moment with others.

 

 

Blessings or Blesser?

IMG_9292 edited & cropped

There was a time that I was unable to blog, as I mentioned in the blog: https://graceinthemoment.wordpress.com/2015/05/13/still-alive-living-abundantly.

At first, I was annoyed, then disappointed, then resigned, then accepting.  I realized that when God takes something away, it’s always for a reason.

I realized the reason why I was so sad.  I recognized that I was still trying to find my worth by “being somebody.”  I was still trying to prove that I mattered — mattered because of what I did.  I longed for people’s affirmation.

I was not living in my “identity” as His daughter — completely at rest in the all-encompassing, unconditional love of my Heavenly Father.  (See my testimony regarding this: https://graceinthemoment.wordpress.com/2015/05/18/the-second-part-of-my-testimony-the-second-most-incredible-experience-of-my-life.)

God took away something that had become an idol in my life.  Such is anything we pursue in order to find a sense of belonging and worth that is outside of God.

As a girl and young woman, my idol was getting married to a man who would make me feel like the most incredible gift ever.  I actually did marry a man who did that as much as any human can do.

But, you can suck a person and a relationship dry if you seek to pull from it what only God can give.

As a new mother, I hoped to get that sense of worth by being a godly mother.  I couldn’t wait to practice all of my teaching and ministry skills on my own kids.  Somehow, I had this “Cinderella” idea that I could make my kids into perfect little “robots” of perfection.  Silly, right?

When you idolize your kids, you tend to create unhealthy “soul ties” (heart connections) of co-dependency and attempt to control and unconsciously prevent your children from “flying” independently.  The opposite is also true, you resent and “reject” your kids because they become “symbols of your failure.” 

I struggled with resenting my kids at times because they had a way of demonstrating their worst moments in front of people.  Some of these people made me feel even more like a failure.  I responded to my own personal feelings of failure and to the outside negativity by exerting even more pressure on my kids to be little models of perfection.  It was a set-up for failure.

Poor little people!  I was expecting them to do the impossible, and I was perpetuating the lies of performance-based worth.

I love what the book, Glimpses of Grace, by Gloria Furman says about this.  She says:

When we immortalize the material and elevate it to the highest good, we set up idols to worship and pay homage to.  This can happen when we attach our reason for being to our current role in life — even roles like being a mother or housewife.

Do you serve your image of a good mother?

…When we’re tempted to either despise our everyday lives or worship our everyday lives, we need to remember what Paul said in Romans 12:1-2…”

God does want us to serve with gladness.  He wants us to enjoy the gifts He has given us: marriage, children, homes, talents, strengths, clothing, food, friends… They are all good gifts, for which we can and should be thankful.

Our worth and God’s love though is completely independent from our performance, possessions, and abilities. 

I like what Glimpses of Grace says in relationship to service within the home:

 “Living your everyday life for God’s sake is spiritual worship. …Seeing the brilliance of the cross and embracing its message are at the core of how God wants to work in our mundane to bring glory to Himself.

…When we are engaged in seeing and savoring the beauty of Jesus, the vain things that charm us most fade away into the distance.”

How do we keep from idolizing the blessings/the gifts from superseding the Blesser in our life?

Glimpses of Grace says,

“…when we say the ‘gift of God’, we are actually saying the gift is God Himself.  God is good.  And He said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name The Lord’He is the ultimate Good.

…rejoicing in the Lord’s faithfulness to His name.”

Let’s not forget that as wonderful as our blessings are, they are merely a “star” in the vast “universe” of Who God is!

It will take an eternity to be able to receive all the overflowing abundant goodness of His love towards us and of Who He is!

Why You Don’t Have To Be Perfect To Raise Godly Children

IMG_3625

Have you ever blamed yourself for the wrong choices of your children?

Have you ever felt discouraged because you sinned in your parenting (by an angry word or expression or tone of voice) and feared that your kids might forever be scarred or have issues as a result?

Have you ever thought that you had to try harder, be better … in other words be more perfect?

Have you placed an unattainable standard before yourself in your parenting: that your kids won’t turn out “perfectly” or godly if you aren’t perfect in how you raise them?

Have you ever questioned how your kids are going to turn out to live productive and more importantly, godly lives if you are not the flawless example to them?

Have you ever felt and acted as if God’s love and in turn your love to your children is dependent upon the measure to which obedience or dare I say “perfection” is achieved?

Most of us know that God’s love is not dependent upon our obedience.  Yet, we live that way.  We walk in fear or timidity, enacting man-made laws and rituals and tradition to placate our images and ideas of what we believe God expects from us.  The reason?  Not because we always want to obey but sometimes more because we feel and live as if His love is dependent upon us — our behaviors, the measure of our “godliness.”

Why do we think and feel and live this way sometimes?  Has God ever chosen only “perfect” people to accomplish His work, ways, and will?  The Bible gives multiple examples of God choosing people that did sin and sin big time.   Some of these people are in the very line from which Christ’s earthly lineage can be traced: Tamara, Judah, Bathsheba, David, Solomon, Rahab, etc…

The Bible also gives clear guidelines and commands that define what is sin and what it isn’t.  He also clearly judges those who sin.  So what does it all mean?

Do we ignore God’s justice, or do we ignore His love?  Are they mutually agreeable and cohesive with each other?   Can both His love and His justice be singularly achieved?

God calls David a “man after His own heart.”  Yet, David was an adulterer, proud at times, irresponsible in his parenting, a murderer, etc…  As a result, the Bible does speak of judgment.  David’s house was divided in so many ways — brother against brother.  The entire nation of Israel even suffered judgment when David chose to number the armies of Israel.  David’s newborn son, the child born as a result of his adulterous affair with Bathsheba, died.  At one point, David’s son Absalom tried to wrest the kingdom from his father and David had to flee for his life.   So why did God call this man “a man after His own heart”?  Scripture also makes it clear that David had a tender and repentant heart.  He grieved over his sin and truly repented.  David submitted to authority (as in example of King Saul) and never rebelliously questioned God’s punishment.  David also had a heart of worship.  The Book of Psalms speaks time and time again of how in the midst of every circumstance, David had learned to yet praise God.

Each person that God chose to use in the genealogy of Christ’s earthly lineage (lineages of Mary and Joseph) were sinners but sinners who at some point repented and experienced redemption as a result.  The key here is their repentance and the changes in their lives that occurred.

God doesn’t choose perfect people to accomplish His will.  He uses forgiven people — people who have been forgiven because they repented.

The truth is we all sinThat isn’t an excuse to continue in our sins.  What it should be is an admission that we are sinners — you and I.  Knowing we have sinned much and have been forgiven much should result in a spirit of thankfulness and worship of One Who is Holy and Righteous Altogether! 

God doesn’t ask us to be perfect.  He asks us to be repentant and useable as a result of our submission. 

God’s grace is perhaps best shown when it is extended to the sinner — not the “perfect.”  His grace is best shown in the chaos and messiness of life.  God’s grace is all about a Savior who offers redemption to an undeserving but repentant sinner.  God’s grace is all about His perfection being extended to imperfect people. 

As mothers, this means that His grace is best demonstrated when imperfect mothers accept His forgiveness and receive His redemption in order to live lives that are forgiven and transformed through Him!  This means that the greatest work of parenting we do is not our own feeble attempts at living a “good” life but is when we learn to walk in His grace and the freedom that comes as a result.

When we sin, God’s love is not affected.  What is affected is our relationship with Him.  When we sin, we put “distance” between our hearts and God’s.

As mothers/parents, the best thing we can do for our children is to teach them what God’s grace means and to live it out before them: that Grace is God extending His forgiveness to us and offering us redemption when we accept it.  It’s learning to walk in His Grace, meaning we walk obediently, humbly, and joyfully before Him. It’s understanding that it’s not about us; it’s all about Him — His work and ways!  It’s understanding that not only was Grace a past work: the work on the cross (salvation), but it is also a present work: the daily renewing and transforming of our lives through His power!

It means, we have been forgiven much so we can forgive much!