Tag Archives: joy

Take Heart

19 Jun

There is a line in the movie “The Shack” that I really liked.  “Papa” is explaining what grace and trust look like when evil harms us; In those circumstances that we are collateral damage when someone’s free will results in grave sin.  “I am not asking you to excuse what he did. I am asking you to trust me to do what’s right and to know what’s best.”  He means inspite of what we see.  Forgive and trust God in all circumstances.

He knows our storms. He knows our sin and He knows the sins done against us. He is beside us, faithful, even when we can’t feel Him.

Faith is like a muscle. In our good times, our faith may not be getting a work out. Our gratitude may be strong, our worship may be strong but our faith truly is only tested in our trials.  Endurance is for the long term. Is faith really faith when the minute it gets painful, we fall apart?

Romans 5:3 tells us that our trials, through persevering, strengthens our character and builds us up in Hope.

He knows our circumstances and he knows our relationships. He knows where we are overwhelmed by the storms, uncertain how to navigate our way through. In Matthew 14:27 he says to Peter “Take heart; It is I. Do not be afraid”.   It is the middle of a storm, and the seas are raging, the disciples see the impossible, Jesus on the water. Peter, though he only had a small amount of faith, and probably a good dose of fear in that moment, was willing to trust and get out of the boat and walk to Jesus. “Lord if it is you, command me to come to you on the water: Jesus said “Come”.

Faith like that, faith that says “ok Lord, I am overwhelmed by the storms of my life right now, I long for answers that don’t come quickly.  I struggle to let go of the resolutions I planned for the outcomes you have planned. Lord, hold your hand out to me, help me find my way safely, and I will step out in faith”

How confident we can be friends, that He is there in the storms. In him we can find our peace, our hope, our courage. We can cry out “Father, our little faith can let us step out of our terror, even in the midst of storm, and walk on the water with you. You ask us to trust you, to take courage in you, in your presence, even when we don’t feel you near. You help us walk on the water in the storm.”

It is then that we find what cannot be found anywhere else. Peace that surpasses all understanding. Calm that belies the storms. Hope that even if it isn’t what WE planned, we know it will lead us to the exact place to bless us and to bless other’s with.

Lord you are just that amazing and good. Us of little faith, seek you and find you when we seek you with all of our hearts. Imperfect, scared to death, hurting and lacking in grace and mercy for other’s and for ourselves. We find perfect peace in all of that, the storms that this world brings.

Thank you, Father, for never letting me drown in this storm. Thank you for giving me the courage of Peter to step out in faith I don’t always feel!

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Matthew 14:27

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.Jeremiah 29:13

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b]boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:1-4

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phillippians 4:7

 

Crazy Good

31 May

“Grief does not change you, it reveals you.”~ John Green

Grief is a funny thing. Okay, not funny, but odd. Okay, not odd, completely loony toons.

One minute you can feel so at peace, so strong and the next you can be sobbing, or worse, barely able to contain the anger you want to unleash on truly undeserving people. My patience is shot, my tongue is sore from biting it so much. My body is weary. My eyes are exhausted.

To say I want to run from all I am feeling is an understatement. My diaphragm is in spasm, my anxiety is at a high. It is physiological, emotional and spiritual, all rolled into one. In the end, regardless of the feeling, I end up crying, hopefully releasing all the toxins and negative effects from my tired body.

I do become frustrated with my erratic mood swings, I feel as if I should have a better grip on this or as if I am wishy-washy. I become disappointed with the setbacks when I find acceptance and a peaceful place. But that is just ridiculousness Satan tries to beat me up with.

This is why we need trusted friends to share this journey; Strong, loving sisters that we can speak truth with and that we can receive truth from. Sometimes we just need someone to tell us, you’re okay , you got this, you are still moving forward. This doesn’t eliminate the need for God, but rather God gives us those people to drown out the meltdown in our head. He knows when we are at our weakest. Those friendships are His gift to us.

The truth is, I am moving forward. In hindsight I take two steps forward and one step back.  I have discovered that at the bottom of each new melt down, I gain wisdom or insight into myself or His desire for me. In those moments I can feel like I am drowning and lost but from that pain, comes acceptance, understanding and wisdom as I jump ahead two steps. Those are precious moments of peace and even laughter again.

The next layer of healing then has to take place. We take what feels like a step back from what we just learned but in truth, we are applying what we just learned. Without even realizing it, we test it out, work it out, try it on and let it become a part of us.Even when we think we are flailing, it ministers to the pain as we go deeper; To the next step in understanding and wisdom.

In the heart wrenching, crying out, take this pain away, it’s too much… even in that moment, I know this is temporary, I know that this unbearable pain will be used for good, to bless me and as a blessing for someone else. Even when I just can’t take anymore, I can acknowledge my depth of faith in this, “I know You have this, I know Your plans for me are so good, but help me here, in this moment, Lord”. Sometimes I just say His name because there is no other option.

There is something God has planned from this time of trial. I know this with all that I am. It is all I hang on to in the worst moments. I have felt this coming for months. The purpose He has created me for is coming.  Even in the darkest moments, I have the light of hope and peace. I even know it is being drowned out by so many layers of untruths. I guess it is a sorting, a sifting. From there will come the new.  The hurts and untruths and unforgiveness and fears all have to be cleared away, one by one, to make room for what is to come.

 

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  Romans 5:3-4

 

Dweller On The Threshold

29 May

As I watch and listen to the thunderstorm off in the distance, I am struck by the sheer peace I feel. It is the answered prayer we prayed for, my God-Given, God-Designed friend and I.

Peace was not what I felt earlier today. I was angry and the angrier I became, the more my heart broke and the harder I cried.  The unexpected end of my marriage followed by my daughter and grandson’s unexpected move out of state is a trial I tell myself deserves a bit of a good old fashioned meltdown.  I know other’s are suffering greater loss than I, and I feel so selfish in my pain. I do know however that pain, whether great or small,  is still covered in the same way.  Faith and hope in our Lord and Savior.

God shows off most to me in the friends He brings to my life.  My Bou as I call her (she calls me Blondie), prayed with me, talked with me, and spoke truth back into my soul.  Because He is a God of amazing abundance, three more friends checked in on me.  I see Him. I feel His provision and closeness.

The night is near pitch with only a sliver of a moon. The fish are jumping in the water next to me, the thunder rolls quietly after a beautiful lightning display, Van Morrison is singing to me quietly. I am just sitting here taking it all in.  Peace. Calm. He reminds me in no uncertain terms, that He is not just near, He dwells here.

This warfare wears on me; this world is broken, people will get sick, they hurt us, disappoint us and sometimes they leave us.  Those are the hard things that break us or make us stronger. The depth of my faith may be tested, but my faith stands strong. When we lean in, when we trust Him in it, we are humbled. We may not always calmly endure the journey through our valleys, but journeying through them all the way, with God beside us, allows us to grow stronger. We grow in our faith, wisdom, courage,and in the end, what is lost will not go without, because something truly is gained.

I am not through the valley yet, but the path is becoming clearer and I am starting to feel that hope begin to flicker again. God breathed daylight into me when he formed me and my light has grown dimmer, my hope weaker and my heart was heavy much of the time.

I know there is something coming, I feel it. I am being put to the fire to prepare me for whatever is to come. I know there is purpose to this time of refinement, of loss, pain and trial. There is a purpose and He plans to bless people with what is gained in this. I know this as much as I know the reflection of my own face.  This path may feel too hard at times, but he has given me great strength and I have grown so brave. This is the path He laid before me, and it is stick straight. I just can’t see ahead yet.

He beckons me to look inside my home from outside. I see what He wants me to see. There is restored peace in my home. Where there was dark, there is a warm glow. Where there was careful wariness, there is comfort. Where there was apprehension, there is calm.

This is a restoration of the peace that I haven’t rested in, in a very long time.

Weeping may last for the night, but there is a song of joy in the morning. Psalm 30:5b

The Truth Sets You Free

27 May

We battle with this world on a constant basis; we war with one another, we war with ourselves, we even war with God, at times. The very basis of truth in that is this: we only have one enemy, our war is with Satan.

We are victorious in Christ.

I am so far from perfect, God knows this! His forbearance of my stumbles has set the example for me to bear all things from those around me! It is a constant decision I have to make, and don’t always, obviously. In my short marriage, I learned to focus on grace and seeing the parts of my husband that were wonderful in order to not betray, reject or abandon him. Forgiveness and Grace are only possible by submitting and seeing the greater purpose, God.

In order for my husband to betray me and bring an end to our brief marriage, he had to to tune out the voice of God and believe the lies Satan told him. He had to hear Satan tell him to focus on the parts of me and our marriage that weren’t perfect. He had to, in order to betray, reject and abandon me. When we don’t fully understand our own own salvation, or how to even embrace Grace and Mercy, we simply are too vulnerable.  That is Satan, and he will follow it up with “life is too short to be unhappy”.  People don’t make us unhappy, we allow Satan to do that to us, for us and with us.

“From Lead like Jesus:Fear and Pride always separates us from God, from one another and even from ourselves. “ (EGO= Edge God Out) 

I read an article about the Lake of Fire. Revelations is a bit daunting to me, I become a bit frightened sometimes, reading it. As a sinner that struggles to trust in Jesus, Satan can seriously mess with me with that! I can go down the rabbit hole and question, am I truly saved?  Oh God, how I fear for those that walked away and rejected Him. What about those that don’t even know what is to come?  The second death of being thrown into the sea of fire, is so frightening. Thank you Lord for Grace! Please Lord, let me be an instrument of your message of hope to save people from that death!

“What hope have we for deliverance from the “second death” if not the suffering of its pains, in our place, by the Son of God? If I receive the “crown of life”, which I don’t deserve, in place of the “lake of fire”, which I do deserve, it can only be for one reason: Jesus Christ,” Rick Warren

We are not going to be thrown in to the fire because we do things wrong! We will be thrown in because we refused to believe we have been saved from the fire by Christ!

I completely believe that that mustard seed of faith is as important as my deep end of the pool is.  My deep end comes with far more expectations than an un-awakened believer or sadly, the Christian seeking redemption through rules and judgement’s of who is and who isn’t doing it right!  But, even in the deep end, I am vulnerable, I allow Satan to mess with my mind!

God doesn’t demand order, he puts the chaos into order, because we can’t. We are constant chaos.  We are so double-minded, we lie to ourselves constantly. We get tossed about.

Who among us, truly, is so focused on Heaven, that this world never causes us distress. Who is so strong in their faith that they never battle with Satan and his lies. Who? Not one of us. Some have heard so much untruth in our early lives, we were so hurt, we truly don’t know how to not believe the lies. It is far more difficult to believe we are so incredibly loved and forgiven by a perfect God, than to believe we are not worthy by a lying enemy.

Christ was tempted. He can understand our hardships and weakness because He experienced it here. He went through horrible trials, temptation, and battles. He was perfect, victorious, every single time as an example.  I see the written word of how Christ walked this world, not as the hopeful example of how I should walk, (which my whole journey leads me down that path, but never to perfection) but the submission to the one so strong and perfect that He was able to save me from my weakness and imperfection. From that perspective, I am stronger, more powerful, because He lives in me. Satan has no hold. I can’t, but Christ can.

If we don’t fully understand the Power of the Cross, the grace and mercy that comes with that, we are powerless to give it to others. Worse yet, if we don’t understand that we are saved from the lake of fire, how can we be? It is the basis for forgiveness. If we truly believe God has forgiven us for being sinners, we can forgive others. That is faith! That is obedience.

Faith is the root, the need and the core of every bit of our walk.  We are all sinful. It is horrible to me to see the depth of suffering that is to come for those that don’t believe. There are life long Christians that have not understood the power of surrender, that see obedience as a way of living, rather than a way of submitting and surrendering, they have only a mustard seed, or maybe they don’t even have that! Hope for it to be truth is submission in its own right. Doubt that the cross was enough for everyone, is not faith at all.

The wisdom of King Solomon pours out from the pages, but at the end of the day this is his summary of our purpose.

13 That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. 14 God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad. –Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Jesus said…Thou shalt love the Lord they God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave[g] his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. 19 And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. 20 All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. 21 But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.[h]

They come to the light. They see that their actions are sinful and they need a savior. They turn to Jesus to rescue them, to save them from eternal judgement while they are still sinners! They aren’t perfect, they are humbled and worshipful. They fear God and seek to love others enough to help them to see their need for Christ. The light, The hope.

Paul tells us this truth!

 There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Rom 8:1).

Those of us that put all of our hope in Christ, know that this world is short and the second death will come one day. Heaven is our hope! This world hurts! I can’t wait to be in the presence of Christ and to dwell in HIS house forever.

As long as I walk this world, I will need Christ and I will sin. I will stumble, I will fall, I will continually need to cry out to him in trials and need to praise Him for His blessings. I am just a mere mortal. I am weak, He is strong.  But God! I am made strong in Him.

I will never stop praying for those that can’t seem to find Him because they can’t seem to let go of self hatred. Stop trying to run from your sins, lie about your sins or even suffer or pay for your sins. Simply just tell him the truth! Simply surrender that you are sinful, that you are weak, that you can’t do it yourself and humbly ask Jesus to help you. Then… you believe you are saved. You then can stop listening to the lies that you are too far gone for God to simply forget your sins. When you ask Him to forgive you, believe that He does! Because He does!

There is not one single good church,good pastor or humbled christian that doesn’t welcome your honest questions, nor will they judge you for your sins. They will give you guidance and hope.

32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”John 8:32

 

Double Minded

20 May

I posted something on Facebook that touched me. This quote felt relevant to my studies, but also to where I am at in my trials.

Humility is perfect quietness of heart, It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble.

– Andrew Murray

Someone responded from her heart the following statement. “I hope you can do this, but it’s just not me. I am a worrier. I’m trying to change that to a warrior!”

I wanted to respond with something powerful. Something God breathed. But I didn’t have any words.

The truth is, I long to be that;The truth is, I am not, not all the time. I have however, had enough of the taste for that peace that goes far beyond what my circumstances are, to long for it constantly.

James 1 speaks right to the truth for our Trials and our difficulties. He says to us (James 1:6-8) “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

The truth is: I do worry,  I do obsess, I do have war inside. I get lost in my mind. I cry out constantly to redirect my thoughts. The truth is, I am completely exhausted from the battle. Job cried out to God and I relate. “Surely, God, you have worn me out; you have devastated my entire household.” Job 16:7

If we could just unleash, in all circumstance, at all times, complete trust in the power that we have been given by the Holy Spirit; if we could simply stop being so double-minded and just dwell in that favor of strength, peace and hope at all times! Wow! Imagine all we could influence in this world of hopelessness and sorrow.

When God feels so far away and my mind betrays me with all that feels so wrong, I have allowed my worship and hope to be weak and given satan a front row seat in my boat.  I have forgotten every single promise and every single truth of who He is, who I am in Him. The fruits of faith that I have experienced and know so well.

When I am tossed about by fears, I have allowed satan access to my peace, my hope, my joy, my future.  He fills my mind with comparison, with feeling rejected and abandoned, I beat myself up over all that I should have done or could have done.  I become obsessed with the lies and betrayals. These are the exact opposite of the words of God. The world shreds us, Jesus refreshes our soul!

When we surrender all this junk that has us so torn up inside, He takes it. He just removes it.  We can’t stand not seeing into the future, we can’t trust an unknown future to our all knowing God. We think we need to fix it all because we don’t trust Him with our hearts, with our lives.  Humbly submitting this all to God is so brave and so difficult. It is so hard to relinquish our lives to Him.

Identifying this key decision I make to whom I am surrendering to, allows me the choice to make a different decision. I am not a victim tossed around like the waves. I am beheld by the one that makes the waves and calms the storms. Big difference.

I have known great peace in terrible trials, and I have seen God move mountains in my life. I have sat in wonder and awe at the great things He has done, the miracles I have witnessed, and the moments where I am struck by His obvious presence. Where I can say, “Oh, my soul, that was God!”.

I love God with all my heart, my mind and my soul. I am so grateful for the Grace and Mercy, bought by the blood of Christ for me! I am also keenly aware that my journey is not about earning anything. He knows my heart. This isn’t about failing in any way. He wants me to be stronger, more trusting, for so many reasons.

My Father wants to protect me, to provide for me, to give me peace in my circumstance, to keep my heart from breaking so much, to keep my spirit healthy, to keep me strong. He is there waiting to lavish all this and more on me, but mostly, He longs to have me near to Him, to worship Him, to humble myself to Him so I fully embrace and share the gifts that He has given me.  He longs to bless me because His blessings never just touch me. They flow through me and bless so many other’s. It is His way. Grace pours out so fully at times, it spills over on people that don’t even know Him at all.

So no. I don’t always have peace. I am not always humble. I do battle my ego and my fears.

But…. At the end of the day, I will always find my way back to Him that never leaves me, never forsakes me, never hurts me or lets me down. I will always long to be in the safety of His gentle arms, near to Him. I will always seek to worship Him fully, to know that He is near, to know it is Him that whispers in my ear, ‘You can do this. You can endure all things because I live inside your heart and I have made you victorious, strong, and courageous. And my beloved daughter, I love you dearly.  ‘

Time For Grace

3 Jul

The Beatitudes:

Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
 Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God. ~Jesus

The past year for me, like most, has been extremes of trials and blessings, but for me,  the lessons of grace and mercy have taken my heart captive.

I have such strong feelings when I feel my fellow believers are being religious, legalistic, unkind or in my opinion, standing in the way of true evangelism. Yet, as soon as I think that way, The Holy Spirit convicts me and shows me my own sin. My own pride. My own legalism in my judgement.

We are supposed to love God, love our fellow Christians and mostly, love our neighbor. This is the fulfillment of the law.

You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself. Galatians 5:4-14 

Loving your neighbor doesn’t just mean those that are in your inner circle but rather this includes those that are different from you- the atheist, homosexual, abortionist, muslim. This also includes the guy who disagrees with you, or the guy that just cut you off on the freeway, the girl that was rude to you, the boss that screams at you. It also includes your husband when he is unloving or your wife when she is disrespectful. This is agape love. This is grace. This is where I sin most.

Grace is essential in every single aspect of our journey to become Christ like. Without grace, you truly are not aligned with Christ and your faith is not evident.  If we seek it, we need to give it. Your walk should embrace grace and be evident.  Jesus warned us about Spiritual pride. 4″ Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:4, 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” Luke 17:10 

So before we can walk in grace, we absolutely must humble ourselves. God teaches us in His own way, in His own time, and The Living Word breathes truth into us, over and over again, we grow, we soften, we learn, as that knowledge is shown to us, by the Father.

Humility is essential to growth, to love, to grace, to salvation. Without it, we can’t possibly understand how to love as Christ loves us; Our ego fights this, our free will fights this.

We are sinners. If we are judging the sin in other’s, we take a step away from humility,  from grace and from Christ. Before you hate the sin in other’s you must first hate your own sin and your own sin nature. Ask forgiveness for your own sins. Let Him walk you through your own refinement. This is faith. This is how God can begin to change the world, first within us. Then through us.

After all, He loved us first. All of us.

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17

I have recently had my own major lessons and convicted misteps in grace. Being hurt by family and/or family of believers,  I being shocked by the dishonor, blatent unkindness and later, the untruth and slander that was exposed. responded with protective anger. Especially at the cruelty that crushed the spirit of someone I care about.  There is a hurt that goes so deep when the hurt comes from family and/or our family of believers. It is more unexpected in some way. We walk more transparently with our fellow believers, or we should anyhow.

But Christ himself walked everything before us and he expects us to stay focused on him and on grace.

39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. Matthew 5:39

He teaches us how to stay focused on what truly matters in our journey to eternity. We can’t care about what others think of us. God has a different expectation. His approval is all we truly need.

26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26  

As with all scripture, you must read the whole in which the context is taken Jesus didn’t mean to “hate” your family but rather this is a warning that walking a Christian life is difficult. We must love God first and be willing to lose all the rest, in the end, for that love. Jesus loved the law, including to honor your mother and father. but He was very clear:

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

In the end, humble, forgiving grace is essential to our journey. Grace doesn’t approve of, enable or minimize sin. Grace doesn’t decide forgiveness of sin, Jesus did that on the cross for us. It is not our job to convict, nor judge. That is the Holy Spirits job. Justice is not ours. Humility says, if justice were served, I would be unworthy to receive the mercy and grace of our Lord’s crucifixion.

When our fellow Christian sins, (not the unsaved), like we do ourselves…we must help them back to God’s truth, even if it is our spouse. We submit to God first. If our fellow believer, whether friend, child or spouse is hurtful or walking away from alignment in Christ  we lovingly speak truth, sometimes it is a must, but it also must include acknowledgement of forgiveness, and our own need for forgiveness and grace.  Ultimately, it can cost rejection, but if it is in line with Christ, it is worth it.

When the world walks in sin, like we do ourselves, we must step out of discipleship and into evangelism. Jesus was a revolutionary teacher of peace and of LOVE in a time of arrogant legalism and religious politics. Truth be told, times were very politically extreme like it is today. If we aren’t perfect, like He was, which we are not, we can’t have the same righteous anger. If we aren’t transparent and humble, walking in grace and love, then we are not following the words of Christ. Our words and actions at all times are our evangelism. If they aren’t in line with scripture, we have too much work to do on ourselves before we put ourselves in a role of leadership. Period.

In the end, Grace wins.  I think The Message version sums it up best.

43-47 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

 

Works?

21 Mar

One of the craziest, most mind blowing change that happens when you begin a walk with Christ, is this:  The more you know-the less you know; The stronger your faith becomes, you grow more and more needy for His direction, HIS wisdom, HIS approval, less concerned with your place in the world but rather, your place in His heart and His Heaven.

“He must become greater;I must become less. John 3:30 NIV”

As the years creep by that I have been making notes and highlights in my bible, I often revisit the same scripture that was so powerful before and maybe this time, it is just as powerful but in a different way, or today, it may just be a Good Word.  The Living Word, (*insert big sigh…) I gain new knowledge, new application, new wisdom every single time I open my bible. Every sermon, lesson, even a song, will lead me to the Word.

I didn’t always believe the bible. Well, I didn’t actually ever read it. I honestly didn’t really understand much more than Psalms. I figured it was man’s interpretation. Nature was my bible, my church. I had my own opinion of faith, prayer, and what Christians looked like.  I judged a relationship with Christ by those that went to church. I expected them to be perfect, and because none of them were, I judged them as hypocrits. I didn’t need to go there, and I didn’t need to read the bible. Until I broke; Until there was nothing left but God and I.

In the depths of my despair, He rescued me. He didn’t just make it all better, he filled me with unspeakable hope, he began a ‘good work” in me. What a fantastic journey it has been! And! …the Bible came alive for me. Understandable, expressive, moving, it truly sustains me.

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.Philippians 1:6 (NIV)

Now it makes sense. It isn’t “magic”-it’s just a wisdom that comes with growth and communion with the Holy Spirit.  We don’t begin our new or renewed faith knowing the bible either, nor does God expect that from us. You only need to know this truth. That Jesus died for you and has been waiting for you to follow Him ever since. That begins the relationship. God takes us through our very own journey designed just for us, full of mistakes and love and forgiveness and healing. He will bring those along side of you to help you along.  And you will want to know Him more. You will read the bible and it will begin to make more sense than you ever imagined.

You see this all the time…John 3:16 but there are so many more!

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace Ephesians 1:7 [Full Chapter]

Now, if you know me at all, you will agree that I am absolutely not legalistic.  I would describe my walk as a bit of ‘Grace and Mercy’ rebel.  I fight hard against any words that direct me to “DO” rather than “BE”.  Those that declare (which is grave sin) who is saved and who is false or heretic or unsaved, also push me away. I have been so hurt in my life by those faith talkers which is probably why it has taken me three different studies of James to fully embrace His writing.

Things are getting a bit shaken up and stirred out in a different way for me. I have gone toe to toe against believers that will disagree with my mercy belief; I always felt wrong because they were more studied than me, I never knew how to answer them. I just held hard to my hope that the Love He filled my heart with, was the same love He would pour out on all who seek Him. So I set out upon truth (growth leads to growth). I wanted to fully understand a more DO book, like James.

In my studies, which I now thirst after- *Psalm 42:1 (how did He know that about me?) I have grown beyond reacting to the legalistic undertones of some of our scriptures, to understanding rather our human journey to holiness. This is not something we do because scripture says to, we do it because as we begin to embrace our salvation and walk in it, we long to become more like Him. I have realized in my own journey that to understand what that looks like,  you first have to understand the entire journey from Genesis to Revelations, that includes the journey of the law (Torah).

First, lets define who is going to heaven. If you say everyone, do you truly think Hitler will? Do you truly think a child molester will? If you drew a line and labeled good and bad on either end, where is the line that says, too bad. Crazy as it seems, truly there is no stopping point of grace or mercy on that line for those that are in Christ.

Our salvation is bought and paid for by the suffering of Christ on the cross.  In my journey, I hung so tightly to that point and understood that the change that took place in my heart, is still taking place, every day, is Him, not me. It isn’t me being a “Good Christian”. I am on a journey of becoming holy, I am still changing. That said, here is the change in verbage for me….   even though you are saved, if you start at the ‘bad’ end, shouldn’t your salvation and hope move you a little closer to the ‘good’ end?

I remember hearing Francis Chan years ago, as he demonstrated faith as a balance beam exercise. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y46YoVzX0VM   I liked it, it made sense. I read Kyle Idleman’s “Not a Fan” four years ago. I remember really enjoying it, but at the same time, not liking the legal tones echoing within my own heart!

It wasn’t the author, nor the scripture becoming legalistic, it was my difficult journey to know my worth to God. To understand ‘Agape Love’.

The truth is so crazy! ~ To fully understand what freedom we have in our salvation, we have to submit completely.

“Submit yourselves, then to God.” James 4:7, “in all ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight”. Proverbs 3:6

In the end, the legalism is to know where we have come from, who to turn to, submission, hope, trust…faith. To know the importance of submission to Him. Faith without works is dead. If we believe that Jesus died for us, and we are forgiven, this should shake our world! This should overwhelm us with repentance, hope, and a desire to “pay forward” if you will, that amazing gift. It should begin to change us, when we are filled with the Holy Spirit. This is the DO part! Let HIM do!

If you read the Sermon on the Mount, it is all there. The sermon on the mount is my “go to” I find all I need to know, right there in the words of my Savior. Unlike the teachings of “The Secret”, the need for total perfection of thought and words, putting things or not putting things in the universe (where does that go?)~  Christ achieved that for me.

My goal is not perfection, my goal is obedience. Always has been. It is not a place you arrive at; It is a place you seek. He calls us to desire to live in a submissive longing to please God. To stop assessing (judging) how well other’s are doing in their walk, to come along side those that need help back up in their walk, gently, with love and humility. Not from a knowing better, but a place of “there but the grace of God go I, point of view.

Christ followers are called to Seek Him in all things. Seek the truth. It doesn’t matter what we DO, it is the very core of our faith that becomes the truth. Only God knows this place in us. What good is anything we DO if our hearts have any form of judgement, jealousy, envy, anger (same as murder) insecurity. That is the DO part of our walk. Cleanse our hearts, our minds and our spirit by meditating on Him at all times. (It is truly the only way).

Truth is humbly being transparent.  Truth is loving at all times the entire body of Christ. Truth is loving our neighbors, no matter their color, their faith, or how they sin. Truth is not pretending to know God, but seeking to know what He desires for us. Truth is submission. Truth is forgiving everyone, including ourselves, everything. Truth is not self seeking. Truth doesn’t reject or boast. Truth is not about anyone else. Truth is the humble understanding that He is the only one that truly knows our heart, our life, our walk, our sin nature, our journey. Truth is love in action and mercy towards others. Only He knows your neighbors heart. Truth is that it is from fear or ego that we judge. Judgement is not discernment and conviction is not condemnation and the anger of man can never truly be righteous. Watch that you are not representing God, but actually following Him. Submissively.

James 4:12 “But who are you to judge your neighbor?

If His words are not honing you, building you up, tearing you down, healing you, teaching you, preparing you, softening you, strengthening you, removing pride, arrogance, judgement, if His words are NOT creating your next steps to walk in His plan for your life, to share in His wisdom through your own testimony, then you aren’t doing it right!

This is the works. Submission and mercy. Gentle mercy towards all. Especially your body of believers.

In the end, my issue has not been with legalism.  My issue was with man’s (including my own) interpretation of what that meant. Jesus fulfilled the law so we could live with God forever. He did this because there was no other way.  God knew this. Truth…That takes but a mustard seed. However, that mustard seed should change you atleast a little bit, should it?

We will still have an accounting for our journey. If the world holds more value to us than pleasing God, then it is time to really assess what our true belief is.

Works: Acceptance that I will never be perfect but that I can embrace and openly admit my arrogance, my lies, my hypocrisy and doubts and fears, and submit to Him to heal and be healed is freedom. To allow him to hone me even when it hurts.  It allows for true relationship free from ego.That is what faith with works looks like. Because from that place, He shines so brightly within us. We give Him Glory.  We hear His calling, His prompting.

We become strong.  We can say to that mountain move, and it will.

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV