Monday, July 13, 2009

Going Against the Grace

While I was driving home the other day I was thinking about how challenging my life is. Yes, I am thankful for so many blessings the Lord has given me, but still, living in this world requires fortitude. Emotional, physical, especially spiritual fortitude. I have tried hard to make right choices for the right reasons my whole life. I was saved at an early age, raised in a Christian home and typically chose the right path. I struggle with many sins and am by no means perfect, but in general, I have lived an obedient life. My life is hard. My life is draining. There are times when I want to give up or give in.

My next thought was, "How do Christians who have lived lives full of sin and bad choices make it?" "How do they get through the day victoriously?" I truly cannot imagine dealing with all the heartache, the regret, the guilt, the temptation. I cannot. It is so overwhelming, it takes my breath away. And not necessarily for the actual acts themselves, but rather for the reprocussions. You reap what you sow, so even if forgiven, for years later you will still reap the consequences of those bad decisions and wrong actions. How do they get through it? HOW?

My thoughts questioned.

Immediately, the Spirit answered:

"Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound."

The Spirit slayed my thoughts with the sword of His Word.

I've been thinking about this verse ever since that night. Mulling, chewing, digesting, asking, what does this mean for ME?

I've heard many many sermons on the grace of God. I've sung many many songs on the grace of God. I think I've always thought of grace as something pretty and lovely, one of the spiritual truths that is nice to think about. After all, a girl named Grace would be softspoken and kind and pretty. Being gracious implies kindness, thoughtfulness, unselfishness. But wait!!! I think that grace is perhaps one of the most POWERFUL truths of God's Word!!!

(This is where I hope my words do not fail my thougths:)
As a Christian, what does God's grace mean for you? What does it accomplish in your life? What do you do or have you done with God's grace? Is it just a word that you hang your spiritual hat on because you sat under a five-week series on grace, or know all the songs in the songbook on grace? Can you make the acrostic?
I truly dont mean to be caustic, that's nice fellow Christian, but SO WHAT? If we are not doing something or living something based on what we KNOW what good is what we KNOW?

God's grace is powerful!! Do you know why? Because grace was paid at the cross by the blood of the holy lamb of God, Jesus Christ. The holy perfect God of the universe died to conquer sin, and in doing so, provided grace. Grace is NOT a pretty word, oh no, grace is a powerful word, the word that gives us power over evil!!!

"Where sin abounded, grace did MUCH MORE abound!"

Sin is horrible. Sin has horrible consequences. Think about the sin in your life, or in someone else's life that has crept in and corroded you or them, has reached it's tenticles to family and friends and left its mark: infidelity, drugs, alcohol, stealing, cheating, lying, manipulation, abuse, bitterness, wrath, gossip, disobedience, fornication, selfishness, anger, worry, murder, idolatry, unthankfulness, envy, strife, pride, worldliness. Sin always reaps more sin. Always. It leaves heartache, emptiness, weariness in its wake. Oh, it may feel good, for a season, but when it's gone, the emptiness is deeper, the heartache more acute, the weariness more intense.

My God took every sin ever committed by mortal man and every consequence of every single sin and placed them on His precious only Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus willingly carried them to a lonely cross and paid the sacrifice- He shed His blood - to pay the price for every single sin. Billions and billions of people multiplied by thousands if not millions of sins, placed upon the holy Son of God. The consequences, the emptiness, heartache, weariness - it all went with Him there!! And it all died with him there, too. Every single sin has already been paid for, every sin has been marked with the stamp of "VICTORY" when Jesus rose from the grave three days later. "VICTORY" over infidelity, "VICTORY" over drugs, "VICTORY" over alchohol, "VICTORY" over anger, and wrath, and selfishness and disobedience. "VICTORY" over idolatry, and envy, and anxiety and pride and worldliness. "VICTORY" over cheating, and lying and stealing and manipulation.

You see, anyone who can claim this "VICTORY" is claiming the power of the grace of God.


When you are proud, when you are angry, when you are selfish or disobedient; when you are unkind, untruthful, unrepentent; when you commit abuse, an act of rage, use drugs and alchohol: When I give in to these sins, I look at the cross and I say, "Grace is not enough!" I tell God that his perfect sacrifice was insufficient, that his blood is powerless, that there is no victory through Jesus Christ.

Oh but friend, when I face the muck and mire and despair of sin, any sin, I can look at the cross, and claim grace! I can face pride head on and tell it that Christ has already defeated it, and claim grace. I can face drugs and alchohol and claim grace. I can face wrath and anger, and claim grace. I can face anxiety and worry and fear and claim grace. I can face infidelity and lying and cheating and claim grace. I can face worldliness and idolatry and materialism and claim grace.

Is this hard? Oh yes, yes! Why? Because I want to do it myself. Somehow I think that I have the power that I have the ability even in my goodness and righteous living, but in my pride I forget that I did not go to the cross, I did not suffer and die, I do not have the grace without Jesus!! I can only face sin with the stamp of "VICTORY" when I claim the grace that was won on the cross. Every day, every sin that tempts me and tries me and stirs me on to more sin can only be defeated when I place myself in submission to the cross of Christ, when I claim His power. Grace is the sanctifying power from God in our lives!

Where anxiety abounded, grace did much more abound.

Where pride abounded, grace did much more abound.

Where stealing, cheating, lying abounded, grace did much more abound.

Where anger abounded, grace did much more abound.

Where disobedience abounded, grace did much more abound.

Where murder, rape, incest, abuse abounded, grace did much more abound.

Where infidelity, fornication, neglect abounded, grace did much more abound.

Where cursing, unkindness, bitterness, nastiness abounded, grace did much more abound.

And perhaps this is where the misconception of what grace really is does indeed come from: for a gracious, kind, gentle person has truly placed themselves under submission to the cross of Christ: they have recognized their flesh and tendency toward sin and have claimed the victory in every situation: When faced with a mean nasty unloving spouse, a gracious person will reign victorious over the nasty angry reply by submitting to the sanctifying grace and reply with kind, loving words. When faced with a disobedient child, a gracious parent will reign victorious over the desire to react in kind, but will discipline with a loving hand and heart. When faced with an unfair or unjust remark or action, a gracious person will reign victorious over the need to defend or take down but will patiently lift up and bear the other's burdens. A gracious person is truly strong.

And how about you, Christian? What sin is rearing its ugly head in your life? "Where _____ did abound, grace did much more abound!"

I am in no way trying to diminish both the challenge and complicatedness of life. The devil knows how to attack, he knows our weaknesses, he wants us to fail. Life will be heart-breaking, back-breaking, will-breaking, but, I do not have to abound in sin. I can choose to abound in the grace of the cross of Jesus.

"Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound!"

Monday, March 16, 2009

Tortured Souls

Tortured souls do not lament
the passing of your spring
for all the while the rain does fall
the mind is restoring

Thinking of the gray-worn world
the tempest in the deep
the ugly meanderings in your head
the phathoms you cant reach

For soon this dreadful parting
will be but distant thoughts
as one who struggles with another
and then is turn to naught

For if this life is full of meaning
and happiness and cheer
why is my heart full of sadness
and the ending seems so near

Tortured souls do not lament
the grave is turned asunder
hell is vanquished gone forever
yet my heart is prone to wander

(I can write poetry! I found this today, and although I like it I think it is missing a stanza. I'll have to tweak it a bit.)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Discovering old truth in new light

Yesterday I was talking with a dear friend about truth. Interestingly she brought it up because she has been reading books and participating in Bible studies that are all dealing with separate subjects and interests but overlap in their search and discussion of truth. As we talked I was reminded of one of my favorite authors, Leslie Vernick, and the first book she wrote, called How to Live Right When Your Life Goes Wrong (which was originally titled, The Truth Principle). I decided to pull it off the shelf and refresh my mind with its nuggets.

I seem to be in a constant conundrum with myself and truth and others and their perceptions of truth. It is very confusing to try to live and do right when close friends and family members are claiming to do the same yet their actions and words speak contrary to my own choices and principles. This makes my relationships viable because I know it is a truth to be close to those who follow truth and when we are not on the same page of truth I struggle with what I should do and why.

Several things stuck out to me last night. First of all, I need to know truth. Christ is truth, therefore I need to know God. More than any other relationship I need to know God, spend time with Him, be fellowshipping and communing with HIM. The first step is obviously reading my Bible and praying. Secondly, I must listen to His voice. Do you recognize which voice in your head is the voice of God? Have you identified the faulty voices so you can instantly recognize God's voice?

"Deepening our relationship with Him involves coming to recognize His voice and learning to tune out the ones that distract and lie to us."

My friend and I were saying just that last night, the battle is in our heads!!

Next, I need to value what God says. I need to believe it.

"Christian counselor Sandra Wilson says, 'We don't always live what we profess, but we always live what we believe.' This describes the experience of many when they say, 'I know it in my head but not in my heart.' We will always live according to what our heart believes, not what our head professes to believe. One of the most difficult journeys a Christian will ever take is the journey from the head to the heart, or from knowledge to trust."
This paragraph encouraged me greatly. I know people that know the truth, but dont live it. It is quite frustrating because it affects me personally. I have no control over them or the decisions they make. I cannot change them. But still the constant, what is wrong with them, they say they know all the answers, why cant they do what they know? They don't believe it. If they believed it, they would act differently. Their head knows it, but their heart has not trusted in the truth of God's Words. They can tell me they know it all they want, but there is a strange comfort in knowing that I can trust the fact that they still have a journey of faith themselves before the behavior changes.

Ms. Vernick then talks about how knowing God then involves obeying God, and then lastly loving Him with our whole hearts.

As I read I was truly convicted by the exposure of my own heart's failure to love God. I am a disciplined person. I have an easier time obeying than succeeding in these other areas. But I do not love easily. And Ms Vernick quotes from another book called Seeking the Face of God by Gary Thomas:

"We cease from sin, not just because we're disciplined, but because we have
found something better."

Have I only learned to do what's right for the sake of doing what's right? Being disciplined is not an easy thing. It requires ambition, character, motivation. But perhaps my obedience so often loses its meaning because I forget that I am not disciplined for disciplined sake only, but because the love of God has constrained me to do these things. The more I love Jesus, the more I love God, the more I understand His amazing love for me and therefore the more I KNOW Him, the more I will want to be like Him. Again Ms Vernick:
"It is this union, our abiding in Him, and He in us, where change begins to take place in our innermost being: our heart. This is where we begin to take on the character of the one we love - Christ's nature in us."
(All quotes are taken from Ms. Vernick's book, so if you'd like more detailed explanations, please read it!)
"That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." Ephesians 3:17-19

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Waiting on the Lord

"I waited patienly for the Lord, and he inclined unto me and (he) heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and (he) set my feet upon a rock, and (he) established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise to our God...Blessed is that man that man that maketh the Lord his trust "
Psalm 40:1-4
A few weeks ago my heart was breaking, and I was growing through a tough trial. I was reading this passage of Scripture, which has always been a dear and precious one, and something hit me. I was waiting on a person, I was not waiting on God.
In this world full of sinners, in which you and I are both included, we often find that we are constantly dealing with problems caused by said sinners. So often I blame them, and rightly so, and "sit around" waiting for them to make it right, or stew, or consider several things I could say or do to make it better. We all have people in our lives like that right now. We are dealing with wayward children or spouses, or faulty parents or in-laws, or inconsiderate friends, or even a socialist president. And don't you find, as I find, that I am waiting on them? I am waiting on them to make it right, on them to grow, on them to confess and forsake, on them to love.
We are not to wait on people. We are to wait on the Lord.
The Lord works on people. He is the one with both the power of His Word and the power of the Holy Spirit, brings people to change: to make things right, to grow, to confess, to forsake, to love. Only He and He alone. When someone makes a wrong choice, it is not in my power or area of judgment to change them. I am a supporter of both bearing burdens and loving confrontation, as well as fasting and prayer, but dear readers, those things will never change a person. I may be a catalyst, but me thinks myself too powerful, too special if I think my actions caused that change.
Waiting is not easy. David was crying. He was in a pit, in the miry clay, slipping, falling. He was despairing, disponding, and he had to wait. He never said how long he had to wait, but he was faithful to wait for the hand of the Lord - the hand of the Lord to lift him up, to set him on a rock, to establish him, to put a new song in his mouth. Such a song, that those that saw where he was and where God placed him saw it too, and with fear and awe, trusted in the Lord as well.
Who am I to think that I have that type of power? Power to lift someone up, to establish them, to change the song of their heart and therefore their mouth? And even if I did have that power, would not I get the glory, and not my precious, almighty God?
Those that wait on the Lord are blessed - the are happy, they are content. Waiting on the Lord puts us in a place of peace, of security, of being established.
He also promises to strengthen our breaking hearts as we wait. "Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart" Psalm 27:14 He never promises an immediate answer, of immediate solutions, only the courage and strength to get where we need to be as we wait for His hand to work in both our lives and in the lives of others around us.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Book Reading

Besides reading the Bible from cover to cover every year, President Bush read 95 books in 2006, 51 in 2007, and 40 in 2008. (As cited by former senior advisor Karl Rove.)

I am dumbstruck I think. If the President of the free world can read that many books in a year, what excuse have I?

I have a long list of books that I'd love to read including some I already own and have been gathering dust for years on my shelves. I seem to put reading (particularly non-fiction) at the bottom of my to do list, or not put it on at all because I seem to have so many other things to do.

But once again, if the President can find the time, perhaps I might be able to squeeze it in? (Or perhaps make it a priority as is the whole point.)