Sunday, October 15, 2017

A "Perfect" Day

Ecclesiastes 8:15
"So I commended pleasure, for there is nothing good for a man under the sun than to eat and to drink and to be merry, and this will stand by him in his toils throughout the days of his life which God has given him under the sun."

This last day, my husband and I celebrated our twelfth anniversary. We did several of our favorite things: ate breakfast at our favorite breakfast place; listened to our audiobook while watching the waves and (I) knitted; window shopped along the Embarcadero in Morro Bay; ate dinner at our favorite restaurant in San Luis; stayed at our favorite hotel and soaked in the mineral hot tub; watched a movie; and ate my favorite dessert (brought from that favorite restaurant). I can't help but feel so thankful for all of this, and so blessed by God's grace. To have the time, childcare, and financial provision to make this happen is no small feat, and to top it off, I've barely felt any pain today!

I cannot describe how wonderful and satisfying it feels to enjoy all these things knowing it is at the behest of my Creator, who owes me nothing. Much as I have admittedly been stressing out lately in the trenches of daily life, it almost feels too good to be true to have had this "perfect" day. Yet here His gift stands. I appreciate these things all the more because of my recent trials... which makes me thankful for not only for the "perfect" day, but for the trials, too.

The verse above puts a more eternal perspective on things for me. This recent "eating, drinking, and being merry" can serve as a great reminder of God's grace during the coming toils... and it can also serve as a reminder that the good things of this earth pale in comparison to what it will be like with our Heavenly Father after His return.

Until then, we have an even greater joy than in the eating and drinking and making merry in a "perfect" day. Psalm 16:11: "You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever." Even a "perfect" day is enhanced by the joy of the Lord!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Sovereignty and Free Will

As a parent, would you rather your child followed your every whim, or was free to make their own choices? True love wants them to make their own choices… and this is God’s desire for His children. I will never be able to fully reconcile the two inherent truths of our free will and His sovereignty, but God has shown me an inkling in the following perspective.

We as human beings cannot control everything. It’s a basic fact of life and one of the main reasons many of us struggle with anxiety. In many cases, “life” throws us many circumstances that play a huge role in charting our course. Now consider… if God is truly sovereign, then He has control over all things, including those circumstances. One thing that must be understood before we move on is that “…God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” (James 1:13b) God may allow circumstances caused by sin and evil intent, but He Himself hasn’t a shadow of evil in Him. (“…God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5b The context being darkness is sin.) So, if He is sovereign and good, then why does He allow circumstances caused by evil?

Enter the beautiful truth of Romans 8:28-29: “And we know that God causes all thing to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren[.]

Paul is giving us a rare peek behind the curtain of God’s will, here - and not just any peek, but a look at what lays the foundation for all of God’s will! According to this passage, God’s purpose is that His children would be “conformed to the image of His Son,” or, in other words, that we would think and act like His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is part of the Triune God, and as such, lived the example of how we should act and think like Him. (Just like we want our children to be like us!) So if the beginning of that quoted passage is true, then God is using His sovereignty (His power over everything) to work everything to teach us to be more like Christ (please note the distinction to being like Christ rather than being like God; they had very different roles). Even our trials. Even our joys. And make no mistake - Job 42:2 says, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.

Just as we don’t control every little thing our child does (and even less as they get older), God does not control us (unless, of course, we engage in the joy of offering ourselves to be used by Him), but rather lets us make our own choices. This is how we learn and grow. And just like our children often make wrong choices, so do God’s children (us). While we may regret a poor choice, God, in His sovereignty, uses it to make us more like Christ! We as parents can sometimes do this, but God, per Romans 8:28, uses all things toward this end. This is another piece of the joy of following Christ: even our failures don’t make us less, but instead God, in His grace, uses them to teach us. God does not want to force us into the image of His Son, He wants us to choose to be like His Son. 

God’s sovereignty enables our free will.

As I said before, this doesn’t fully explain how free will and God’s sovereignty coexist, but it satisfies me enough that I can look at Job 40:2 and 40:8 and bow humbly before His will. God addresses Job in both verses:

Job 40:2
‘Will the faultfinder [that would be me, too] contend with the Almighty? Let Him who reproves God answer it.’

Job 40:8
‘Will you [again… me!] really annul My judgment? Will You condemn Me that you may be justified?’

Who am I to reprove God and question His judgment? Did I create the earth and its workings? Did I create man and know his very thoughts? Do I really want to serve a God I can fully understand? Would He be God if I could fully understand Him?

I am insignificant and yet, God, in His amazing grace, chooses to work all things for the good of His children (of whom I am one!), and for His glory! These two goals never part. Our good gives Him glory! This isn’t to make it all about us - it’s all about Him! - but to show you the value God has given you as His child. In this lies our worth - not in what we can do for Him. This granted value never changes. It is not raised or lowered by anything you do, and God Himself does not raise or lower it. God loves you with a love so pure, it brought Him to death on a cross. God is so pure, that He rose again, freeing us from the penalty of our sin.

Praise God for His sovereignty! And praise God for granting us free will!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Better Than I Deserve

2 Corinthians 4:16-17
"Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison."

One question has been at the forefront of my mind lately: what gives saints (and by saints, I mean followers of Christ) joy through physical suffering? I have seen saints with such perseverance in Christ that joy pervades their being in a powerful and brazen witness to those around them. Yet I have feel as though I have barely persevered in this fight against chronic pain, and also keenly feel my own general lack of joy through it. So I keep returning to God with that question. What am I missing?

My last post (God's Gift) was a partial answer to this question, and today's post may make more sense if you've read it first. God revealed this second crucial piece to me today: I deserve eternal death. I deserve worse than anything this life can throw at me (which, it actually can't do apart from my Father allowing it for our good and His glory). This pain is better than I deserve.

I've known this before, but He had to remind me, and once I did, such joy flooded me! This life is better than eternal death, and when I do finally die, I get to enjoy eternal life with Christ! Pain itself is the opposite of enjoyable, but it is better than I deserve, and it has no real power, but instead serves God as He works all things together for our good and His glory. According to God's grace, Christ has redeemed me, and what I deserve no longer matters, except to remind me of my joy in Him!

In that lies the victory, the power, and the JOY of the God I serve. I fervently pray for that joy to fill me so intensely that those around me can't miss it! May Jesus Christ be praised!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

God's Gift

1 Peter 1:13
"Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."

Chronic pain has been God's learning tool of choice for me, lately. I don't claim it's my favorite tool, but I am learning (again) to be thankful for it as He uses it to teach me. I have struggled lately with the concept of God's protection - not only in my situation, but in regard to those suffering persecution to the point of torture, slavery, and death. (I like to dwell on the light subjects...) 

God may choose to protect his saints' physical safety, but God promises to protect our souls. While it's comforting to know He'll protect my soul, I sometimes find it a difficult pill to swallow that He won't always protect my body. It is during these times that I must remember His goodness and His purpose: to make us more like Christ, and to bring Him glory. There are moments when I'm all too happy to face affliction for His glory and my benefit... but what about those times when I just don't want to hurt anymore?

I love something my husband said, paraphrased: "Our hope in Christ isn't a perspective that diminishes our present affliction, but that recognizes how much greater is the prize of eternity with Christ. Our present affliction pales in comparison." 

It's like the parable Christ tells in Matthew 13:44: "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."

I want to be so excited about the treasure God has given me that my present afflictions pale in comparison. My focus has fallen from that treasure, and consequently, so has my joy. Thank God for His grace, to continue His work in me and remind me of who He is and what He has done. 

What has He done?

I highly suggest reading 1 Peter 1 and dwelling on each concept he states. There's a lot there! God chose us - not because of who we are, but who He is. His grace to us is rife throughout. He set us apart, sacrificed His Son to take our penalty, raised Him again to conquer death for us, and gave us an eternal inheritance we had no claim upon. I might add He also gave His Holy Spirit to enable us to conquer our spiritual battles on earth.

God is good! I am not forgotten, but rather He is walking these trenches with me. 

I stumble over this "need" to do something, to prove my worth to myself and to Him. But it isn't about what I can do, it is about what He has done, and the work He is doing in me now. The victory is His, not mine, and when I try to snatch that away, everything falls apart. Of course the path grows difficult when my focus draws inward: I have no power

If you're like me, you may want to dwell on that for a minute, because it takes a bit to sink into my brain. Then when it does, I'm disgruntled, because I mistake my powerlessness for worthlessness, which isn't true. God didn't choose me because of what I could do for Him. Realistically, there is nothing I can do that the omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient Creator of the Universe can't. 

Isn't it amazing, then, that while He doesn't need me, He still chooses to use me? How privileged are we?

"[F]ix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" and remember the joy of His gift! Purposefully meditate on it and let it permeate your thoughts and actions. Then watch your affliction begin to pale in comparison!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sufficient Grace

2 Corinthians 12:9
"And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."

We all go through difficult times. In fact, the Bible makes no bones about the fact we will suffer. But the amazing thing? God not only uses that suffering to perfect us, but also gives us His grace and power - sufficient for each moment - to live, and to live for Him.

I have a lot going on right now. We all know the place, whatever it may look like for you. Excluding my hobbies and other goals, I'm struggling with an unknown chronic pain, am a homeschooling mom of two children (five and two) who works two days a week, and am in escrow on my old home while renovating my new one. (It sounds to me like so much less all summed up!) Yet in the midst of those moments of pain in the night, moments of frustration learning to teach, moments of indecision and realizing what won't be done in time, moments of exhaustion through it all, God is with me.

I may not know the specific reason for any given trial, but I can rest in Romans 8:28-29, James 1:2-4, and 2 Corinthians 12:9.


Romans 8:28-29
"And we know that God causes all things to work for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren..."

James 1:2-4
"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."

2 Corinthians 12:9
"And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."

God is working all things for my good and His glory, perfecting me among my trials to be more like Him, and He is right there with me among them - in my weakness. Whether my weakness is the physical pain, the emotional frustration, the mental anxiety, or exhaustion as a whole, God will rise to the "challenge" when I rely on Him. When I shift my focus to realize I can't do it - and don't want to do without Him even if I could - I see the whole world differently. It isn't about what I can or can't do, it's about what God is doing.

God doesn't send the evil in this world, but He isn't powerless about it, either. My physical pain is a result of sin, but God is using it to teach me how to be weak. I don't do that very well. It seems to be my personal 2 Corinthians 12:7 "thorn in the flesh... to keep me from exalting myself." Rather, as I boast about what God is doing in my weakness, then He gets the glory, and I learn to be more like Christ.

Is it easy? No. Does remembering the above make it easier to deal with? Yes. Our suffering is not in vain, friend! Remind yourself of God's promises and granted power - be thankful for them. Rely on Him in humble prayer and He will keep you. Live in His keeping and rejoice!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Almost There


1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
"Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

I love that feeling of anticipation when you're approaching the climax and you can feel the excitement build. I've been creating a Bible Study on thankfulness and it's in its final stages of completion! One more little step and I can upload it for self-publishing - quite possibly in time for Christmas! This study has been on my heart and mind for awhile now, and I'm excited to see how God will use it.

I am thankful to be "almost there." It's so easy to let projects fall by the wayside, but I've felt His gentle prodding to make sure I finish this one. That alone feels special. I have no idea what He'll do with it - and it will be Him, because my marketing skills are nil - but it has been more important to me to be faithful to complete it. By His grace... I almost have.

The journey to complete it has also done a work in me. I haven't been writing my thankful things down lately, as I attend to other things, and I've noticed my walk with God grow harder to deal with. However, every time I've sat down and taken the time to work on the study, God has blessed me. The idea behind the study is to show the participant how to apply thankfulness to all aspects of her walk with God. This has served as such a blessed reminder to me of the same.

If you're interested, the study is called How Do I "Give Thanks in Everything?" based off 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 with emphasis on verse 18: "...in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." As evidenced by my blog, I have found the practice of thankfulness to fuel my joy in the Lord. It has helped in so many areas in which I've faltered. Paul's call to action in these verses isn't idle, and this journey of learning to apply it to my life has transformed me; I want to share it with all of you.

See my Journals page to find out more - I hope to have it available to purchase in time for Christmas! May God reveal His grace to you through it as much as He has me!

Monday, November 21, 2016

This, Too, Shall Pass

James 4:14b
"...You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away."

Life hurts. Whether you struggle with physical or emotional pain (or both), there will be times in life when it seems unbearable. In the midst of tonight's rise in my chronic pain, I found comfort in the knowledge God has taught my heart that is so commonly phrased, "This, too, shall pass." My hope doesn't stop there, though. Not only will this moment of pain pass, but there will be moments of joy, as well. Those will pass, too, until we breathe our last breath and join Christ in heaven. Then we will have joy everlasting!

As James says, this life is but a vapor. It seems to go on and on at times, but in the face of eternity, it's a bare blip on the heartbeat monitor. My hope rests in Christ who paid the ultimate price for me to be with Him in eternity where "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." (Revelation 21:4) 

I long for that day, but as Paul notes in Philippians 1:22: "But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose." (See more relevant text here: Philippians 1:21-24). God uses my time on this earth for the good of His children (me included) and for His glory. (Romans 8:28-29) He is, as James says, teaching me endurance, which is perfecting me (James 1:2-4).

I am thankful this pain shall pass, and that there will be a day when I shall be with Him in eternity. I praise Him for the work He has done to make that possible, and I relinquish my pride that says I deserve any better than what His only perfect Son endured. I thank Him that I don't have to pay that price, and for His Holy Spirit through whom He grants me strength to face the pain. Praise Him from whom all blessings flow!