Saturday, December 27, 2014

Love Hurts

1 Corinthians 13:4-7
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

It seems to be widely accepted that love is a good feeling between two people that makes both parties feel good, and that if those good feelings turn bad consistently, then they have “fallen out of love.”  This ignores an important truth that we don’t want to accept:  love hurts.  I am not referring only to grief at the loss of one you have loved, but of the everyday “betrayals,” if you will.  Love is when we esteem the other person more than ourselves, and we often fall a bit short of that as our focus turns inward upon ourselves more than the other person.  We place our own selves on the throne of our heart rather than Christ, and subsequently, others.  We sin against one another and against God.

No human can have a relationship without sinning against the one with whom they have the relationship… except that One did.  True love does exist, and it exists in the person of Jesus Christ.  He is the only human to have never sinned, and will be the only one until His second coming, when His children “…will be revealed with Him in glory.” (Colossians 3:4ff)

Christ, in His true love, unceasingly forgave those around Him.  Ultimately, He paid the price for all of His children’s sins, that we might have fellowship with Him.  We, too, in our love for one another, must forgive those we love of the sins committed against us - even should it be the “…seventy times seven” that Christ speaks of in Matthew 18:22.  Else we are not loving the other person - esteeming them higher than ourselves - and nor can we partake of the joyous part of love.  

When we wallow in the part of love that hurts because of sin, then we have become discontent.  It is not that we have “fallen out of love,” but that we have decided - have chosen - to put ourselves higher than the other person.  Christ always gives the option of repentance of this, even though the rest of mankind often finds this more difficult than they care to accept.

Love from God - His perfect love that casts out fear (1 John 4:18) - can even hurt, because we are sinful.  “Whom the Lord loves, He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:12)  Reproof, or discipline, hurts.  Yet God does it because He loves us.  We don’t want to hurt, and I, at least, can idolize that desire.  I lose sight of God and His love.  I lose sight of His grace.

Yes, even Pain, and the fact that love hurts, are gifts of His grace.  If His love didn’t hurt - if He didn’t reprove us - we wouldn’t grow in our sinful environment.  If we humans didn’t hurt one another in our sins, we wouldn’t recognize the filth of our sins.  Christ’s light shines all the brighter amid the background of our evil.  Christ’s love can surpass that evil in us, though.  He gives us the choice every time a loved one sins against us to forgive.  It can hurt to forgive, too… but it is also healing.

Yes, love hurts, and we hurt… but it will not always be so.  Christ will return, and when He does, He will call His own to Himself and “He who began a good work in you” (Philippians 1:6b) will complete His perfection in you.

I am thankful that love hurts now, in God’s wisdom.  I am thankful to be able to see my sin.  I am thankful for God’s grace and mercy on me, a sinner, whom He is perfecting until He returns.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Adoption

Ephesians 2:11-13
“Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called ‘Uncircumcision’ by the so-called ‘Circumcision,’ which is performed in the flesh by human hands— remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

As I studied in Ephesians and read this passage, I find myself tremendously thankful for God’s grace of adoption.  As a “gentile” (not of the people of Israel), I would not be accepted as one of God’s people, but for the fact that Christ came and extended His sacrifice to even the gentiles.  I would be completely without hope but for that ultimate example of unmerited favor.


A little earlier in the passage, in Ephesians 2:8-9, it says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  This passage is part of the “therefore” mentioned in the quote at the beginning of this post.  I am so thankful that His grace is unreliant upon me, but rather is based upon His unchanging character.  I am His - forever.  May I, as His adopted child, reflect His glory and grace.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Surrender

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.”

Both today and yesterday were high-pain days.  I came toward the end of my work day (made it through!) and found myself analyzing my serenity.  I realized that I was content, and started to delve for the reason in order to repeat the feat.  Here is what I discovered.

I woke in the morning with the same pain I had gone to bed with, and I couldn’t reapply lavender oil to relax the hurting areas, or I wouldn’t be able to work.  (The second application doesn’t usually work as well anyway.)  Instead of thinking about the pain, though, I thought about my husband’s desire to not rush in the mornings.  I wanted to serve him and help keep his morning smooth.  So I roused myself and made my way to the bathroom to begin my day.

Later on, we pulled into my in-laws’ driveway (where we make our breakfast) and I found myself thanking the Lord for its steep incline, because it made getting out of the car less painful.  On our carpool to my work, I told my husband it should be “Take Your Wife to Work Day,” because I wanted to spend more time with him.  Yet I was content to go to work - if a little unsure as to whether or not I could last the whole day.  While at work, I also found myself thankful that the postwoman delivered my mail direct to my door (due to the Lord’s timing of a large package), which saved me the pain of rising from my chair to head to the mailbox.

Why was I content?  I truly desired not to hurt, and to spend more time with my husband.  These desires certainly weren’t being met.  However, the Truth that stuck with me was that God’s plan for me today was for it to be a high-pain day, and for me to go to work.  I couldn’t avoid the one (especially with no meds due to the pregnancy), and it was my responsibility to at least give the other (work) a shot.  So if the Lord was willing to allow it in my life, then I could rest in His promise that it would be for my good and His glory (Romans 8:28-29).  God would use this circumstance toward His purpose to make me more like Christ.

Not only this, but I could rest in the promise that His grace is sufficient for me (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Not only was the Lord using the circumstance to make me more like Him (for my good and His glory), but He would give me the grace and His power to actually be more like Him.  This is how He builds our endurance, as mentioned in James 1:2-4.  I also realized that I had work to do, and took that work one step at a time, remembering Colossians 3:23-24:  “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”

So why was I content?  In the face of these Truths, I was able to surrender my desires to God’s will.  I didn’t bury them, but neither did I dwell on them.  I surrendered them to His perfect will.  Yes, I would rather not hurt, and yes, I would rather spend more time with my husband, but God’s plan for me was different today, and I am content to rest in His superior knowledge of what is best for me.  My focus wasn’t so much on myself, my pain, and my desires, but on serving others, on what God was doing in my life, and His power to see His will done.

My contentment resulted from my surrender.  In that humble place, it was far easier to focus on Christ and His work - to be aware and thankful for what He was doing, instead of bitter at what I was not receiving, or that things were “not going my way.”  I thank God for surrender - both for its existence, and for His power to be able to do so.  May I take advantage of this gift of grace more often.


Have you fully surrendered your desires to God’s will?  Is there a particular desire you have trouble letting go of?  Is there something - maybe even something good - that you’re willing to sacrifice your obedience to God in order to get?  Look up the passages I mentioned, and write down something God has provided you in the midst of your circumstance despite a desire.  Look for what the Lord might be teaching you through these Scriptures. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Unceasing Prayer

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.”

Lord, 

I wonder at Your love.  I am struck by the magnitude of what You have done for us, even as we essentially spit back at You, holding ourselves as idols, rather than ascribing You the glory that You deserve.  I run to Your loving arms in weakness, only to turn back, say, “Thanks for the refill!” and sever my line to You.  I run back into the world with my own agenda, following my own desires.  Help me to recognize my self-focus - my pride - more clearly.  The moment I take my eyes off of you, I place them on myself or some other idol.  

Thank You that when I pray to You, it helps me to not only practice Your presence, but also to keep my eyes upon You.  I may pray with my own selfish desires, but You provide even for that, in “translating,” if you will, through Your Holy Spirit.  Your Holy Spirit takes my selfish prayers and relates to You what I really need.  (Romans 8:26)  Thank You, too, for Answering those Prayers.

Thank You, Lord, for the grace that You bestow upon Your children in the gift of the ability to pray without ceasing.  You are always there listening, and always working on behalf of our good and Your glory (Romans 8:28).  Thank You for this invaluable tool to help us keep our focus on You.  Help me to use it, Lord, truly unceasingly.  I don’t take advantage nearly often enough, and yet it is a part of Your will for me - yet another tool You have graced us with to help us follow You.

Teach me to look first to Your will, to check in with You, to dialogue with You, to check my thinking constantly against Your Word.  To always be thinking of You, to always be praying to You.  In moments of victory and moments of weakness; in difficult and contented times, let my focus and my hope be ever fixed upon You.


In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Attitude

2 Peter 1:5-11
“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.”

In my fight with chronic pain and chronic fatigue, I realized that I am fighting to do.  I want to do the things that other people can: clean the house, do the laundry, do the dishes, take care of the yard, move the furniture to clean behind.  In my chronic pain, these are the things that I have chosen to fight for.  Yet, as I consider my life in light of God’s Word (and more specifically, the verses above), I realize that these are not the things that a Christ follower expends all of his or her energy on.  It is my attitude that I should be fighting over.  Am I serving Christ in diligence, seeking His knowledge, holding myself to His standard consistently, striving to be more like Christ and to show His love (verses 5-7)?

These things are not accomplished strictly by doing.  In fact, were I a complete invalid, I could still possess and successfully portray these qualities.  Here’s where grace finally enters in.  I cannot possess these qualities on my own.  It is only Christ’s work in me that allows these qualities to blossom and grow.  Not my own pushing through the pain, nor my determination to do something no matter how much it hurts.

My job is to seek Him.  To seek to know Him, to put it a little differently.  Christ will reveal Himself to me, and will empower me through His grace to do what He has set before me to do.  I often get so caught up in my own agenda.  I reason to myself that as a wife and mother, my first ministry is to my husband and son.  Good so far.  So I need to attend to all of the chores, right?  Well… doing the chores is an obvious way to minister to my husband and son, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I need to do them.  The chores being done is not as important as the attitude that I portray to my family.  If I am allowing the chores to interfere with the ministry of my attitude, then I need to shift my focus.  (Notice I didn’t say don’t do the chores?)

Rather than a physical fight, I should be concentrating on the spiritual fight.  If, ultimately, the physical fight needs to stand aside in light of the spiritual fight, it’s worth it.  Honestly, this type of fight feels far more “relaxing.”  Far more doable.  Because I am not fighting on my own.  Christ extends His grace to me and empowers me with His Spirit and with His Word.  (He can use other things, too, but I would venture to say that these are the funnel through which all of His other tools flow.)


Where is your energy going?  You may not struggle with chronic pain or chronic fatigue, but the lesson is no less true.  Are you allowing the things that you do to crowd in and demand your focus?  Or are you seeking Christ first and how to portray His love in the things that you do?

Friday, August 1, 2014

Endurance

James 1:2-5a
“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. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God…”

I had a difficult time a little bit ago in my weakness, or trial, or whatever you wish to call it, of chronic pain and fatigue.  I knew that I was weak, my endurance waned, and I fought depression as I looked to God.  I have 2 Corinthians 12:9 posted at my desk to help me through times like that:

“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.”

I found myself unable to recall what God’s power in my weakness looked like.  How exactly did that work?  I needed to remind myself.

So I studied around the verse.  In 2 Corinthians 12:7, Paul mentions “to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh[.]”  He requested of the Lord three times that He remove the thorn (many theories exist as to just what the thorn was), implying that he dealt with it over a period of time.  The implication of time makes me think of the endurance that Paul must have needed in his “weakness.”  When does a person need endurance, if not when they are weak? 

As I pondered endurance and weakness and God’s power with my husband, he  mentioned James.  James seems to be the helping key to understand, as it explains the concept of endurance, which goes hand-in-hand with trials and weakness.  Was my endurance failing?  Was that concept biblical?  Or was there something else at work?  James speaks of endurance stemming from trials, not being crushed by them.

James talks about endurance in trials, but endurance isn’t the first thing on his list.  First comes joy, then knowing, then faith, then endurance.  We are to have joy in our trials - or our weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecutions, or difficulties, as later mentioned in 2 Corinthians 12 - because we know that the testing of our faith produces endurance.  This endurance, in its perfect result, will make you “…perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  

Christ’s purpose, as mentioned in Romans 8:29, is to “…conform [us] to the image of Christ.”  To make us more like Christ, who was perfect.  He is always working toward that purpose (which is combined with bringing Him glory).  This is what God uses our trials for.  James continues on in his book with the knowledge we need in order to have joy in trials, but I want to focus on endurance and what that looks like in weakness.

The word used in James 1:2 for endurance is the greek word hupomone.  There are a few definitions for it, but two in particular stood out to me:  “the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith” and “a patient, steadfast waiting for.”  So endurance holds a deliberate purpose at the same time as patient waiting upon the Lord.  This portrays contentment to me.  To be content in the knowledge that I will wait for God’s purpose to use this trial for victory, and to hold to that deliberate purpose of faith in God and in His purpose to make me more like His Son. 

As I laid crying on the floor and crying out to God, I had lost my hope in God’s victory over - and through - the trial.  All I focused on was the pain, the fatigue, the lack of strength, and no end in sight.  I tried to shift my focus, but it was a difficult uphill battle, as I had already been traveling down that road awhile before the breakdown.  I also didn’t have this concept of endurance, yet.  Perhaps it will help me to catch my thoughts before the breakdown next time.

The verse Psalm 27:14 comes to mind:  “Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.”  It was my favorite verse for awhile, and I think that I need to return to it with this new definition of endurance in mind.  It’s almost as if to say, “Wait - before you lose hope - wait for the Lord to work in you.  His grace is sufficient for this trial.  Let your heart take courage, because He will have the victory.  Yes, be content, and wait for the Lord.”


I pray that He would bolster my faith, that I would exercise deliberate purpose to seek His knowledge as a high priority.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Freedom

Galatians 5:1
“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”

The Law was given to us that we might better know what is expected of us to “earn” our way to heaven.  It is, of course, impossible to keep the entire Law… and as Romans 6:23 tells us, the wages of sin - any sin - is death.  Therefore, we cannot earn our way to heaven via the Law.

Christ, however, was able to keep the Law.  So, He came down, fulfilled the Law, then sacrificed Himself in substitution on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins - all of our sins.  Then He rose again and conquered death itself, that we might live in eternity with Him.  In fulfilling the Law, paying our penalty, and conquering death, He has set us free.

I combine thoughts from the verse above and Romans 6:14 to form two ideas:  to not subject myself (in legalism) to try to fulfill the Law, and to not allow myself to submit to my old master of sin.  Christ is my new Master.

I struggle not to allow other people to become my masters - my gods.  I yoke myself under the bonds of what they think, rather than to God Himself.  When they take the throne of my heart, they have, in truth, become my god.

Why do I look to them for acceptance and love?  Personally, it’s because I let myself stray from the recognition of the love of God that I already have.  Certainly, God gives us others to love and to love us, but when I am willing to sin to “earn” that love, then I subject myself to a different god, which produces worry, fear, and anxiety, which lead to depression.


Because of God’s grace, I am personally freed from living under the flawed mercy of the people around me.  Rather, I am under the freedom of Christ’s mercy.  Let the wonder of that truth permeate my soul until God’s prominence dwarfs everything and everyone else.  God is my God, not people.  They are just like me - just as sinful and in need of God’s grace.  May I focus on Him and what He has done for me to the point that my desires to obey Him are driven by love, and not duty.  Out of freedom.  Thank You, Lord, that You have freed us.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Useful

2 Peter 1:8
“For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Something significant to recognize about God’s grace is that we humans are depraved, and that “…there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Psalm 14:3)  This is why we need His grace, and makes His grace all the more special, because He chose to give it even as we sinned against Him.  I find myself dwelling on this sometimes, though; this means that I have nothing to give the Lord, nothing worthy of Him.  I start to feel useless and depressed.  Once again, my focus has drawn in on myself, rather than on God and what He has done.

While it is true that I can give Him nothing worthy - John the Baptist put it “…the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie” (John 1:27) - the verse above in 2 Peter is heartening.  My depravity may render me useless, but Christ overcame my depravity when I accepted His gift of salvation.  2 Peter 1:5-8 says, “…applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (You might parallel “these qualities” with the fruit of the spirit that Paul outlines in Galatians 5:22-23.)

I am struck again by what seems to be the root:  “…in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Knowledge of God is so precious because of what it can spur us to do, yet, as the rest of the list implies, we are not to seek for its own sake, but toward the end of becoming more like Christ - and of being useful to Him.  Not because I myself have the use, but because Christ empowers me to be useful to Him.  “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)


This is most definitely a part of His grace, and I thank God that He empowers His children to be useful despite our lack.  May I keep my heart pliable to change according to what He teaches me.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Unmerited

Romans 6:23
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

If God bestows His gifts - especially salvation - in unmerited grace (pardon the redundancy), then my salvation and the blessing of God’s gifts have nothing to do with me.  He doesn’t give them based on my actions or thoughts, how thankful I am or how much faith I have.  He gives them based on His will, which is (very generally) to glorify Himself, and to make His children more like Christ.

This is a huge blow to my pride - and I’m glad for it.  If it depended on me, then I would be anxious about my inevitable fall, since I know that I am not perfect.  Technically, I don’t have to strive to be perfect… but, in experiencing the blessing of God’s grace and love, I will naturally want to worship God, which is done (in part) by my obeisance (and obedience follows).  God does not require perfection of me.  That would be self-defeating, since, if I were truly perfect, I wouldn’t need His grace.  He does, however, command obedience.  

I often struggle with being obedient out of a sense of duty, or even guilt.  Duty and guilt are heavy burdens… that have no place in light of God’s grace.  “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)  His grace and its bestowal are not based on my obedience.  My guilt has no place now that He has set me free from the bondage of sin.  “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” (Romans 8:1-2)

My obedience, then, should be born of a tremendous thankfulness for the freedom that Christ has given me.  I owe Him a debt that I can never repay, but I will gladly offer myself (whom He paid for) back to Him in worship and obedience.  When I find myself slipping from thankfulness to duty, I have to take a good look at where my focus is.

Romans 8:6 says, “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.”  Is my focus on my flesh, striving for merit and acceptance, when it is already freely given?  Or is my mind set on the Spirit, on Christ and what He has done?

Certainly, I am sinful, and the “…wages of sin is death…” BUT, to continue the verse, “…the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

Recognizing how degraded (depraved) I am is important, but its usefulness is only found when compared with how righteous God is.  In this light, how evil I am just makes God and what He did (and does) for me shine all the brighter in His righteousness.  It is so important to train myself to keep my focus on Christ, because the moment I take my eyes off of Him, I am left with myself and my miserable sin.  The churning waves of the sea are gigantic when compared to me; I have no power to quell them.  But when compared to God, they are minuscule.

I thank God that grace is unmerited, because that is how He has set me free.  Collect your own list of verses to substantiate that grace is unmerited.  Choose one or two to memorize and meditate on.  What are the effects of that truth?

Monday, July 21, 2014

131 Times

Romans 3:23-24
“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus…”

The Oxford English Dictionary defines grace as:  “(in Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.”  Biblically, this is a pretty accurate definition.  How can we know this?  Because the Bible mentions grace several times (131 occurrences of the english word in the NAS), and each of those mentions give us a clue about its meaning.

I find it interesting to note that the Old Testament comprises most of the Bible’s pages, and yet the english word “grace” is only mentioned within it 9 times.  By comparison, the word makes 122 appearances in the rather smaller New Testament.  What a difference Jesus’ death and resurrection makes!

If we dig a little further and look up the word in its original greek and hebrew, we find a similar theme, though with slightly better balanced proportions.  The hebrew word that was translated as grace in the Old Testament - transliterated as chen - makes another 60 appearances, usually translated as favor (51 of the total 69 appearances).  The greek word is charis, and appears 156 times in the New Testament, primarily in Romans (22 times), 2 Corinthians (18), and Acts (17).

The reason I am thankful that grace is listed so many times in the Bible, is because if I went off of the meaning of the word in its original greek and/or hebrew, I would miss the idea of it being unmerited.  That idea can only be extrapolated by examining the usage of the word, and is a biblical definition (letting the Bible define itself), rather than a simple definition of the word.  There are so many concepts in the Bible that need to be compared with one another across its 66 books, so that we can understand what is really expressed.  (I am told this is called systematic theology.)

If I had to choose a single verse to explain why the word “unmerited” has a place in the biblical definition of grace, I would choose Romans 3:23-24 (okay, so I cheated and used two verses!).  “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus…”  If we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, then we certainly don’t deserve God’s gift of justification.  That’s why it’s a gift, since we can’t earn a gift, or it would be a wage.

That word, “unmerited” seems to make all the difference to me.  Most of my sin stems from my pride - from thinking that I am somehow a “better” sinner, or that my work should somehow earn me prestige and thus, I deserve better than I have.  Yet this thinking denies the grace of God.  In truth, I have nothing to offer Him, since I have sinned and my wage (what I deserve) is death (Romans 6:23).

Yet, by His grace - His unmerited favor - He has “…granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”  There it is again.  Not by my merit, but by His own glory and excellence.

This is such a huge concept to wrap my head around, and it is difficult to remember at times.  I hold onto the truths that Christ has taught me through His Word.  I thank Him that He defines His terms by explaining them in different ways in various places in the Bible.

May I remember His unmerited favor.  What aspect of grace seems most relevant to you from what you know of the Bible?  I encourage you to look up the verses that may come to mind (or do a search in your concordance or online) and read through them.  Make note of these verses and how they relate to one another.  You may refer back to it in the future when the concept grows hazy.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Knowledge

Jeremiah 29:13
“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

Dear Lord,

I have mentioned knowledge in 62 of my previous thankful things and weekly impressions; I think it’s about time I thanked You for it.  

Knowledge has such far-reaching ramifications, for we base our decisions on our knowledge, whether what we “know” is true or false.  You, of course, know the Truth of everything, but we must grow in knowledge.  It is through knowledge of You that You give us “…everything pertaining to life and godliness,” as it says in 2 Peter 1:3.  This impresses an urgency to learn Your Truth, for which You have given us Your Word.  It amazes me how You bring to light new lessons in Your Word each time I study it.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Your Word is, just as You say, the Living Word.  

This is why it so important that we remind ourselves of Your Truth with vigilance, constantly seeking to learn more about You, lest we fall to the false philosophies of this world.  Through the power of Your Holy Spirit, You will slowly peel away the scales that blind our eyes to the Truth in Your Word.  Knowledge - especially knowledge of You - is so valuable.

Why do I not yearn for it?  Where has my sense of urgency gone?  Lord, I pray for Your will to be my desire.  I pray that I might immerse myself in Your Truth, that I would not just know that You are my God, but that I would be willing to give up myself - my selfishness and pride - to give You what praise and worship You will reflect in me back to Yourself.  Help me to see You in everything, rather than myself.  Give me the perseverance and urgency to seek knowledge of You in each moment.  I want to pursue You.  Give me the clarity of mind to prioritize You, and strength and courage to follow through.


In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Renaissance Faire

Dear Lord,

Thank You for an enjoyable morning at the Renaissance Faire.  Our little two-and-a-half-year-old son enjoyed it, too!  So many new things and people to see, such a different atmosphere, and even a pony ride!  Thank You that the people there were more than willing to help make him feel at home.  He received more than one gift.

“Would you like a blessing?” one lady asked him, with a small passel of necklaces.  He liked his shell on its leather cord, and noted it at various points the rest of the day.  

“Would you like a toy?” another lady asked as she approached him with a small opened chest with knights and large fake coins inside.  He chose a coin; he must like shiny things.

“Would you like some gems?” a couple of ladies asked him later on, proffering those smooth glass stones.  Why yes, yes he would.

He got to try sarsaparilla, a new type of sausage (like a polish dog), and even tried on a chain mail coif, which covered rather more than his head.  Oh the grins on his face today!  Thank You, Lord, for the marvels and wonders of the Renaissance Faire for our little man.

Thank You, too, for all of the things that made it possible and convenient (like the stroller!), and that most of my family were able to come with us.  I have long enjoyed the Faire, and it was fun to get to show them the various shops and oddities.  And, of course, the joust!  Thank You for a fun day at the Ren Faire!


In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

You are in Control

Dear Lord,

You know that I have struggled with physical (and - I’ll be honest - emotional) ailments ever since I can remember.  Through that life, I have progressed in my knowledge of what it means that You are in control.  

At first, You were almost like some sort of genie, who had the power to answer my prayers - and would, if they were well-meant.  As time passed, I noticed that You answered “No” to some of my well-meant prayers, meaning that my understanding must be flawed.  Then I learned from 1 John 5:14-15 that “This is the confidence which we have [before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him."  It wasn’t that my prayers should be well-meant, but that they should be in accordance with Your will.

Your will remained a bit nebulous to me.  And in that, I think You began teaching me more about Your sovereignty.  

Romans 8:28-31: “And we know that God causes all things 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; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?”

There are even different facets to chew on in this small passage.  First, I learned that You “cause all things to work together” for my good.  This meant two things:  that You were all-powerful (which I later learned was a part of the meaning of sovereignty), and that You were good.  I knew from the beginning that You were good, but I don’t think that I had truly grasped that You had promised that You were good.

Yet, how did this coincide with my pain, both physical and emotional?  If You were good, then why did You allow me to suffer?  Or others, for that matter?  I thought that my definition of the word good might have to change in relation to You.

You taught me later that it wasn’t so much my definition of the word good in relation to You, as my perspective on what was good.  Continuing in that passage, it says that Your purpose for us is “to become conformed to the image of [Your] Son…”.  I had glossed over that previously because I hadn’t really understood what it meant.  It means that You are teaching us to be more like Your Son - like Christ - and that this is the good You intend for us.  Your personal goodness is related to this purpose, but it is not completely defined by it.

Your goodness is exemplified in the grace and mercy that You bestow upon us.  Those can also be difficult concepts to grasp the full impact of, at times.  Romans 5:8 sums it up (to a degree): “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Even before I turned to You, You chose to die for me; to take my sins upon You and to pay the penalty for them.  In fact, I turned to You because You loved me enough to do this.  I had no personal merit that caused You to choose me, it was simply Your good will.  You freed me, once and for all.  I still choose to follow the will of my flesh - my sin - at times, and each and every one of those sins was paid for in the sacrifice of Your Son.  

Yet, Your mercy and grace don’t stop there. You teach me every day, and give me the power through Your Holy Spirit, to live like Your Son lived.  To serve You as Your Son served You.  You made me one of Your children, and as such, a “fellow heir with Christ…”.  This is part of why it is so important that I become more like Christ.

As You continued Your teaching to me in the Romans passage above, I more fully understood the meaning of “If God is for us, who is against us?”  You used Philippians 1:18c-20 to help flesh it out a bit, and this is where the post “Victory” came from.

Philippians 1:18c-20:  “Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.”

Whether I live or die, or whatever I do, You will see Yourself glorified, and You use that same power, as You say in Romans, for the good of Your children (of which I am one).  If You possess that kind of victory, then Yes!  Who can be against us?!

So to bring it back to my pain.  If you cause all things to work together for Your glory and the good of Your children, then my pain is for my good (and likely the good of others of Your children), and also for Your glory.  So… pain isn’t so bad as I thought it was.  Why was I so afraid of pain?  Yes, it hurts, but if You ultimately possess the victory, then why should I be afraid of anything but You?

In my twenty-ninth year (thank you, grandpa, for educating me that I was in my twenty-ninth year, though I’m only twenty-eight), I face the unknown of the possibility of being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  You know that my aunt died of this.  As I look at this possibility, I am confronted by the fact that You are in control.  This trial of pain hasn’t changed, because Your purpose for it is still the same:  to make Your glory known, and to conform me to the image of Your Son - which is to my good.

So, to make a long story short, Lord, I am thankful that You are in control.  No one can stand against You and “win.”  Not sin, not pain, not death, not Satan.  You will have the victory.  And I have chosen - through the faith You empowered me with - to join You, for which, You made me a fellow heir with none other than Your only begotten Son!  

How amazing is Your love?!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Learning to Block

Dear Lord,

Thank You for Gramma, who is always so willing to teach me anything she knows.  One of the areas I’ve been lacking in my knitting is knowing how to block it.  (For the reader, when finished, you “block” your piece to make it square, usually.)  As You know, I’ve had a project (which will be quite useful when finished) sitting waiting for months for me to finish it, which only requires that I block it.  Since Gramma explained the process to me (and sent me home with the additional tools I needed!), I was able to employ her directions to block a small piece upon which I could practice.

I’m still waiting for the finished result to dry, but I do think that I will be pleased with it, and can’t wait to employ it on my other project (a knitting needle case)!  Knowing how to block opens up numerous possibilities for the new projects that I can take on, and I am thankful for learning to block.  Help me to use the skill to glorify You.


In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

New Projects

Dear Lord,

It’s so fun to start a new project - especially when it’s a part of my hobby!  (I can’t tell you all what it is yet, since it’s a present for Christmas.)  Thank You, Lord, for the fun and excitement that a new project can bring.  I love learning new techniques in knitting, and often try to choose patterns that illuminate new techniques so that I can implement them into my own designs.  I love how Your creativity manifests in the myriad ways that people devise to perform tasks or create things.

My only request in this, Lord, is that You would help me to keep my focus on You and all(!) that You have done for me.  I know how easy it is to get caught up in the moment and to transfer my hope and worth to something else.  It sounds so silly, and yet I know that I do it.  A new project excites fun feelings, but it does not deserve my worship - as You do (all that I can give and so much more!).  Thank You, Lord, that You have taught me that bit of wisdom.


In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

My New Maxi Dress

Dear Lord,

It’s fun to get something new.  Especially when you’ve been looking for it for about two years!  I love the feel of long dresses and skirts as they move around my ankles, so I’ve been looking for a maxi dress.  However, this wife had standards… and requirements.  Boat necks don’t look so great on me, so I wanted a V-neck.  I also wanted just a little bit of a sleeve, since cut-off (and even spaghetti straps) don’t flatter me.  Finding a V-neck that wasn’t too low was quite the challenge.  In the end, however, I finally found one that I could at least pin.  I also wanted something that wasn’t see-through, but that proved difficult as well, and I finally decided that a slip was not too onerous.

Thank You, Lord for my great find that was even on clearance!  I enjoyed wearing it today and am definitely glad to have found it.  I love the light stretchy fabric, and it was even my color, too!  Thank You for giving me the perseverance to keep looking on occasion and not to give up entirely on my quest.  Thank You for the gift of my new maxi dress.


In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Bargains

Dear Lord,

Thank You for all of the bargains my husband and I have found lately.  First, I discovered a bargain deal of 40 issues of a knitting magazine, encompassing their entire printing from 2000-2009 with hundreds of patterns, as well as tips and tricks for only $40 (just in time for my birthday!).  Then I found a maxi dress at Ross that actually fit my requirements (which I have been trying to accomplish for about two years) for $6.99.  And last, but not least, we discovered a sale on business casual clothing, which we took advantage of in light of my husband’s dearth for his new job. 

A good bargain can be hard to pass by, but we also want to honor You in our spending.  Thank You for bargains, that they can help us to stay within our budget.  Thank You, too, for budgets, that we can develop a plan for our money so that we can stick to it together, and, hopefully, honor You in doing so.  And thank You, Lord, for Your timing of these bargains, that we could take advantage of them!


In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Multiple Singing Styles

Dear Lord,

Thank You that are so many different ways to sing.  It’s fun to be able to switch from jazz to contemporary to choral to hip-hop, and then enter into the a cappella genre, which just allows one to do all kinds of things with a voice.  There’s certainly something to be said for excelling at a particular style, but it almost feels like a well-rounded exercise routine to switch between so many.

Thank You not only for the ability to sing those different styles, but to also enjoy them.  I may have favorite styles, but they can get a bit monotonous if not supplemented.  I wish I knew what it was about music that grabs me and feels as though it speaks to my soul.  Though I may not, however, You most certainly do.  Thank You for that gift, and I pray that You would continue to use my voice to carry Your message to that very same place in the souls around me.  Help me to be courageous and creative to carry Your Word to others.


In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Reminder Alarms

Dear Lord,

Thank You for the suggestion from my brother-in-law today to set a reminder alarm on my phone so that I wouldn’t forget to pick up the yarn I had accidentally left at the church.  I usually forget about this simple, yet effective way to “assure” (my short-term memory can be… impressive) that I remember something.  Of course, then there’s the fact that I have to remember to put it into my phone, too… so thank You for the reminder from my brother-in-law that reminded me to remember… well, You know what I mean.

To some extent, I am trying to work on my memory so that I do remember things like that.  The trick doesn’t seem to be so much that I don’t remember, as that I don’t remember at the right time.  Instead, I remember while I’m busy with something else, and when I can attend to whatever it may be that I needed to remember, it doesn’t cross my mind.  Sometimes I wonder if that isn’t some small piece of Your humor… I certainly see a little humor in it.

In any case, I do thank You for reminder alarms, that there is a tool I can use to remember the important things at the right time (which is why snooze is also a wonderful thing).  I would also much appreciate it if You would help me to remember to use it.  Thank You!


In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Words

Dear Lord,

Thank You so much for words.  They are one of the many things that we take for granted, and yet they are so powerful.  With them, we can express and communicate.  They are their own art form, whether in poetry, song, or speech.  With them, we can praise You or persecute; show love or contempt; encourage or destroy.  Whether written or spoken (two different art forms!), words are the vehicles we steer from one place or person to the next.

Help me to keep my focus on serving and loving You, Lord, that my words would naturally overflow from Your love and joy to bless the others here.  Help me to stay thankful and not entitled, joyful and not prideful, loving and not dismissive.  Help me to keep my thoughts on Your grace and what You have done for me more than on what I “need” to do for You.  Help me to rest in Your grace rather than fall into the mindset that I need to earn Your love.

Lord, keep my thoughts on Your Word, and I pray for Your guidance and clarity to understand it.  Let me not be so engrossed in the way the world sees things that I try to view Your Word through a worldly lens.  Help me to understand and meditate upon Your truth.


In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Piano Music

Dear Lord,

Thank You for piano music.  Instruments are so versatile in that we can play a number of different styles with a single instrument, but I think the piano is one of the most versatile.  I love to play the piano, but I also love to just listen to others play it.

As I relaxed in my living room tonight during my physical therapy exercises, I listened to my “New Age Solo Piano” channel on Pandora.  Talk about relaxing!  I’m not sure what it is about piano music, but a relaxing mood on a piano seems almost to speak to my very soul.  It’s as though You reach into my heart and say, “Rest now.”  And I am all too willing to comply.

Thank You, Lord, for the ability to listen to recorded piano music on good speakers, so that I can even rest from the movements required to play the music in order to enjoy it.  I look forward to heaven, Lord, and what music will be like there.  Thank You for my rest.


In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Spiders

Dear Lord,

I have a strange, unwarranted, yet persistent fear of spiders.  So spiders are not something that I appreciate in my house as a general rule.  I have a contract with them… they’re fine outside (unless poisonous), but if they step into my house, they die.  Unfortunately, Your creations appear unaware of this contract.  

This is my first night without my husband for awhile (away on work business - yay for a job!), and my toddler is sleeping.  I had just gotten out of the shower and moved my backpack to snatch my computer and a rather large spider scurried away from beneath it.  Now why is it that my first reaction when my husband is here is to kill it (okay… maybe I step back and let him deal with it if I don’t have anything particularly handy…), and yet the first thing I did now that he’s away was to back away, allowing it to escape?  In. My. House.  Next to my bed even…

Yet, as I think about that rather large spider, (while I’m here on my bed) I find myself smiling.  It is Your creature, after all.  And while it is in a breach of contract, and I don’t particularly enjoy the idea of it in my bedroom, I do enjoy the knowledge that You are in total control of it.  That’s not to say You wouldn’t let it bite me… but if You were to allow that, it would be to my benefit.  And that, my Lord, is something to smile about.

So I thank You for spiders, Lord.  That You are in control of them, and that I don’t have to worry about them, because both they and I are in Your hands.  Thank You that You are truly God, sovereign over all, and that You used a spider to make me smile.


In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Scrunchies

Dear Lord,

Today, I will add scrunchies to the list of things that I am thankful to You for.  They make having long hair so much easier.  They’re incredibly versatile, so I can do any number of hairdos by just having one little band on my wrist (or already in my hair).  When it’s hot (like this past week), I can put my hair up in a ponytail or bun, and continue with my work without too much more thought on it.  Otherwise, the heat that my hair holds in - especially on my neck - can make it difficult to stay hydrated and focused.

Thank You, Lord, for such a small versatile band that can make such a large difference.  It’s a staple of my hair accessories, and quite comfortable.  Help me to stay thankful to You for each of Your gifts - no matter how small.


In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Research

Dear Lord,

I have a love/hate relationship with research.  It is a wonderful thing, and the internet has made it so much easier (though, of course, one must be careful to corroborate what one finds on the internet).  Yet it takes so much time and requires a number of decisions in what to pursue.  You know that I virtually always try to accomplish things in the least amount of time, and that decisions are not my friend.  This is an area that You occasionally exercise in me, and even if the stretching may not be the most comfortable process, I am thankful for it.

Research can even be fun - especially about topics that I already enjoy.  Like knitting and other hobbies.  I occasionally research a little more about blogging (since I know there is so much out there that I haven’t taken advantage of), and always come away with some interesting tidbit.  Thank You that I can research to grow my knowledge - especially about You!  "Researching" You can even be a great pick-me-up when I am discouraged.  I pray again for Your blessing on my upcoming grace study for my next 100 thankful things, Lord.  I am excited to see how You use it!


In Jesus’ Name, amen.