Tag Archives: Christ

Faithfully Afflicted

My pastor recently introduced me to the S.O.A.P. Bible study method and, as I’m enjoying it quite a bit, I thought I’d share some of what the Lord’s been teaching me. Hope you enjoy!

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Scripture

Psalm 119:75

“I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.”

Observe

The word ‘judgments,’ as it’s used here, doesn’t mean ‘punishments’ but rather ‘decisions.’ God makes the right – and the righteous – decisions every time. He is God. He knows the beginning from the end and He sees the whole picture. He is in Heaven, outside of time, looking out across all eternity. He sees all the little details and He knows how to make them work together for His glory and our good. He makes the right call. Every. Time. And when that call hurts us, or doesn’t protect us from getting hurt, it’s still the right call. What’s more, those calls, even the ones that bring about afflictions, are all made in perfect faithfulness to us. He is kind, wise, merciful, and loving, even when it hurts. Even when He hurts. These afflictions are sent from a merciful and kind heart.

Application

I don’t agree with or approve of several, several, of the decisions God has made in my life over the last… well, over my whole life, actually. If I was holding the pen, I would have written a very different story. Furthermore, I don’t agree with the decisions He’s made in the lives of those around me either. They don’t feel righteous or just or faithful to me. Not at all. Biggest case in point is my infertility. I don’t agree with the Lord’s decision to withhold children from me. And I have a heart full of judgment when I look at women whom He has chosen to bless in that way. I don’t at all like the afflictions He’s placed in my husband’s life, in my best friend’s life, in the lives of other people I know and love… none of it feels like it’s been done in faithfulness.

But it has. The Bible says it has. And we can’t go by ‘the feels,’ we have to stand on the truth. So if I can’t get the truth to reconcile with what I’m feeling, I have to work on my feelings, and the root cause behind them, to get them to align with the truth. And the truth is that God is good. He is a good, good Father. He loves us, and He cares about us, and He knows what He’s doing. Even when it hurts. God. Is. Good.

Prayer

I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. Therefore, I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.  Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me. I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You; therefore, I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes. Amen


Saving Grace… for Later

My pastor recently introduced me to the S.O.A.P. Bible study method and, as I’m enjoying it quite a bit, I thought I’d share some of what the Lord’s been teaching me. Hope you enjoy!

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Scripture

Titus 2:11-12

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age.”

Observe

God’s grace is what enables us to deny ungodliness. It just ‘appeared’; He chose to give it freely and not in response to anything we’ve done. It’s all Him. He is the one who gives us both to will and to do according to His good pleasure. We can’t do anything in our own strength, we can’t even want to follow Him without Him putting that desire into our hearts first.

Application

I don’t rely on God’s grace. I don’t fall back on it, or revel in it, or seek more of it. Deep down, I feel like His grace is too basic, like it’s only for new believers, baby-Christians. It’s sort of the starter kit, something to get us headed off in the right direction. So I would have to back-slide pretty far to need grace. After all, I’ve been a Christian all my life. I’ve read the Bible all the way through, several times. I don’t need to go back to milky doctrines like grace. I only need it if I fail, so I’m going to try to get along without it. Plus, what if, heaven forbid, I really did need it one day and I’d used up my limited supply? What if I become dependent on it and the source runs out on me?!
Oh. Brother. Grace is the central doctrine to the Christian faith and none of us will ever get to the place where we no longer need it, least of all me. Grace isn’t the like training wheels on a bike; it’s the main wheels, and the bike frame, and the peddles, and the handle-bar… and the helmet… and the ground… and gravity… and…. You get the picture.

How sad that instead of enjoying one of, if not the greatest (*insert theological semantics here*), gifts I have or ever will receive, I try to keep it stored away for a really rainy day and get along without it. Trying to live a victorious Christian life without grace is like trying to run a marathon while holding your breath: it’s just not going to happen.

Prayer

Father, please forgive me for my pride and faithlessness. I don’t want to need Your grace in case one day You decide to withhold it. I want to be my own ‘Plan B.’ Please forgive me and please give me the faith to trust in – to revel in – Your amazing grace. Help me to accept this gift and let it work in my heart, so that I can deny worldliness and sin. Please let your grace tear down my idols of self-reliance and flood in to replace them. In Your precious name I pray, Amen.

Do you enjoy grace or are you trying to take the ‘training wheels’ off?


What I Really Believe About God

My pastor recently introduced me to the S.O.A.P. Bible study method and, as I’m enjoying it quite a bit, I thought I’d share some of what the Lord’s been teaching me. Hope you enjoy!

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Scripture

Titus 1:16

“They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.”

Observe

It is possible to know God without following Him. You can believe in Him and still be ‘detestable’ and ‘worthless’ in serving Him. This was written to a group of people who lived in a world where professing Christ cost them something: comfort, security, social standing, persecution. In today’s first world society, it doesn’t cost us anything to say we’re Christians. It’s too easy to give God lip-service while doing and giving nothing else whatsoever.

What you do is what you believe, the rest is just talk.

Application

I need to act out what I believe. And what I believe is that God is God, that He is good, and that He is in control. That’s what I say I believe.

But the beliefs I live out suggest that God is only sort of sovereign over a couple things and even with those, only if He gets the voicemail I left Him. He is good to other people and even though He’s proven His goodness to me, that goodness can and probably will run out soon. Besides, it’s not always my idea of goodness so it doesn’t really count. And even though He probably did create all of time and space, it’s okay if I don’t read the Bible today; He understands that watching the new Gilmore Girls special is important too.

These are the beliefs my actions imply when I spend my time worrying, envying, pouting, ignoring Him, and blatantly sinning. If I really do believe that God is a good Father, my good Father, then my actions and attitude must reflect that.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, thank You so much for loving me, for giving me endless second chances. Please forgive me for taking You for granted, for using pretty language and talking until I’m blue in the face then turning around and acting in direct opposition to what I just said I should/could/would do. I’ve been so wrapped up in myself that I’ve been worthless for Your Kingdom. Please let that stop here. Please help me to put my money where my mouth is. Bring  my beliefs and actions together and please help me to live what I claim to believe. It’s in Your precious name that I pray, Amen.

So, based solely on your actions, what do you believe?


Get Behind me, Santa

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Tis the season, so I suppose I should probably have a Christmas themed post or two. Trouble is, I’m a self professed Grinch.

The other trouble is that I love and follow Jesus and I enjoy giving gifts to no end.

As I’m sure you can imagine, this time of year is a bit confusing for me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love all the holiday spirit: the tree, the food, the gifts, and most of all the family and friends. I love the traditions and the general good-will mood.

The part I can’t stand about this time of year is the politics.

Everywhere you turn there are the debates over ‘Happy Holidays’ vs. ‘Merry Christmas,’ Hymns vs. Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, nativity scenes vs. Santa and his sleigh. It seems like you can’t make a move without stepping on someone’s toes.

It’s the season for political correctness to run rampant and offenses to run high.

We Christians are all but commanded by the church community to ‘Keep Christ in Christmas.’ But I was thinking about that phrase the other day and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s really a very dumb phrase.

Think about it: the implication here is that if we Christians do not fight tooth and nail campaigning for our rights to our music, decorations, seasonal greetings, and shopping hours, that Jesus will be taken out of Christmas. This call to action is basically stating that non-Christians have the power over Jesus to ban Him from this time of year.

And it’s not just Christmas either. The Church is campaigning to keep Jesus in our schools, in our government buildings, in our currency, in our laws, etc. As though to say that if we were to step out of politics, Jesus would be ousted and denied re-entry.

But I’ve got news on the political fighting point: God is omnipresent.

The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
Watching the evil and the good.

Prov. 15:3

This means that God is in every single government office, every school, every college lecture hall, every supermarket, etc. Furthermore, wherever there is a Christian, there can and will be Holy Spirit anointed prayer.

Even if there were no Christians for miles, God would still be there. His presence is not dependent on us. It’s not like He needs us to get Him into a building and the lack of Christians will keep Him from standing in the oval office and seeing that everything goes according to His perfect plan.

I really don’t think that we Christians are meant to be campaigning so hard on the political front (with the exception, of course, of those who God has called to political office). I don’t think it shows the love of Christ to get our noses bent out of shape when we hear ‘Happy Holidays.’

Those types of political concerns are for the world to worry about. There’s no mention of the apostles marching up and down the street with picket signs. They were too busy loving on people and preaching against sins. Not the sin of Santa and his reindeer, either.

I just worry that the church may have its priorities out of order and that we are fighting in battles that don’t concern us.

If someone wants to sing frosty the snowman and wish me Happy Holidays, then groovy. The far greater concern to me should be whether or not that person realizes how much Jesus loves them and how much they need Him. Because if they don’t have that, then they could celebrate Christmas in the Godliest manner possible and still lose their soul.

So this year, let’s not worry about keeping Jesus in Christmas, in government buildings, in schools, etc. He is already there, and I can assure you that no scheme of man can keep Jesus away from any place He wants to be.

Let’s focus instead on whether or not He is in our hearts and the hearts of those around us. Let’s just love on people this year, pray for those in power, and live lives that are glorifying to God.

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

1 Tim.2:1-4


Church Hurt

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When Jesus sent His disciples out two by two, I wonder who got paired with Judas. I wonder who it was who healed, and preached, and cast out demons by Judas’ side.

I’ve never really thought of it before, but these men were together for three years, on a journey that would change not only their lives, but the course of human history. These were the men who would start the Church, who would eventually give their lives in defense of the Gospel. And they all went through boot camp together; they all witnessed the genesis of Christianity together.

My brother just went through Air Force training and he told me that he made friends in his barracks that he’ll have for the rest of his life. You don’t go through that kind of intense training without forming bonds.

Imagine what the disciples must have thought when it was Judas who left the table during the Last Supper. When Jesus said one of them would betray Him, they all asked, ‘Is it I?’ not ‘Yep, it’s Judas, isn’t it?’ They were surprised by his betrayal. They were surprised to see him leading the Roman cohort into the garden.

Most of us have received a nasty surprise like that from someone we considered a fellow soldier. It would seem that no one can wound quite like a Christian can. We don’t have to study the social media very hard to discern that the world’s opinion of us is that we are all judgmental, self-righteous hypocrites.

And this turns people off to the church. In fact, I know Christians who have left the church because they’ve been hurt by other Christians. They even have a term for this: church hurt.

Everywhere you look, you’ll see people who do not want to serve Christ because they know a Christian who has sinned.

May I just say… this is such a sad, weak excuse.

When Judas betrayed Christ, did the disciples stop following Him?

Well, yes, actually.

They took Judas’s betrayal as a personal threat and they ran for their lives, for their own comfort and self-preservation. And by doing so, they betrayed Jesus as well.

They ended up participating in the very sin they condemned.

But in the end, all eleven remaining disciples continued to follow Christ. Why? Because they followed Christ. Because it is all about Jesus. Because Christianity is all about having a relationship with Jesus.

 Judas’s betrayal hurt, I have no doubt. But his sin didn’t make Jesus less worthy of devotion. Leaving Jesus because of Judas wouldn’t make any logical sense.

I know it can be argued that the actions of a misbehaving child reflect poorly on the parents. Following Christ should spark an obvious life change and when it doesn’t, we’re tempted to think it won’t work for us either.

But anyone who’s ever dealt with children (ages 0-99) knows that when free-will kicks in, all bets are off. It doesn’t make sense to follow Jesus one day and wander off the next because of the actions of our brothers and/or sisters, not when the prize we’re after is a relationship with our Father.

Please don’t get me wrong, I know it hurts. I’ve been hurt by people in the church and I have dear friends and family who have been hurt by people in the church. But that’s when we should run to Jesus, not away from Him. He’s the one with the comfort we long for and the forgiveness we need, for ourselves and others.

Those people’s sins are more against God than us anyways, and I’m sure that if we each dig deep, we’ll see sins in our own lives that were just as shameful. In fact, it could be that we’re mirroring the very sins they’ve committed: judging the judgmental, gossiping about gossips, lying about liars.

Being a Christian isn’t about being perfect, and it isn’t about having a safe haven full of love and rainbows and acceptance where we will never get hurt.

Being a Christian is about being in love with Jesus. It’s about loving and following Christ and loving those He’s commanded us to love (*everyone*). No matter what they’ve done to us.

Let’s take hurt out of the church by keeping our focus on Jesus.


Getting Sifted

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love Peter. He is my very favorite disciple and of all the people I’m looking forward to meeting in heaven, he’s at the top of the list.

One of my favorite stories of Peter is when he denies Christ three times. I drink deeply of this story not because of what Peter did, but because of how Jesus loved.

When Jesus and His disciples participate in the Last Supper, Jesus tells Peter a test is coming.

And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”

Luke 22:31-32

Jesus tells Peter, “I’m praying for you.” Rom. 8:34 and Heb.7:25 both tell us that Jesus is interceding for us. He is going to the Father on our behalf.

It’s a great comfort to me to know that Jesus is praying for me. But if I got to choose the type of prayer, I think it would be more of a ‘live long and prosper’ prayer.

“But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail.”

If I were in Peter’s place and I’d just found out that satan was asking about me, I think I would prefer that Jesus say, “I have prayed for you, that satan may not touch you,” or “that satan would leave you alone.” After all, the best battle is one you don’t have to fight, right?

But Jesus doesn’t pray that Peter be totally delivered from his coming trial. Why? So that he can “strengthen his brethren.”

Imagine what it must have felt like to mess up as badly as Peter did. The Scriptures say he ‘wept bitterly.’ Imagine the tears that fall because you just saw the look of hurt on your Savior’s face, and you know you put it there.

Then imagine the feeling of total grace. Think about how it must have felt for Peter, when he saw the Lord again and knew he was forgiven. What an awesome gift.

Fast forward a bit and picture Peter ministering to someone who thinks they are too far gone for Jesus’ love. Peter would have responded, “You think that’s bad. Wait till I tell you what I did.” The Bible says those who are forgiven much, love much.

No matter how hard we try, we’re all going to fall short. We’re all in need of that grace. And when we can have a brother or sister come up to us and say, “I’ve been there. God’s grace is sufficient,” it comes as a tremendous encouragement to us.

My favorite bit: “When you have returned to Me.”

Jesus doesn’t say ‘if,’ He says ‘when.’

Jesus is telling Peter, I am praying for you. Your faith will not fail. When you return to Me…”

He’s not telling Peter that if he tries really hard he might make it to the other side. No. He’s assuring him that there is another side.

When you have won this battle… When this trial ends… When you’ve passed the test…

We are already more than conquerors through Christ Who loves us. Our hope is secure in Him. He has already won the war.

We don’t have the promise that trials will never come, or that we will pass each test with flying colors. Peter didn’t, and look how mightily he was used by God.

“In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33b

There are hard times right around everyone’s corner. But take heart. Jesus is praying for you, and when the battle is over, when you stand before the Lord in eternity… that’s when you’ll know it was worth every faith strengthening second. 


How He Loves

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You don’t have to spend much time in church before you hear someone tell you that Jesus loves you. For Christians, this is a fundamental belief. Maybe even the fundamental belief.

But one aspect of His love that gets overlooked is how He loves us.

If you search the Bible for what category we fall into for God, you might find something funny:

“No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends,”

John 15:15

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God,”

John 1:12

“and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,”

Rom. 8:17

“Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.”

Rev.21:9

“For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister…”

Matt. 12:50

You have ravished my heart,
My sistermy spouse;

Song of Sol. 4:9

Here we have the categories of friend, child, heir, co-heir, sibling, and bride. That’s a bit confusing. And to be honest, off-putting. I mean, ‘my sister, my spouse’? It sounds like a bad reality show.

But think about the love that goes along with each of those categories.

The love you feel for a friend is special because you chose that person. You have no legal or biological tie to them. You choose to spend time with them and love them because they matter to you.

I’ve never had children of my own but I’ve been called the ‘second mommy’ of three precious little boys and I’ve had a taste of a parent’s love through loving them. I know how powerful and overwhelming it is, how unconditional and permanent.

Because these children are not mine, I also caught a glimpse of God’s heart for adoption. To make someone who wasn’t born to you your heir means that you chose to take responsibility for them. You hand-picked them to carry your name.

I have six siblings so I know what that love feels like. It’s a special tie that that runs deep and means that no matter what, I’ve got their backs, and they’ve got mine. We’ve grown up together and get each other on a level that no one else could ever understand.

I’ve been very happily married for almost nine months now and I can honestly say that my love for my husband has only grown since the day I married him. I love him more than any other human being. I chose him and I get to revel in the knowledge that he chose me. We are committed to each other and I know that no matter what happens, he will love me through. I’m committed to loving him till the day I die.

Think about all the people you love and how you love them. God loves you in all those ways too.

He chose you

He is bound to you

His love for you is unconditional and permanent

He hand-picked you to be part of His family

He will never leave you

He delights in you

You make His heart sing

Nobody else is capable of loving you as completely as God does. No one else will ever, could ever, love you that fully, that deeply. No one can make that level of commitment to you. No one can ever be there for you like God can.

It is my prayer that you are drinking deeply of His love for you today and it is my dearest hope…

“that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Eph.3:17-19


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