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Posts from the ‘Grace’ Category

Reflections of Regret and Remembering

At the end of the year, we review.

Yesterday, we sat with our kids and recalled by saying, “Look what the LORD has done for us.” It’s always fun to look back over the friendships we have gained, the goals accomplished, even the goals left undone. Radio and T.V. will cover the “year in review” — the best new songs, the worst clothes.

But, there are times, we look upon our year in disappointment. As sinners, that’s no surprise, right?

There are two words that make my heart feel really tight, cause my eyes to well up with tears, and bring some regret when I look back on this year: selfish ambition. Looking back, I can see it. I can see it in so many ways. Chris and I were caught up and didn’t even know it. But God is light. He is truth. In Him is no darkness.

So, when God whispers, selfish ambition into our darkness, we pause. We don’t argue. We stop dead in our tracks to review. Confess. Repent.

Nichole Nordeman said, “Today we pull the blanket back on our sin and try not to look too quickly away. It’s worth lingering. Grace isn’t going anywhere.”

Fortunately, regret is not the only take-away from this year. For as much as I look back and see my selfish ambition, there was a much bigger theme that was increasing higher and greater over the theme of my sin.

Remember, also whispers the Holy Spirit. Remember who you are.

You belong to me.

As children of God, we have been given the gift of belonging — to Him — the God who holds all things in place, the only one who can be trusted, the one even who keeps count of the amount of times we’ve turned over at night when struggling to sleep.

And, when we belong, our belonging cannot be shaken. It cannot be removed, undone or changed. God is for us. He pursues us. He fights for us.

“You have kept count of my tossings;

put my tears in your bottle.

Are they not in your book?

Then my enemies will turn back

in the day when I call.

This I know, that God is for me.

Sin has no victory when the One who reigns the world, reigns in our hearts.

Because grace is greater than sin, remembering who we are is greater than the regret of what we’ve done.

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A Moralistic Rabbit Trail

I love the heart and honesty of my husband. When he shared his experience with Abby’s baptism Sunday, I was grateful everyone got to hear the words I often hear from him. It also sent my mind down a rabbit trail…

We often view sin as a major moral failure, like adultery or the sins of my youth, far too many to mention — I’ll just say I was in rebellion against my parents and God throughout high school and college. I think we are tempted to believe if we never fall that hard, we’re in pretty good shape. The truth is, we are in as much need of God’s grace in the midst of adultery as we are if we are furiously trying to save ourselves by reading our Bibles daily.

After citing Galatians 1:6-9 and Galatians 2:20-3:5, Matt Chandler in The Explicit Gospel says,

“The idolatry that exists in a man’s heart always wants to lead him away from his Savior and back to self-reliance no matter how pitiful that self-reliance is or how many times it has betrayed him. Religion is usually the tool the self-righteous man uses to exalt himself… Think about that: all your church attendance, all your religious activities, your Sunday school attendance medals, your journals, having a “quiet time,” reading the Scriptures — it’s all in vain if you don’t have Christ. When you read Paul’s texts together, you get a feel for his attack on the Christian, moralistic, therapeutic deism of his day. We are saved, sanctified, and sustained by what Jesus did for us on the cross and through the power of his resurrection. If you add to or subtract from the cross, even if it is to factor in biblically mandated religious practices like evangelism and prayer, you rob God of his glory and Christ of his sufficiency. Romans 8:1 tells us that there is no condemnation for us, not because of all the great stuff we’ve done but because Christ has set us free from the law of sin and death. My sin in the past: forgiven. My current struggles: covered. My future failures: paid in full all by the marvelous, infinite, matchless grace found in the atoning work of the cross of Jesus Christ.”

This is not about being good and avoiding bad.

Our sin separates us from God.

Not one of us has met the bar. We have all fallen short.

He is perfect in Holiness. Matchless.

Christ made a way for us to be reconciled to him.

In him we boast. In his work on the cross, on our behalf.

To him be the glory.

“Often times the main thing between a man and God are not his sins but his damnable ‘good’ works.” -Tim Keller

Henry…always in our hearts

Walking with dear friends through some of their greatest joy and sorrow all within a matter of days/weeks has led us through a wide range of emotions. But, the faith of The Berrys, and their trust in God is what’s leaving the greatest mark on our lives during these circumstances. They have displayed the Gospel in their call to adoption, and they have displayed the Gospel in their response to pain.

Here is their story:

http://mommavern.blogspot.com/2012/07/henryalways-in-our-hearts.html

For more on adoption, read here.

Treasure The One — A Guest Post

You cannot be in the presence of Diane Butler without shedding many tears — some from laughing — some from crying.  But mostly, you will not leave her company without first hearing the impact Jesus has had on her life.  Diane is sharing a powerful story today of anger, control, forgiveness, mercy and redemption. I hope many are set free as we continue to address the fear of coming clean.

Here is her story:

There is a memory that continues to remind me of the power of forgiveness and the power God gives us to overcome sin in our lives — my precious little two-year-old (now 12) sitting on the toilet.  We were in the middle of potty training, and she would not “go potty.”  My heart breaks as I share this because it is not a proud moment.  I just wanted her to go potty; I just remember “losing it.”  I can see her little face looking at me as I screamed at her to “just go potty!”  I began to rant and rave at this little innocent bystander to my lack of control.  This pattern of anger continued for many years.  When I couldn’t get the response I wanted, no one wanted to be in my path.

How do we hurt someone we treasure so much?  The object of our heart must be Christ. If we don’t treasure the One who teaches us to love, the one we substitute in His place will take the wrath of our disappointment.

I loved my children so much, but they were having to do God’s job.  They were having to make me feel loved, valued, accepted, respected, and when they didn’t, I let them know.  It breaks my heart to think about it now. But what allows me to share is that I’m different; I have changed the object of my treasure.  My treasure is Jesus!  He has set me free from depending on my children to complete me, and I can’t even begin to explain how my home has changed.  No one walks on eggshells anymore.  My home is different, not because of something I did but because God poured out his great mercy and forgiveness through his Son, Jesus Christ.  I am different because someone else had been transformed by Jesus, shared their story and through it, God revealed my sin to me.

I had known Jesus my whole life, but I refused to give him everything.  I was enslaved to what I wanted, and they were good things, but they were not the prize of Jesus Himself.  Because I was a slave to my lifestyle and my “stuff,” everyone else paid when life wasn’t going well for me.  At the center of my story was ME, and what I finally understood was that God had to be the center of my story.  Now, when my children disappoint me, I remember it’s not about me.  When they make a bad choice, I remember it’s not about me.  When they bring home a bad grade, I remember it’s not about me.  I am free to love them, teach them, train them, but it is not my job to control.

I have a long way to go, and God has had to heal a lot of wounds in my children and me, but he is faithful.

The sin was easy to hide; it didn’t happen in public.

It was something I often wrote off as this is just who I am.

That was a lie.

I am so thankful God never gives up on us.  Don’t hide in the shame of your sin.  Bring it into the light so you can be who God says you are.

What lie is your sin holding you to?

Who/What is taking the wrath of your disappointment?

Thanks Be To God!

I tried to be good and follow the rules.  Always failing.  It would work for a while but either became unappealing or too hard.  I couldn’t understand why God wanted to keep me from fun.  Why his way was so hard.  Sin was a magnet one minute and my shame the next.  What looked like love always came back to haunt me.

My eyes were opened to the truth of sin.  It’s not just what I do but the very nature of who I am.  That’s a different story.  If it’s the very blood running through my veins, there is nothing I can do to fix my problem.  I can’t be good enough.  I can’t do enough. It’s the natural inclination of my heart — only evil, all the time.  I realized it wasn’t about following the rules in the first place.  It was about seeing my need.

God made a way for my sin to be covered – in Jesus.  He came and washed that very nature away.  It will still be partially here until his return, but it’s forgiven.  I have been made right with God, pure, by blood.  His Spirit lives in me in power.  Christ stands between God and me and tells him I am righteous, justified. Guilt, shame, sin, fear, death and despair will no longer be my master.  Christ alone.  Grace alone.

He lived a perfect life I could not live and died a death I deserved to die.

Thanks be to God!

The Fear of Coming Clean

There is fear in coming clean.

I fear what others will think of me when I say:

I’ve neglected prayer for weeks. When I’ve chosen to pray, I’ve only sought God for what he can give and not God Himself.

I’ve yelled at my kids so loud they’ve cried.

I spent months last year being angry, then sad over being a new pastor’s wife because of expectations I made up in my mind.

I said something so mean about someone that I spent the rest of the day embarrassed, beating myself up over my gossip.

We fear being honest about who we are because we don’t want to be rejected, unloved, cast-out.  Many of us have been faced with that treatment before, and we’re not willing to take a chance again.  We fear being honest because we think we’re alone.  We see ourselves as the only ones with the struggle we’re facing, as if everyone else has it together.  We fear being honest because we believe our sin is detestable. What we’ve done is worse than others, and it needs to be kept secret.

The Lord has a word for our fear.

Do not be afraid.  There is no love greater than the Father’s love, and there are people willing to care for you in your sin and hurt.  There is no greater lie than the lie that God does not love you and that you will be rejected by his people.  “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1)

Do not be afraid.  You are not alone.  If I believe I am the only one being greedy, angry, sad, embarrassed and mean, I’m believing a lie, and you are too.  Being isolated in our sin is dangerous, but shedding light on our sin brings truth and future comfort for others.

Do not be afraid.  There is no sin too big for grace.  “For as by the one man’s [Adam] disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s [Christ] obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:19-21)

This may be an old lesson for you.  It is for me. Let’s not fool ourselves.  Some of us have learned the art of confessing well, so that we are able to still hide the sin we choose.  We must continually be breaking through fear to reach true honesty.

Why come clean? Because we can. We have nothing to hide under the righteousness and perfection of Christ. We are free to be honest about who we are, and we need not be afraid.

What do you need to come clean about today?

Brought Near By Christmas

A friend presented a beautiful depiction of the gospel recently, and I want to attempt it in my words.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1-2)

The Wise Men were far away and were brought near by the star.

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.'” (Matthew 2:3-6)

The religious men were near (in proximity) but their hearts were far away.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13). Read Ephesians 2 in its entirety here.

THIS is what should cause us to fall on our faces during this season.  That God came in flesh to bring us near.  We were far away in our sin and filth, not desiring him, not wanting anything to do with goodness, standing at a distance from peace on earth, wrapped in dissension, mocking righteousness, turning our backs on good will toward men, laughing at the thought of joy in the world.

The ruler humbled himself to bring sinners near.

Wise men still seek him?  Certainly.  But, for myself it seems to be more the other way around.  He still seeks me.  I am prone to forget my name, and he gently reminds.  I am capable of turning my back, standing at a distance, mocking.  And, he is faithful to continue the work he started the first Christmas.

He came to bring men near.

He has brought us near.

He will continue his work in bringing us near.

Jesus Wept

I’m not sure if I’ll be able to convey the thoughts I’ve been having since Sunday’s sermon.

But, the question I have in my mind is:  Would it be easier to “be removed” and die or “get involved” and die?

The only example I have been able to think of in human terms is having friends move. We recently have had friends move into our city, then into our church, then into our small group.  They are only passing through, on their way to another country.  I have a choice to make:  to withhold myself from them or give myself to them.

When we stay removed from a situation, we are able to somewhat guard our hearts, protect our feelings, spare our emotions.

When we get involved, our feelings can’t be spared, the protection is removed from our hearts, emotions are unguarded.

So, when I think about Jesus coming to earth and making friends, I just think about the alternative —

What if he came and died for sins but was somehow removed from the pain that the involvement of true friendship can bring?

He wasn’t.

Jesus was sad and angered by the death of Lazarus because he loved him (John 11).

He wasn’t removed, and he didn’t withhold human feelings but got involved.  He had relationships with real people, enough to hurt over them.  He didn’t just appear from heaven — to a cross — then back.

When I think about my sinful self, I think of how willing I am to get involved.  Maybe I’ll “do” for people, maybe I’ll even invite you into my small group, but if I know it will result in hurt or even seeing your sinfulness, I should probably stay somewhat removed.  I know it’s Christ and not me, but if it were me, I might do better dying if I were removed.  If I were involved, it would be hard to see the depth of sin.  It may be even harder to be friends.  It would just be easier to stay removed than get in the mess.

Jesus knew he would hurt.  

He knew they would hurt him.

He knew he would see the depths of their sinfulness.

He got involved.

Beyond the involvement of any other man.

“The miracle of the incarnation is that we don’t have a distant God who treats our sin, suffering and death like an impersonal business transaction.  Since  sin and suffering are personal, Jesus is personal.  He’s the God who feels our pain, weeps over suffering, and involves himself in our mess, in order to identify with us and rescue us.” Greg Gibson

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:7-8)