Day 21: Hope’s Debtor: Gratitude & Humility

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

This new reinvented hope longs to please God, not self.

Scripture of the Day:

Romans 5:3-4

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

This new reinvented hope is not formed without some friends – gratitude and humility. The beauty in the struggles of life is that they can work precious character into our hearts, if we let them.

Yielding requires trusting God in the face of suffering as well as in times of blessing. Gratitude is not a normal response in heartbreaking circumstances. In the fires of affliction, it is carefully molded through perseverance and a heart and mind change initiated by the Spirit of the living God.

Instead of having the attitude that we deserve what we want, we cry out and ask God to help us “put on” an attitude of gratitude. Why did we think we deserved our way in the first place? The root of our expectations often exists in a self-centered hope. But this new reinvented hope – it longs to please God, not self. Only God can achieve that in man’s heart.

Gratitude can’t be mimicked. Anyone can be thankful in the moment, but an abiding gratitude stems from knowing God and having confidence that nothing ever transpires in our lives without His perfect good will. We can be truly grateful in sorrows because we know God wins in the end. Our hope is fixed on this truth and the fact that every jot and tittle, every moment of our lives – He is redeeming.

Humility cannot be manufactured by man, either. It comes in when we recognize, like Job, that when we question God, we truly do not understand Him or His ways. How can the one who is made know the mind of the Creator? And yet He draws us near to know Him.

Humility is a death to our flesh that wants to reign. There is no greater example of humility than seeing our great Holy God choosing to bear our sins and suffer our punishment. And He did it with joy. Gratitude that souls could be won.

If we have the mindset of Christ, our trials become our triumphs and we see them through the scope of eternity. No more do we regret suffering. Instead we see ourselves as co-laborers with Christ and cry out for Him to use it to save just one.

Mankind does not want to take the blame for anyone else’s actions. Our pride wells up and demands justice. Christ chose to be mistreated in the most extravagant demonstration of humble love ever seen.

Lord, help us to have Your understanding and to seek to honor You in every aspect of our lives. It is for Your glory alone that we live!

Day 17: The Christian Culture

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Our hope cannot be in people, or in a church. It has to be in Him alone.

Scriptures of the Day:

Philippians 2:19-21

“19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”

Hebrews 12:14-15

“Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness, for without it no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God, that no one be like a bitter root springing up and causing trouble, and through him many become defiled.”

Sometimes our hope can be stolen from an unlikely place. Paul is not mincing words in this passage. To say that all the believers except Timothy sought after their own interests is astounding. Of course this is one verse of many and Paul often spoke with great encouragement about the believers he was working with. Perhaps in this season in particular, he did not “feel the love” from the believers surrounding him.

I confess I have wanted to avoid this topic, but it has played such a big role in my healing as well as in my suffering. It is the elephant in the room that we want to avoid, but needs to be discussed in the hope of healing hearts who have been wounded by spiritual abuse or the Christian culture gone awry.

The first time I stepped into a church that was alive with joy and hope and fervent praise it felt like coming home. This is what it was all about – coming together and rejoicing in this new hope we had found. Church has been rather boring growing up – I did not know the LORD and we rarely went to church.

But then God saved me and I went to an amazing church (http://www.gracecov.org/), unlike any I had ever been to. There were exciting times serving in campus ministry, helping to start a church plant and serving on the worship team. Sweet, vibrant times of discipleship, fellowship and growing in the LORD.

When I was persecuted for my new faith, church was a refuge, the believers all surrounded me and it was family. Sometimes you wish you could bottle up the joy you have from one church experience and open it up from time to time when needed.

The church can serve as a great catalyst and cultivator of hope, but it can also serve as a place of great pain.

The pain is worsened by the fact that church is a place where we come for hope – a place where we know we are all accepted by Christ – but not necessarily by other Christians. When a Christian sins, it just hurts worse. It is not expected, but maybe it should be.

When we understand that the church is a place filled with sinful people, we clear up our disillusionment with the church. There is no perfect church and people sometimes can be prideful, selfish, legalistic, used as tools by the enemy.

Sometimes when life crushes our hope, we run to people or to the church as our refuge. This can be a source of inspiration, but it can also be a place of great stress and sorrow.

When my children and I were suffering greatly, we felt isolated and judged at church. The church simply did not know how to handle our situation. At the time it was very painful, but now I understand that they were just ill-equipped. Sometimes people meant well and sometimes they tried to manipulate us. It really messes with your mind when the body of Christ is not very godly. But God.

Jesus brings healing and opens our eyes to realize that our hope cannot be in people, or in a church. It has to be in Him alone. As we walk through life and encounter seasons that threaten to destroy us, we need to be in God’s word foremost and to find like-minded believers who will stand with us. The others who seek to kick us when we are down, or judge us self-righteously – we can forgive them and realize they are misinformed and focused on earthly matters. Sometimes we, too, are small-minded and need grace.

The Holy Spirit can help us to get over our shock from snubbing, gossiping, jealousy, anger and rejection that come from believers. All of us are desperate for the grace of God and need to keep the main thing the main thing – being a beacon of hope to the world that desperately needs Jesus.

The church is not perfect, but the bride of Christ is indeed beautiful. Christ redeemed her and He will complete the work He has begun in her. Letting go of the judgements of man and embracing the acceptance we have in Christ offers a hope that never ends.

Stay where you are planted and help encourage the culture within your church to be one that pleases God. This song by Twila Paris is such a reminder of Who the church is. How Beautiful. Love one another – Christ bled and died for us all.

Lord, help us to keep our hope in You alone. Everything else disappoints, but You never do! Help your church to rise up and be loving and accepting, able to provide the hope You have given so abundantly.

Mundane Monday: Call Me Chief

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

When God has forgiven us, man’s judgment no longer has to have a hold on us.

Scripture of the Day:

1 Timothy 1:15

“This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’–and I am the worst of them!”

Self righteousness is one of the slickest tools of the enemy. Pride at the root, we begin to think we are righteous of our own merit. Often unrecognizable as we see the flaws in everyone surrounding us except for our own, it is lethal to our walk with God and hurts those around us.

Paul is refreshing in his transparent view of himself. He did not boast of his righteousness, but instead called himself the worst sinner ever.  It seems kind of demeaning at first. After all, there is always someone worse than ourselves. But God does not grade on the curve and the beauty in recognizing nothing good in and of ourselves apart from the grace of God is not only seems truthful, but fitting.

It is in seeing my desperate condition before a Holy God that I see my need of His salvation. I cannot defend myself based on any deed or belief, for it was only His grace that enabled me to do or be anything that would please a perfect God in the first place.

Admitting we all are Chief in the sin department is at once condemnation and freedom. Gaining access to a relationship with our Holy God only happens through confession of sins and then sweet redemption when we choose to believe and accept His righteousness for our own.

When God has forgiven us, man’s judgment no longer has to have a hold on us. When falsely accused, we realize that although the accusation might not be true, there is something in us that we are guilty of even if we cannot see.

This truth has been such a blessing in my walk with Christ. There is therefore now no condemnation, even though we are guilty. For Christ fulfilled God’s perfect law for all eternity and we stand blameless before a Holy God. What good news this is!

Walking in this perfect freedom, we no longer have to fear, but we also can no longer judge our brothers and sisters, either. We do not know anyone else’s hearts and we all are equally chiefs of sin, too.

Lord, thank You for revealing our sins that we could be set free. Thank you for removing our sins as far as the east is from the west. 

Truthful Tuesday: Plumb in Luck

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Reblogging this post from almost two years ago. How grateful I am that although we fall so very short of the glory of God, He redeems us from eternal death. When we compare ourselves to the perfect, righteous God as our plumb line, we see that we can never measure up; but in Christ we are considered righteous.

2 Corinthians 10:12, 18
“For we would not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who recommend themselves. But when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding. :18 “For it is not the person who commends himself who is approved, but the person the LORD commends.”

Comparing ourselves to others, both those considered greater and lesser than ourselves, is at once folly and wisdom. If the purpose is to think better of ourselves by demeaning another, the end result is false pride. If the purpose is to be more like Christ and looking to be like what we value as excellent or praiseworthy, the result can be something beautiful.

Defining the standard in a relativistic age is the challenge. The plumb line, the only standard, is the Perfect One, Christ. When we compare ourselves to God alone, we see that we will always fall far short. What is the purpose of it, then? In humility we recognize our dependency on God and our need to keep growing in Christ. With the standard set before us at the highest level, it keeps us on the right path. Accepting a lower standard so it will be easier or more comfortable will bear fruit similar to what you are ascribing to. We dare not accept man’s own opinion of himself or accept a standard that God condemns.

In examination of myself, it is only God and His Word Who can illuminate my sinfulness. I cannot examine myself – I lack the objectiveness to do so. Another person also cannot correctly examine me – they might do so out of bias from what another person told them, by their own perception, or by actions they witnessed in me which might or might not be consistent with my character. But that does not mean that another person should not speak into our lives – we need one another. It just means that we should not solely take one man’s opinion, but should run that counsel through the filter of God’s word and additional counsel.

In the end, we have an accuser, actually several of them. Our enemy, the devil, our own flesh, and others who just plain don’t like us. But accusations do not have to destroy us or define us. We can choose to rise above them and place our focus off of ourselves. We can choose to not accuse others, too, but to pray for them. Now that would be a beautiful way to bring God glory and get the enemy running! God help us to do so.

Lord, You alone are the Perfect One. You alone are worthy of praise. Anything good in us is because of You, not us. Help us to seek Your opinion of us before all else. Help us to cease comparing to others and instead to saturate our minds in your truth and build one another up.