Forgiven Friday: Our Gracious God

God spares us

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

We cannot comprehend on a moment-by-moment basis what God spares us from.

Scripture:

Job 11:6b

Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves.

Job 12:9-10

Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? 10  In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind. 

So much to share about what God has shown this weekend at the Worship Conference, but the verses above were from my own reading today.  In the midst of being in awe of God in all that we have learned, I found out that one of my children was in a car accident tonight.

Why would God be so gracious as to keep my child safe?  I don’t know, but all I can do is praise Him for His undeserved mercy.  Life is fragile and no one knows their end, but every moment, every breath we have – is in His perfectly sovereign hands.

Every day there are miracles untold, situations which never arose because God’s hand stayed them.  Then there are the painful circumstances that are allowed in.  Complaints can be quick to rise in such times, unless we remember all that God has done for us and contemplate what He has kept from penetrating into our lives.

Overwhelmed by His grace today.  Give a hug and kiss to your loved ones whom God has placed in your life.  They are a treasure to behold.

Lord, this precious life is Yours alone.  Thank You for the opportunity to live for You.  Be glorified, LORD, in everything we say and do and help us to be grateful for each moment.

Mundane Monday: Undeserved Mercy

Undeserved Mercy

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Mercy would not be mercy if we could earn it.

Scripture of the Day:

Romans 9:15-17

For he says to Moses: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then, it does not depend on human desire or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. 17 For the scripture says to Pharaoh: “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may demonstrate my power in you, and that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.”

Here it is, the beginning of a work week again.  We labor not in vain, though, if we labor in the LORD.  So often we work for our own glory or we try to attain favor or mercy based on merit.  It makes sense that we should earn what we have sought so hard to achieve . . . or does it?

In one breath the verse above can be discouraging to the workaholics among us who try avidly to curry favor only to see another given grace unmerited; but the fact that God’s mercy could never be earned is beautiful.

Our righteousness is as filthy rags, and any insight or ability we think we have was given to us, so we trust in God’s sovereignty in the mercy he grants us in all of life.  This is a vulnerable place to be and we can be tempted to cry, “not fair!” when a deed goes unrecognized, but resting in the perfect goodness of God and the reality of our deserved damnation causes us to fall to our knees in gratitude that God has mercy on us at all.

Mercy is evident throughout every part of our life, though it is often not perceived.  We do not see what we have been spared from, and what blessings we have received we might take for granted.  When we are tempted to become embittered at life’s vicious curve balls, may we remember what grace has been given to us – the obvious and the not-so-obvious mercies.

God’s mercy is not always seen as a blessing.  Sometimes His merciful hand prevents blessings which could ultimately be our undoing.

But the most important mercy ever to be received is the salvation God offers.  Every inclination of our hearts is steadfastly toward sin apart from the grace of God. What sweet grace opens our eyes to know that we are sinners and to receive His free gift of salvation!

We may never fully understand the mercy of God extended to us, but somehow in His sovereignty He chooses to reveal His mercy and love that we might know Him.  Life is a vapor, but for all eternity we have mercy!

Jesus, thank You for saving me!  Thank You for revealing my need of You.  When things have not gone as I thought they should, Lord I thank You.  Your mercies overwhelm me. You are good all the time.

“And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, proclaimed the gospel to Abraham ahead of time, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you.'”  Galatians 3:8

Truthful Tuesday: Whose Lead Do You Follow?

Whose lead do you follow

Romans 8:5

“For  those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit.”

We’d all like to think that we are led by the Spirit and are making decisions that are wise, but often we do not see the spiritual realm all around us, affecting our thoughts and actions.  The impact of flesh versus spirit affects our lives and those around us.

The choices we make moment by moment are filtered by our mindset which is impacted by many factors in our environment.  Evident in our choices about what we eat (ugh . . . chocoholic confessions here for me), to the clothing we wear, the words we say and the attitudes we have toward other people, we have impressions or feelings that bombard us constantly.  If we are not careful and discerning, we can allow our perception or someone else’s opinion to affect our own behavior.

One main way this flesh is played out is how we treat one another.  Rejection of others who aren’t like us is common in the world, but unfortunately, it also happens at church. People shun others or just plain old don’t like other people who are made in the image of God.  Where does this come from?  If it is not from God, then the answer is obvious, but all too often we do not stop to consider why we don’t like someone.  We might all have different personalities, but we ought to love one another so the world can see that body of Christ is indeed different.

The truth is we are more apt to be carnal than spiritual beings and when we are spiritual, we often get in the flesh and think it is us who are righteous, when Christ alone is our righteousness.

While this is a humbling truth, maybe it can provoke us to be aware of our thoughts and behaviors.  Do they honor God?  Are they of the Spirit or of the flesh?  If we could grab a hold of this reality, Christians would turn this world upside down with godly lives and choices that no longer appear hypocritical, unconditional acceptance and love instead of judgment and forming cliques.

Pleasing self or others and seeking acceptance from God’s creation does not compare with living for the audience of One.  Like Paul, we will have to battle the flesh, but staying in the battle is far better than not recognizing the battle of the flesh versus spirit in the first place.

Lord, may You increase and may we decrease.  Help us to recognize the things that are from You and the things that are not and to walk in the Spirit.

 

Thoughtful Thursday: Loving Discipline

discipline.jpg

Job 5:17-27

17 “Therefore, blessed is the man whom God corrects, so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. 18 For he wounds, but he also bandages; he strikes, but his hands also heal. 19 He will deliver you from six calamities; yes, in seven no evil will touch you. 20 In time of famine he will redeem you from death, and in time of war from the power of the sword. 21 You will be protected from malicious gossip, and will not be afraid of the destruction when it comes. 22 You will laugh at destruction and famine and need not be afraid of the beasts of the earth. 23 For you will have a pact with the stones of the field, and the wild animals will be at peace with you. 24 And you will know that your home will be secure, and when you inspect your domains, you will not be missing anything. 25 You will also know that your children will be numerous, and your descendants like the grass of the earth. 26 You will come to your grave in a full age, As stacks of grain are harvested in their season. 27 Look, we have investigated this, so it is true. Hear it, and apply it for your own good.”

Healing.  Deliverance.  Safety.  Provision.  Protection.  Confidence.  Peace.  Fruitful.  Long life.  What an amazing list of promises God has for those who would welcome His correction in their life.  We see this message also in Proverbs 3:11 and Hebrews 12, the living word crying out to us that discipline, while not pleasant to receive, is actually a blessing for those who accept it and yield to the LORD in discipline.

The Word of God is pretty blunt; labeling as stupid those who don’t love discipline.  But when we consider the kindness of someone showing us when we are errant, it would be a fool who would prefer flattery which brings ultimate ruin.

We often think someone going through a hard time is disobedient and being punished, but the opposite is true.  Scripture tells us that we are to accept all hardship as discipline by a Father Who loves us.  Perhaps our view of discipline is wrong.  Instead of seeing troubles as burdens, seeing them as sculpting the inner man while the outer man or the flesh is capitulating to the will of God.

This does not mean we are filled with delight when we suffer, but it means we see that God uses it all for good and that a little sobriety in this life can cause us to live a life that pleases God instead of wasting our lives on futile matters.

When it seems like others are receiving blessings and we reap only trouble, it is in those times that we should not be offended by God, but rejoice that He lovingly has a unique plan for each one of us filled with blessings coming in one form or another; blessing or burden, all of it is useful in the hand of God in the lives of His children.

Lord, thank You for showing us our need of You and where we fall short.  When life seems challenging and we wonder if you see, help us to know that You are a loving Father carefully weaving it all for our good and Your glory.

Truthful Tuesday: Who’s to Blame?

Pointing Fingers

Pointing Fingers — Image by © Images.com/Corbis

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

When one falls, we all do.

Scripture:

Joshua 7:1, 11-12

But the Israelites disobeyed the command about the city’s riches. Achan son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, stole some of the riches. The LORD was furious with the Israelites. 11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenantal commandment! They have taken some of the riches; they have stolen them and deceitfully put them among their own possessions. 12 The Israelites are unable to stand before their enemies; they retreat because they have become subject to annihilation. I will no longer be with you, unless you destroy what has contaminated you.”

But.  I hate that word.  It usually precedes something you don’t want to hear.  Before the “but” word is typically something encouraging to set you up for the plunge you are about to take.  I gotta say it … BUT if it were not for the buts we would probably have many lessons unlearned.

We all want to hear a fairy tale ending for someone who has suffered.  The Israelites had just defeated Jericho.  We don’t want to hear that they are now about to be annihilated because one person stole what was meant to be destroyed.  Instead of celebrating victory, 36 innocent men died because one of the Israelites just had to disobey.

What is difficult for me to swallow in the above passage is the plural on the people group Israelites.  One person is named to have sinned greatly before God, but they all take the rap for it.

At first God’s ire seems unjust, but if we consider the family unit, when just one member transgresses, the whole family is affected.  People question how the family could allow such an action.  So it is with the body of Christ.

Sometimes tragedy awakens us to realize we might have sin in our camp.  We can oversimplify and assume that any difficulty was brought about by sin, BUT in reality, whether the root cause is sin or not, there is always a lesson within that has the potential to draw us nearer to God.

Who is right and who is wrong does not really matter.  Finding someone to blame does not necessarily fix the problem, either.

If we are all the body, then when one part of the body of Christ is found in sin we should not consider ourselves better, but surround that person and count ourselves in their number until we right the wrong.

Ultimately, the discovery of sin is devastating, BUT it can produce the beautiful fruit of repentance if we humble ourselves and let it.  Like Moses who offered to bear the blame of the sin of his people, may God help us to bear one another’s weaknesses and point one another to Christ.

Lord, help us to yield to You when we want to run the other way because of someone else’s or our own shame.  May we discover the joy of obedience and help others around us to do the same.

Mundane Monday: Oh, Mercy!

Mercy Seat

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Costly mercy should never be casually accepted.

Scriptures:

Romans 3:25

“God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed.”

Hebrews 9:3-5

“And after the second curtain there was a tent called the holy of holies. 4 It contained the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered entirely with gold. In this ark were the golden urn containing the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. 5 And above the ark were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Now is not the time to speak of these things in detail.”

Romans 2:4

“Or do you have contempt for the wealth of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, and yet do not know that God’s kindness leads you to repentance?”

Some of us need a big dose of God’s mercy on Monday mornings.  That and a large cup of Joe.  In the hamster wheel of life, we are all running about, aiming to achieve whatever objective that day holds.

Yet in the day-in and day-out of our busy lives, we receive mercy upon mercy and do not perceive it.

This lavish mercy, covering our every sin, was planned from the beginning and cost our Savior’s life.  Mercy for past sins, mercy for present and future ones, too.  Mercy to live a different way.

The mercy seat was the lid on top of the ark where the very presence of God would sit and give mercy when the blood of atonement was sprinkled there.

This is so graphic for our delicate ears to hear, for we are far removed from the fact that our sin brought death.  Blood.  Shed on our behalf.  Not so we would continue in sin, but that we would marvel at such forgiveness and in response die to our sin at such a great sacrifices given on our behalf.

Now this mercy seat is represented by Jesus, Who covers our sins and passes over them by His own righteous blood.  Even  more amazing to consider, this mercy seat is available to us at all times.

We do not have to be priests, entering with trepidation and bells attached to the hem of our robe in case we should die in the presence of a Holy God.  No, we, normal, sinful beings can enter the presence of the living God and find mercy.

May this truth help us to be amazed at You, oh God, on our ordinary days when we look only to this life for meaning.  Arrest our hearts with Your Faithful Love and help us to live our Mondays in awe of our merciful God!

Mundane Monday: Unruly Rulers

Steward What You Do Have - unruly ruler

Inspirational Thought of the day:

God has given us everything from provisions to positions, yet still owns and rules it all.  

Scriptures:

Genesis 1:26-27

“Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness, so they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move on the earth.’ 27 God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.”

Genesis 2:18

“The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion for him who corresponds to him.'”

No one likes to be told they have to follow someone else’s rules. Ugh. Our flesh in this culture cries out, “no one can be the boss of me”. That’s our nature. God made us to rule, after all. But in what manner?

Man and woman were both made to rule over God’s creation according to His boundaries, but the tendency of mankind is to add or subtract rules to define our own boundaries to suit our desires.

We were to be stewards of all He had given, and within that work was a blessing – our enjoyment. But we can easily forget that it all belongs to Him. The One Who gives us the right to rule is still the owner of it all.

Something innate within us wants to own things, but in God’s economy, He shares it all with us freely.  While He was demonstrating love and generosity to Adam and Eve, they were pursuing their own glory and wants instead of His.  Their rulership became all about them and was no longer blessed.

He knew all that they needed, provided food and even provided for their need for fellowship – woman was made as a companion for man.  With such blessings, why would they ever want for more?

Both of them were present when they chose to violate God’s law.  Both confused the purpose of the role of dominion and what they ruled over was therefore cursed.  Even their fellowship would never be the same.  A sad ending, if that were the end of the story.

In Christ, we can see the impact of the curse in our own lives and resist evil, but it is a battle we will have to fight our entire lives.  Our flesh gets wearied by this continual internal and external conflict, but it is a battle worth fighting.  Even though the curse is evident all around us, God uses even curses for good in our lives.

When things are not perfect, the curses in our lives can be a catalyst for seeking God and seeing our need of Him.  The initial punishment meted out by a Holy, righteous, perfect Judge ends up as a blessing to those who die to self and seek God’s glory and not their own.  What an amazing God.

It is ironic that the pursuit of wisdom would lead to their demise.  A pursuit of wisdom for our own glory bears cursed fruit, but loving wisdom in order to glorify God bears eternal fruit.  If we can see our rule over what God has given us as a position of servitude instead of a position of power, we begin to see the wisdom in God’s plan and reverse the curse.

Lord, thank You for Your kind provision.  You have blessed us beyond measure and we still always want for more.  Help us to be faithful stewards and to care for everything You have placed in our hands.  May we be content and grateful, never forgetting that everything we have is Yours and for Your glory. 

Twelve Days of Christmas: Merry Christmas from Seeing Deep!

Jesus is the gift

2 Corinthians 9:15 (KJV)

“Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.”

On this Christmas Day after an extremely busy week, I wanted to take a few minutes to wish you all a Merry Christmas!

Last night culminated the end of a very hectic week, one that crowded out the finishing of the Twelve Days of Christmas countdown.  Nonetheless, as I reflected on this amazing gift of Christ, thinking upon twelve of the things I have been most grateful for that He has given to us has blessed me this Christmas season, and I pray it has you, too.

So, there are a few more gifts to unwrap in this Twelve Days of Christmas wrap up . . . I left off with Day 7 . . .

Day 8 – the Holy Spirit

 

John 4:16

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.”

Often neglected in our places of worship is the Holy Spirit, indwelling all who have called on the Name of God and been saved.

There can be a lot of confusion about the gifts of the Holy Spirit and whether some have ceased and some continue, but in the fray of our confusion we miss the simplicity of the gift of the Holy Spirit.

What a gift to have God come and fill us to overflowing!  He is our friend, our confidant, our Helper in time of need.  Holy and convicting us of sin and righteousness in our lives, He offers us a place of refuge within ourselves.

Lord, thank You for the deposit of Your Holy Spirit in our lives.  Thank You for never leaving us and for continuing to speak to us through Your Word and Your precious Holy Spirit.

Day 9 – Provision

Philippians 4:12, 19

” I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”  19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

It hurts to be in a place of need.  So often we try to cover over that hurt or fill that longing with something that will “provide” temporary fulfillment, but El Roi, the God Who sees all, knows what we need before we even ask Him.

There is a sweet contentment that is learned when we recognize that the provision we are seeking might not be what we need, after all.  Fear is replaced with a simple trust in our God Who provides sovereignly what we need when we need it.

The times of hurt, of not being able to go to the doctor or fix a car or maybe even buy groceries – might make us feel like we are fogotten, but not so with God.  These times are instead gifts that cause us to look to our LORD to meet our every need through Jesus Christ.

At Christmas, we anticipate receiving and giving gifts.  Sometimes we can be disappointed, when we had hoped for something different.  Then God opens our eyes and instead of complaining over what we have not been given, we find a joy in Christ when we love and thank Him when we don’t get what we want.

Lord, You are sovereign – all knowing!  Thank You for every gift You have given us, that we often take for granted.  Thank You, too, for the gifts that You have not given to us, showing us our need of You.

Day 10 – Justice

Isaiah 30:18

“Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him.”

Job 16:19-20

“Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high.  My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God.”

Being falsely accused and having to defend myself in court will remain one of the most horrific moments of my life, but even in those moments, when it seemed justice was no where to be found, I had an advocate in Heaven.  He saw me and every tear He counted.

Whether we win or not down here, we ultimately win if we are in Christ.  He is our ever-present help in time of need and for all eternity we will not receive the justice we deserved – the condemnation of our guilty souls.

Sweet liberty is ours in Jesus.  What a gift His justice is for those Who recognize the gift of salvation and receive it.

Lord, thank You for Your mercy, triumphing over our transgressions and making us Your own.  You are good and just all the time.

Day 11 – God’s promises – unopened gifts

 

2 Corinthians 1:19-20

“For the Son of God, Christ Jesus, who was preached among you by us–by me and Silvanus and Timothy–was not yes and no, but is yes in Him. For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.”

When in times of trouble, these gifts from God – His precious promises – are all we need.  Promises from God are always kept, always remembered, always given to those who wait on Him.

Like unopened gifts waiting to be opened by His children, God’s promises stand firm and are ready to deliver at the right time.

Lord, thank You for the anchor in my soul that every one of Your precious promises has been.  Thank you that You did not leave us without hope; a hope that does not disappoint like the world’s empty substitutes.

Day 12 – Himself

John 4:10

“Jesus answered her, “If you had known the gift of God and who it is who said to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.””

The greatest, most lavish gift ever given was God himself, in the flesh.  We could not behold His face for He is holy and we are not, so He came in our form so we could understand.

We could not have fellowship with him for our sin separated us.  So He laid down His life and took up our iniquities Himself.

We could not spend all of eternity with Him, so He paid our sin debt and covered over all of our sins so we could dwell with Him forever.

Oh God, forgive us when we get so busy we miss this gift of You every day in our lives.  You are our treasure, available at all times to us, not just at Christmas or on Sundays.  Help us to not neglect You, our greatest gift.

Twelve Days of Christmas Day Three: The Law

Gift of Gods law

 

Psalm 19:7

“The law of the LORD is perfect and preserves one’s life. The rules set down by the LORD are reliable and impart wisdom to the inexperienced.”

John 1:17

“For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ.”

This Christmas, when we think about getting what we want, I am thankful that God in His wisdom does not always give us what we want.  Further, in His mercy, He did not give us what we really deserve – His judgment.

We are all rule breakers in one way or another, often rationalizing our weaknesses away, but God’s righteous standard is held.  He does not leave us in a state of deception, but opens our eyes through His perfect law found in His Word, revealing our sin and need for a Savior.

What a gift – absolute truth – steady, unchanging and Holy in a chaotic relevant world.  In a culture that demands its own way and makes laws to condone its sin, there still stands a righteous standard.

Many feel that this standard set by God steals our freedom and joy, but no greater freedom has anyone than the one who can see his sin that shackles him and can walk away from it.

Even though we could never fulfill God’s commandments perfectly, God in His sovereignty and mercy fulfilled it for us.  His law brought condemnation so we could see our need of Him.

As we visualize ourselves opening these gifts that You have given us, Lord, help us to see Your law at work in our lives and to submit ourselves to Your will in every area of our lives.

 

 

Worshipful Wednesday: Praising Our Vindicating God

Vindication

Psalm 135:1-5, 13-14

1 “Praise the LORD! Praise the name of the LORD! Offer praise, you servants of the LORD, 2 who serve in the LORD’s temple, in the courts of the temple of our God. 3 Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good! Sing praises to his name, for it is pleasant! 4 Indeed, the LORD has chosen Jacob for himself, Israel to be his special possession. 5 Yes, I know the LORD is great, and our Lord is superior to all gods. 13 O LORD, your name endures, your reputation, O LORD, lasts. 14 For the LORD vindicates his people, and has compassion on his servants.”

In this passage, David is speaking to God’s people here – His servants who serve in His temple.  If ever anyone needed encouragement, it is those who serve in God’s temple.

My heart breaks when I see injured people traumatized by a misunderstanding, conflict or by someone else’s actions.  All the more when this happens within the walls of the church.  Sometimes we, the church, get so wrapped up in doing what’s right that we are in the wrong.

I’ve been there.  In the most devastating time of my life, when I sought refuge in my church – I found I was silenced, instead.  The enemy is a master at concealing things that need to be brought to light so people can heal and move on.

In the name of being above approach and not gossiping, the silence is deafening and sins can be glossed over.  But the lack of addressing the elephant in the room will only cause it to become larger, still, morphed into something even more devastating.

The sheep are harassed and helpless, and oftentimes those who minister to the sheep bear burdens that are heavy.  But the beautiful secret weapon shared in this Psalm is for everyone.

The Psalmist reminds us to focus on what matters – praising God.  Unless God’s people refuse to tolerate religiosity and utilize our most powerful tool in the face of strife and troubles: praising God in the midst, we will be nothing more than a club; a group of people gathering together.

Those who know God and are informed about His awesome deeds are reminded in this passage to sing praises to God.  Catalysts for our praise are reflecting on His character, His miraculous deeds and His faithfulness. Praising Him is our greatest calling and strength.  We must refute anything that would distract us from this great purpose in our lives – glorifying God in the church and in our personal lives.

You see, there is something intrinsically powerful about worshiping God. We cannot truly praise the LORD without Him revealing motives that need to be exposed.  We cannot come sing to the One without conviction rising if we are attempting to hide something from the One Who sees all.  It is in praising Him that we are delivered and walk in forgiveness and freedom. It is in praising Him that we are vindicated form the enemy’s accusations, set free to no longer focus on the temporary things of this world.

No matter what goes on around us or where we serve God – in the temple or in a secular post, we will all face burdens that only God can lift.  Perhaps the sweetest truth in the lives of His children is that He notices us – and not just sees our inner turmoil, but He has compassion on His servants and vindicates them, all for His glory.

Curiously, the act of worship and praise is not solely for God, for it is while we all praise God together that He works in our hearts, exposing darkness and drawing us nearer to Himself.

Lord, thank You for the gift of praising You.  We need to worship You. Purify our hearts and Your bride, Lord.  All for your glory.