Flawless

I have been so grateful for Christian radio stations in our area (and Christian music) – not only for me but also for the benefit of my kids.  This particular song – Flawless from MercyMe – has captured my heart this summer.  I wanted to share it with a friend and when I googled it I found the video, too!  Now I love it even more!  Enjoy…

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Paradigm Shift

This post will be short but with more to come later.  I feel as though God has brought me on a journey over the past several years.  I wrote this a while back, and only now I feel like God is providing answers.   There have been a lot of little moments along the way that have slowly opened my eyes to revelations about myself and about God.  And I picked up this book several months ago…

Good News for Those Trying Harder by Alan Kraft

I’ve read it and it makes me wonder, “how did I not get this about God?”

It is a huge paradigm shift in the way I’ve viewed and related to God and the way I live my life.

The major premise from the book:

“Do you remember your initial experience with Christ when you realized with a heavy heart the depth of your sin and at the same moment the sufficiency of His grace to meet you in that place?  That was the music of the gospel.  Wasn’t it glorious?

But unfortunately… the life-giving melodies of brokenness and faith unintentionally get drowned out by a growing and incessant drumbeat that sounds so spiritual:  “Just try harder.  Just try harder.  Just try harder.”  The cadence of this drumbeat begins to drive our spiritual lives.  “You were broken, but now you are getting better.  If you do these things Christians are supposed to do, you will continue to grow spiritually – becoming more holy, sinning less and less.  God will be more and more pleased with you because of how Christlike you are becoming.”

Without even realizing it, the melody of brokenness gets replaced by the march of self-effort; the melody of faith gets overtaken by the relentless drumbeat of performance… We stop hearing the music of the gospel and begin pursuing a spiritual growth path that is actually removed from the gospel!”  (page 24)

The paradigm shift for me is this:  I’ve always known that we are saved by faith, not by works.  I’ve understood God’s great grace in that.  However, I’ve failed to see his grace in the living of my life.  Even though I know in my head I can do nothing to make God love me more or less, I guess I’ve questioned whether or not he might like me more if I sinned less!  And my spiritual growth has been largely about self-effort, not about God’s grace.

How did I get to this point in my spiritual life?

Well, I think in our culture, we are taught the benefits of self-improvement.  Got something wrong?  Go buy a book and fix it yourself.  In the corporate world we talk about SMART goals and SWOT analysis.  Self-effort is a heralded and sought-after quality.

But in the spiritual realm, this is anti-gospel.  And so my paradigm shift.

Rest

The end of the school year is almost here and it’s getting craaazy!

One of the things I wanted to do this year was to incorporate more listening time into my prayer time.  In other words, being quiet, waiting on, and listening to God.  Yesterday as I was doing that, this verse came to me:

Matthew 11:28 (NASB)

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

And then this thought (which was the revelation for me, since for goodness sake, I’ve heard that verse a thousand times!!) – God doesn’t give me a to-do list when I come to Him, He gives me rest.  He isn’t expecting me to check things off {my} list, or His list for that matter.  He wants to give me rest.  I have to confess that I often seek God as a means of accomplishing my to-do list or a means of fixing the things that are broken in my life!  Instead of coming to Him to BE in His presence, I’m there just asking for help accomplishing things on my own.  I can get caught up in focusing on issues rather than on Him!  It’s so backwards!!

Check out verses 27-29 in the Amplified Bible:

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.]

 Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.”

Sounds good, doesn’t it?  I could use more blessed quiet!  🙂  And of course, I need Him and a relationship with Him more than anything I could accomplish on my own.

 

The amazing thing is that this verse came to me twice more yesterday – in a FB status update from Proverbs 31 Ministries and then in a friend’s blog.  (I love it when God shows His persistence!)

 

God’s been taking me on a journey over the last several years – dealing with perfectionism, fear of failure, and faith – and I hope to share more about that soon.  Sometimes these journeys of learning can be winding and long – and I have been struggling to find the right words to explain where I’ve been and how God has revealed himself to me.  But I know it’s a journey I want to share because I know many women struggle with the same feelings of failure.  So come back soon for more!

God’s Abundant Life, part 1

If you remember, one of my resolutions was trying to live a more abundant life.

I have a feeling God is going to reveal things about this to me all year, so I wanted to share these things with you as well.

The first thing he showed me last week (and this is not a new idea to me, but the wording and circumstances and perspective are new) – abundant life is ONLY through Him.

In our world, abundance can take on a whole lot of meanings.  Monetary wealth, overflowing possessions, food.

But he revealed to me that the way that He means abundance – the fullness of life and joy and all the things he gives us – is experienced only through seeking Him.

Matthew 6:33 came to mind as I wrote that… Seek Him and His righteousness first…

When we seek Him, however, there is a self-discipline that is necessary.  Through His spirit and His strength, not my own.

Often I don’t intentionally neglect Him;  I just allow myself to be overwhelmed with the demands of life.

So I need to begin each and every day placing Him where He belongs:  in my head, in my prayers, on my lips, and in my heart.

Comfort for Today

From my devotional, “A Woman of Faith”

Day 110

His Comforting Hand

When I am filled with cares, Your comfort brings me joy.

Psalm 94:19 HCSB

As Christians, we can be assured of this fact:  Whether we find ourselves on the pinnacle of the mountain or in the darkest depths of the valley, God is there.

If you have been touched by the transforming hand of Jesus, then you have every reason to live courageously.  After all, Christ has already won the ultimate battle – and He won it for you – on the Cross of Calvary.

The next time you find your courage tested to the limit, lean upon God’s promises.  Trust His Son.  Remember that God is always near and that He is your protector and your deliverer.  When you are worried, anxious, or afraid, call upon Him and accept the touch of His comforting hand.  Remember that God rules both mountaintops and valleys – with limitless wisdom and love – now and forever.

“When God allows extraordinary trials for His people, He prepares extraordinary comforts for them.” ~ Corrie Ten Boom

 

reviving my prayer life

Psalm 1:1-3

1 Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers. 

The grass on our lawn is brown.  And crunchy.  And seriously in need of water.

And frankly, so is my prayer life lately.

Not because I’ve wanted it to be that way.  It’s more of a by-product of our relaxed summer schedule.  Whenever I purpose to sit down and pray, something else comes up (or maybe I should say someone else ) that must be done.right.now.

Ah, such is the life of a mom of more than one child – someone always needs something!

So today I pulled out a brand-new journal (a gift from our MOPS group last year) and started to write out my prayers.

I’ve never listed my prayers before – I think because it just seemed kind of overwhelming.  You know the prayers you say every day – for the health of your family, or safety, or whatever?  Do you list those every day?  Or not?  Do you only list new things, or those things you’ve been praying for years?  See? – too many decisions.  🙂 

Anyways, I thought I’d try it.  I thought it might keep me on track a little better, as well as help me to not forget things.  We’ll see how it goes.  I’m hoping for a little more thriving vibrant green than withering dry brown.

The great news is that when I come to God in prayer, even after a long while away, I don’t have to guiltily hang my head.  He just smiles and says welcome back – I’m glad to see you.  Glorious Grace.

What about you?  Does your prayer life thrive in the summer sun or wither? 

Do you keep track of your prayers in writing?  Why or why not?

 

reminder

The other night I read this passage from Genesis.

Genesis 22:1 – 20 (New Century Version)

1After these things God tested Abraham’s faith. God said to him, “Abraham!”

And he answered, “Here I am.”

2Then God said, “Take your only son, Isaac, the son you love, and go to the land of Moriah. Kill him there and offer him as a whole burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”

3 Abraham got up early in the morning and saddled his donkey. He took Isaac and two servants with him. After he cut the wood for the sacrifice, they went to the place God had told them to go.4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.5He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey. My son and I will go over there and worship, and then we will come back to you.”

6Abraham took the wood for the sacrifice and gave it to his son to carry, but he himself took the knife and the fire. So he and his son went on together.

7Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!”

Abraham answered, “Yes, my son.”

Isaac said, “We have the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb we will burn as a sacrifice?”

8Abraham answered, “God will give us the lamb for the sacrifice, my son.”

So Abraham and his son went on together9 and came to the place God had told him about. Abraham built an altar there. He laid the wood on it and then tied up his son Isaac and laid him on the wood on the altar.10Then Abraham took his knife and was about to kill his son.

11But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham! Abraham!”

Abraham answered, “Yes.”

12The angel said, “Don’t kill your son or hurt him in any way. Now I can see that you trust God and that you have not kept your son, your only son, from me.”

13 Then Abraham looked up and saw a male sheep caught in a bush by its horns. So Abraham went and took the sheep and killed it. He offered it as a whole burnt offering to God, and his son was saved.14So Abraham named that place The Lord Provides. Even today people say, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time16 and said, “The Lord says, ‘Because you did not keep back your son, your only son, from me, I make you this promise by my own name:17 I will surely bless you and give you many descendants. They will be as many as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, and they will capture the cities of their enemies.18 Through your descendants all the nations on the earth will be blessed, because you obeyed me.’ “

At the beginning of the passage, in my mind, I was thinking, “God, let me be like Abraham and always be available to you.  Let me automatically respond to you, “Lord, here I am!”.

But I have to admit that I really was thinking about saying Yes to Him in those things that make me look good, that are easy, that are feel-good experiences.

In short, I was thinking about serving God in places where I am glorified.

But as I read, it hit me that God asks me to say “here I am” for things that glorify him alone.

For things that

might be painful,

might be difficult,

might involve me giving up what I love the most on this Earth,

might be humiliating,

might be ugly,

might be terrifying.

What faith to be able to confidently say yes to God – “here I am, Lord” – even though I don’t know where it will lead.  And more often than not, it will probably be difficult.

I know in my life, those difficult times have been the times when my faith has grown the most.  There is actually a verse that compares adversity and affliction to bread and water for us.

Again, I am reminded that God is good, His plans for me are for good and not for harm (Jeremiah 29:11), and His ways are not my ways (Isaiah 55:8).

And I can trust Him, no matter what.

What is God reminding you of these days?