Friday, December 31, 2010

The Lying Voice vs. Christ

A lying voice often tries to confuse me, but Christ, the Truth, reassures me..

Lying voice:  You're worthless.
Christ:  You're worth so much I laid down my life to get you back to me.

Lying voice:  You'll never change.
Christ:  I have already changed you;  you are righteous in My sight.

Lying voice:  Something terrible is going to happen to you, so be afraid.
Christ:  I am WITH YOU, and I am ALL-mighty and can handle anything!

Lying voice:  You are all alone.
Christ:  I will NEVER leave you or forsake you.

Lying voice:  How could you think such awful thoughts?
Christ:  Awful thoughts are foreign and not your own.

Lying voice:  You're a big failure; God is disappointed with you.
Christ:  God says you're His beloved child in whom He is WELL-pleased.

Lying voice:  You've got sin in your life so He won't hear your prayer.
Christ:  God hears every prayer of the righteous, and you're righteous!

Lying voice:  You must try harder if you ever hope God will accept you.
Christ:  You are fully accepted by God RIGHT NOW because of My work.

Lying voice:  Since you just blew it, how can you say you're righteous?
Christ:  You are righteous by My performance, not your own!

Lying voice:  You must keep yourself close to God.
Christ:  I'm in you and you're in me, and that's forever!

Lying voice:  Noone really cares about you or wants you around.
Christ:  You are precious to me!  I sing over you with delight!

Lying voice:  You will never get free of your problems.
Christ:  I am here, and where I am is freedom!

Lying voice:  You can't handle this trouble.  You're going to sink.
Christ:  I will handle this for you.  We're going to walk on the waves!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Put On Your Headphones



Have you ever had one of those days when you just want to shut off the stimuli coming in from the world?  To just stop and listen to that Inner Voice of Love?  He's whispering His love songs to us at all times.  I need to hear Him so much and be rejuvenated every single day.

"Anytime you feel alone, put on your headphones
Love, love's coming through your headphones
Anytime you feel alone, put on your headphones
Love, love's coming through your headphones
L-o-o-ove is coming through your headphones
L-o-o-ove is coming through your headphones"

                                                             Britt Nicole

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Church of the Broken

I belong to the church of the broken.  We're the mixed-up and confused, the failures, the ones whose lives sometimes get too messy for other people to handle, the ones who'll never totally get it "together."  We're the ones who've been through pain.  Who've been hurt by the world and have cried out at times, "My God, why have You forsaken me?"  The ones who don't measure up and have pretty much given up trying to.

Yes, we've given up trying and trying to measure up.  Why?  Because we've met Someone who accepts us as we are.  Someone who chased us down the dark corridors of our lives and reached out to us as we huddled, scared and lonely and crying in some corner - and held us.

We've been overtaken by a love we can't understand, a love that doesn't fit our paradigms, a love that loves the unlovely and accepts the unacceptable.  This is His church.  The church of the broken AND LOVED.

Our Friend has overwhelmed us and tackled us with His passionate love.  He has made all the difference.  Why?  He doesn't see our mess.  He doesn't see our mistakes.  He only sees innocent little children, loved, valued and accepted by Him.  Our problems aren't so big to Him, since He's All-mighty.  With Him close beside us, we feel safe again.  We feel strong again.  We feel beautiful again.  We feel whole again.  We feel hopeful again!

We have discovered a secret:  it's okay to be broken.  It's okay to be as broken and hurting and confused as we really are in our human lives, because He is going to be as Strong and Compassionate and Victorious as He really is in His resurrection Life!  Our lives, humanly speaking, may not look so good.  But it doesn't matter, because HE'S our REAL LIFE!

He's the only One we need.  He's the One who has to be strong, not us.  He's the One who has to have it together, not us.  We're leaning on Him and we're upheld EVERY TIME!  Broken yet beautiful.  Confused yet carried.  down yet up!  Feeling dead yet ALIVE!

Isn't that a great revelation?  That no matter how messed up our lives may be, we are whole in Him!  And He pours infinite wholeness into all the broken places of our lives.  It doesn't ever matter how weak we are or how bad our problem is, for HE perfect in us and is infinitely sufficient for every need we have - He handles every single thing we face!   HE is our wholeness, our sufficiency, our perfection, and He IS that right in the midst of our mess!  We don't have to clean ourselves up for Him to come; He HAS come and He is here to be with us in the mess and take care of it for us.

Jesus loves us broken ones.  And He comes through for us.  He fights for us, wins for us!  And we find in the midst of our brokenness that He has made us whole!

I love being in the church of the broken..yet loved..and accepted..and carried..and triumphant..and whole!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

White Christmas

Today I experienced the first white Christmas of my little life!  It was magical to watch the flakes fall down and see the grass and trees become covered with the beautiful snow!  And it was a sacred silence that fell with the falling snow, as God touched the world with His beauty in this unexpected way!  (Unexpected for us down here in the deep South, at least, where some places haven't seen a white Christmas in almost 50 years..)

This has been a year of healing and renewal for me spiritually, and a beautiful white Christmas just sums up a special year with Him. Have you ever received such an unexpected and wonderful gift that it seemed too good to be true, that it just blew you away?  That is the way I felt a few months ago when God pulled me out of the emotional hole I'd ended up in through various circumstances.  When He brought me out of that dark cave, when it literally disappeared before my eyes as He renewed me with His very presence and the darkness, fear and sorrow disappeared...when that happened, it felt about as magical and miraculous as this white Christmas we've had here in the deep South.  And just like the snow brings a stillness, He stilled my frenzied thoughts with His presence and brought me to peace and rest.  It truly was a miracle.

That's just His sort of thing, isn't it?  He can do anything!  Anything!  As He says, "Nothing is too hard for Me.."  He loves to manifest in us the victory Christ has already won for us over the darkness.  He loves to burst into our hurt places with His love and care.  He loves to blanket us with His peaceful presence, like a quiet blanket of snow.

Thank You, Lord, for the joy of seeing a white Christmas.  And thank You that You love to say "I love you" to us in so many wonderful and unexpected ways!  

                          With love from
                                             

Joy to the World!



HIS Joy to you!

And Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Silent Night...



Into this dark and seemingly hopeless world, into our lives so often full of sorrow and despair, Someone has entered.  He has come to save us, and we are rescued!  There is hope, there is light, there is joy!  There is a restored relationship with our Daddy!  We can live again..

Thank You, Jesus!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

You Are God's Beloved

You, with all of your faults and imperfections; you, with your defects and failures; you, with your hang-ups and emotional scars; you, with your weaknesses and defeats; you, with all of your blunders, brokenness, and floundering; you are God's beloved, God's favored, the disciple whose name God calls, the one Jesus prefers to hang with, eat with, play with, talk with, cry with, and laugh with.  You are the one whom the holy God of heaven and earth longs to spend time with.  You are all of this and more.  You always have been.  And you always will be.

                                                         Karla Yaconelli
                                          (from the book Messy Spirituality)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

God Entered Our World

He entered our natural world so we could enter His supernatural world.

He entered our temporal realm so we could enter His eternal realm.

He entered our brokenness so we could enter into His wholeness.

He entered our sinful world so we could enter His righteous world.

He entered our pain so we could enter His healing.

He entered our despair so we could enter into His hope.

He entered our loneliness so we could enter into His love.

He entered our sorrow so we could enter His gladness.

He entered our darkness so we could enter His light.

He entered our prison so we could enter His freedom.

He entered our death so we could enter His Life!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Kay Thompson's Jingle Bells



I'm putting this one up for the kids...We listen to this while putting up the Christmas tree every year...  :)

Friday, December 17, 2010

God With Us

Emmanuel means "God with us" -

God with us in our sorrow..

God with us in our pain..

God with us in our troubles..

God with us in our doubt..

God with us in our hurting..

God with us in our despair..

God with us in our loneliness..

God with us in our everything!

God with us - we never have to go through anything ALONE again!

I used to always feel like I was going through all my troubles alone.  I felt so vulnerable.  I felt like I could get squashed by some crisis at any moment.  I felt I was in a boxing ring without any gloves, a puny little runt standing there facing a giant.

But God renewed my mind with His wonderful Spirit.  He showed me that I am not alone!  I am not vulnerable!  I am not alone in that ring!  Someone has entered the ring to fight for me on my side!  Someone is there, a Strong Advocate to defend me against the giants that come against me!  I have learned that the word for the Spirit in John 14, Paraclete, means advocate, or one who comes by our side to take our part.  He comes to take our part and fight for us!  To uphold our end and be our strength for us!  This makes me feel so safe, secure, and loved -  not helpless anymore or vulnerable.  It makes me feel like laughing at the enemy!  I haven't ever felt this before, really! 

There is Someone in the ring with us!  God with us - Emmanuel!  He is abiding with us forever by His Spirit!  He is not even just beside us, He is IN us!  He is living THROUGH us!  And He has promised never to leave us, never to forsake us!  (Heb. 13:5b)

There is Someone with us, to fight for us, to stand up for us, to defend us, to comfort us, to cry with us, to give us hope, to lift our burdens and carry them for us, to keep us when we can't keep ourselves, to bring us through, to be what we could never be in and through us. 

He is God with us!

God with us in our laughter..

God with us in our joy..

God with us in our rejoicing..

God with us in our hopes..

God with us in our dreams..

God with us in our anticipation..

God with us in our celebrations..

God with us every day of our lives!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Fruit of the Spirit is HIS Fruit!

I was thinking recently about how the fruit of the Spirit is the fruit of the SPIRIT, not the fruit of ME!  It's HIS nature coming forth and manifesting.  It's the way HE acts and it is the product of HIS nature and work.  He lives in me and out of me flows His fruit.  I don't have to work up love, joy and faithfulness.  He is already all of those things in me.

Then I started thinking that not only does the fruit of the Spirit show how He acts through me to others, but it also shows how He acts in me, toward ME!  So many times in the past I have believed lies about His nature and character and lived in fear of Him.  Now He is showing me again and again that I never have to be afraid of One who is Perfect Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Faithfulness, Kindness, Goodness, and Self-Control.  The fruit of the Spirit is the way He treats others and it's the way He treats me, as well!

He has these traits toward us:

Love - He is always loving.  Everything He does is done out of love for us.  He is Perfect Love.  Unchanging Love.  Always for the other.  He puts our needs first and always does what is best for us.  His love flows to us constantly and unconditionally.  We can never make it stop, diminish, or be diverted from coming to us!

Joy - He's happy - He knows how things are going to turn out, so He is joyful.  And He's delighted in us and joyful over us!  He smiles at us always!   He delights in us even when we fail!  He's inner triumphant happiness no matter what the circumstance. He loves to laugh, loves to hear us laugh, loves to see us having a good time.

Peace - He is calm and well-being and absence of strife.  He doesn't have to strive - He's already overcome!  He's in complete control.  He has complete authority over evil and so is not worried about it.  In Him all is at peace, in quiet and stillness and rest.  And in Him, in that realm of quiet rest, is where we dwell!

Patience - He is infinitely patient with us.  He will go over the same truths with me time after time, never tiring, until I understand them.  He won't EVER lose His temper or be pushed to the exploding point, no matter how we mess up.  He is always ready to help us, no matter how often we fail.

Kindness - He is kind and helpful.  He encourages us when we are down.  He loves to shower gifts on us and asks for nothing in return.  He gives gifts and never takes them back no matter what.  He meets all our needs and goes above and beyond to help us.  He is the perfect listener and is our support in hard times.  He is there for us before we even turn to Him.

Goodness - He does us good always and will never, NEVER harm us!  He always leaves us feeling better, not worse.  He gives good gifts, never bad ones.  He never sends pain but instead lifts our pain and bears our burdens for us!  He's got a GOOD heart!  He treats us well no matter how we seem to treat others or Him!  He's the Best Friend we've always wanted.

Faithfulness - He will always do just as He promised and will never let us down.  He won't ever leave or forsake us.  He will be a loyal friend and will never stop loving us or being there for us.  He won't reject us or let us go.  He's faithful to hold us up and not let us fall.  He will always be there to support me, defend me against the enemy's accusations, and protect my heart from evil.  He will always come through for us.

Gentleness - He's never harsh with us.  He doesn't kick us when where down.  He always says just the right thing to encourage us and help me and never to discourage us.  He never crushes our spirit, never wounds us.  Instead He gently loves and heals us.  He knows how tender and vulnerable wounded people are, and He is ever-sensitive to all our needs.

Self-Control - He won't blow His temper with us.  We'll never get on His last nerve.  He doesn't get irritated and fly off in a rage and punish us.  He is calm.  He never gets bored with us.  He never just puts up with us, never merely tolerates us.  He LIKES having us around.  His actions toward us are perfect.  He will always be exactly what we need Him to be for us at each moment.  His great heart meets our every need in super-abundance!

I love the fruit of the Spirit flowing out of me to others, and I love the fruit of the Spirit flowing to my own heart.  I think as I experience His Perfect Love toward me, I'm more able to trust Him to live out that same Perfect Love through me..  I have so much to learn and understand, but I am so thankful He is such a wonderful Lover! 

                   With love from
                                        

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Quotes from Gregg Gibbons

Gregg Gibbons has a wonderful grace ministry and website.  You can take a look at it by following this link: http://christmyheart.org

Here are some wonderful quotes from some of Gregg's writings.  I wanted to share a few of them here (I especially love the last one on prayer):

"God is in control for me, and He is in love with me."

"The world tries to define me by what I do.  However, it is 'by the grace of God, I am what I am' (1 Co. 15:10a).  I am not what I am by achieving...I am who I am by receiving the grace of the Son of God!  Grace also empowers me to live out of my true identity.  'I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me' (1 Co. 15:10b)."

"I am accepted by God and I have been made acceptable to God in Christ.  I am free to grow as a child in the presence of the most Holy God...free to live and play in His presence exclaiming without fear, 'Look, Daddy, look Daddy!'  My Father's eyes are always fixed on me with glee!"

"Some say, 'God can change your life.'  The deeper truth is that God has exchanged your life for the life of His Son!  God has not patched up your old life, He has given you a new life - the life of His Son!"

"We no longer have to strive to put on hope, joy, etc. from the world.  Those clothes no longer fit.  We can now receive all of Christ's hope, joy, etc. from Christ inside us all of the time!"

"The presence of Christ in our lives is the victory, not the absence of struggles.  The light of Christ is manifested through us to others mostly in the darkness of our battles with temptations.  This is when people witness that we are real (not religious) and that we have a real hope they can have, too!"

"True prayer is our response to God's grace initiation to have communion with us."

"Some say, 'I feel like my prayers don't make it past the ceiling.'  This frustration is the result of striving to pray with self-effort.  The truth is that our true prayers never even start below the ceiling!  We are seated in heavenly places in Christ!  We are united with Christ and have all of His authority to be the conduit for praying God's will from heaven down to earth!"

                                                                 Gregg Gibbons

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Grain, the Wine, and the Oil

He makes grass grow for the cattle,
   and plants for people to cultivate—
   bringing forth food from the earth:
   wine that gladdens human hearts,
   oil to make their faces shine,
   and bread that sustains their hearts.       Ps. 104:14-15

I have been thinking on three things that are often used in the Old Testament as symbols of God's abundant provision:  the grain, the wine, and the oil.   I guess I'd never thought about it much, but they are listed in the offerings that were to be given in the Temple, and they are listed in prophetic writings as things that God would provide for the people, showing that their needs would be satisfied. 

I can see how they also seem to be symbolic of the New Covenant.  At the Last Supper, Jesus said the bread was His body, broken for us, and that the wine was the cup of the New Covenant, representing His blood shed for us.  Upon Jesus' ascension into heaven, where He sat down because He had finished the work of redemption, the Holy Spirit was poured out from heaven at Pentecost.  1 John speaks of us all having an anointing from the Holy One, here the Holy Spirit's presence in us being compared to anointing with oil.

The grain/bread represents Jesus' body broken for us.

The wine represents His blood shed for us.

The oil represents the Holy Spirit poured out on and into us.

I love how these three things summarize the work of grace that God has done in us!  Christ in His body represented all people.  He was the second Adam.  He died AS US on the cross, bringing down the old creation self, with its sinful nature controlled by the evil one, down into the grave, never to rise again!  Christ shed His blood, dying FOR US, taking away our sins on the cross so that we are completely forgiven and free of those sins, past, present, and future, free of them forever!  Our sins will never be counted against us.  Yet all this, wonderful as it is, was just a prelude, a preparation for the whole goal and purpose of the work of the cross:  that God might live IN US  and THROUGH US by His Spirit!

Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, presenting His perfect sacrifice in the temple not made with hands, in heaven itself.  The work was perfect, it was a perfect sacrifice that took away every sin and destroyed the hold of the sin nature on humanity.  The vessel of human lives could now contain God, the human temple was now be ready to be filled with the glory of God, just as His glory cloud had filled the temple in Solomon's time.   So He poured out the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and now we by simple faith can receive this wonderful promised Spirit - the life of God Himself within us to regenerate us, to indwell us, to baptize or fill us with all the fullness of God Himself!  This is how we were meant to live!  To have perfect union of our spirit with God's Spirit.  To have a Friend within us so that we are never alone.  To have Someone to actually live for us and handle everything we face!   To watch as the the One who is Perfect Love loves the world through us.  We walk through this life actually imparting Jesus to people.  And we live in a perfect, unchanging, permanent fellowship with God Himself by His sweet Spirit within us!

The verse says that grain strengthens our heart - Jesus killed off our old self and old heart and gave us a new and strong heart - HIS very own heart and nature within us!  Sin shall never again be our master.  His own righteous nature is ours, a nature that naturally loves and trusts.

The verse also mentions that wine gladdens the heart - His sacrifice has made us totally forgiven, clean, perfect and righteous before Him, we have the wonderful gladness of knowing we are accepted,loved and taken into His arms forever!

The verse mentions the oil that makes our faces shine - He has given us His very own Spirit to live within us, to fill us full, to make us shine with His own glory.  We are in union with God forever.  God's own Spirit lives in us to fight for us, pray for us, love for us, live through us, and be the Friend to us that we have only ever dreamed of!

I love the New Covenant and how complete it is!  We have it all in Him!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Never Gonna Give You Up




I love to think about the words to this song's chorus and relate them to my relationship with God.  Isn't it wonderful to hear God saying within our hearts those very things -

"I'm never going to give you up.

I'm never going to let you down.

I'm never going to desert you.

I'm never going to make you cry.

I'm never going to say goodbye.

I'm never going to tell a lie and hurt you."

I love that!  We have such a faithful God who has placed us in a perfect love covenant stronger than any earthly bond of love/marraige.  It is up to Him to keep this covenant, so we know already that it is perfectly kept!  Our hope rests in His faithfulness, not ours!  "Faithful is He who calls you, who also will do it!"

He won't give us up or let us go..

He will never leave or forsake us..

We are preserved and kept in Jesus..

We'll be together forever...

We can't escape this Love..

Safe in His grace..

                     With love from
                                    

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

He Wants to Reassure Us

I love how God constantly reassures us.  He always imparts hope and security to us.  His words to us are good and uplifting.

He reassures us about how steady His hands are underneath us, that He is holding us and will never let us go.  He reminds us that He has defeated our adversary.  He reminds us that He is the Strong One no matter how weak we are. He reminds us that He is the provision for all our needs.  I love how He reassures us!

"You're My servant, serving on My side.
I've picked you.  I haven't dropped you.
Don't panic.  I'm with you.
There's no need to fear for I'm your God.
I'll give you strength.  I'll help you.
I'll hold you steady; keep a firm grip on you.

"When you go out looking for your old adversaries
 you won't find them -
Not a trace of your old enemies,
 not even a memory.
That's right.  Because I, your God,
 have a firm grip on you and I'm not letting go.
I'm telling you, "Don't panic.
 I'm right here to help you."

"Do you feel like a lowly worm, Jacob?
Don't be afraid.
Feel like a fragile insect, Israel?
I'll help you.
I, God, want to reassure you.
The God who buys you back, the Holy of Israel.

"The poor and homeless are desperate for water,
 their tongues parched and no water to be found.
But I'm there to be found, I'm there for them,
 and I, God of Israel, will not leave them thirsty.
I'll open up rivers for them on the barren hills,
 spout fountains in the valleys.

"Everyone will see this.  No one can miss it -
 unavoidable, indisputable evidence
That I, God, personally did this.
 It's created and signed by the Holy of Israel."

                                                      from Isaiah 41 (MSG)

This passage has meant a lot to me lately.  In it God says that He wants to reassure me.  Not scare me, burden me, hurt me, demand of me, or berate me.  He wants to reassure me!  He wants me to feel safe and secure in His loving care.  Because I am - that's a fact!  I think His heart is always to reassure and help.  He knows we're frail and need encouragement.  He is so willing to give it.

So thankful for His reassuring words...

               With love to all from
                                       
                                       

Monday, December 6, 2010

Safe in His Arms



We're safe in Him like a child in his daddy's arms.  When a child is crying or upset, it's amazing how just being nestled in their parent's arms can calm their breathing, stop their tears, and bring them to relax, rest, and even sleep.  Jesus has the same effect.  We are in His arms and He shows us that is where we are.  And we can rest.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Stay Drinking...

So often I catch myself fighting inside over some issue I'm concerned about, when God is calling me just to look to Him and enjoy His presence.  Just being with Him there in the secret place of the heart, enjoying that union of Spirit to spirit with Him, the problems pale in comparison to His grandeur.  And I realize again that He will handle the things I face.  He will speak truth into my situation.  He will bring clarity to my mind. He will remind me of all I already have in Him - of my righteousness and acceptance in Him, of His complete victory over all darkness, of His grace toward me at all times, of His presence within to live for me.  The secret always seems to be HIM, no matter what the issue or problem!

Why have my eyes on my problems when I could be enjoying His presence and perfect peace?  Yes, why?  Jesus doesn't have any problems, and I'm in Him today.  Even the biggest problem is no real problem to the One who holds the universe, holds circumstances, holds me.  I read in a book recently by Catherine Marshall that when she was ill, she had a conversation with God and His presence was very real to her.  He never rebuked or condemned her.  He only strengthened her and encouraged her.  And He told her, concerning her troubles, "You're taking yourself far too seriously.  There's nothing here I can't handle."  I love that!

He's obviously got all that concerns us in His hands.  We can simply enjoy His Presence. We can enjoy the love that is coming to us constantly, the perfect acceptance of us at all times, the eternal goodness of God pouring out on us, the sweet presence of God, the joy and peace that He exudes.  We can just enjoy being with Him.  The Christian life is a fellowship.  It's a communion.  It's a deep relationship.  It's a perfect friendship.  It's a love story.

He is teaching me over and over again to just enjoy that fountain, that waterfall of grace and love which is really the Spirit of Grace Himself pouring onto me.  To rest and just drink in the Spirit!  To be refreshed and invigorated by His presence and grace!  To commune with Him who is Perfect Love!  All our deepest needs are met under that waterfall which is "Christ in you, the hope of glory."

Just enjoying the Spirit of Christ within us is, to me, what this Christian life is all about.  He refreshes us with Himself!  And we overflow with love, overflow with grace, overflow with HIM to this world around us...

I love this quote by Rob Rufus that sums up what I've been pondering here.  I love the idea of drinking in the Spirit rather than thinking about my problems! 

"Have you ever seen a drunk who is aware of their problems?  They drank because they had problems and now they can't remember their problems and they're happy...we're meant to stay drunk and happy and joyful in the Holy Spirit!...Instead of thinking...stay drinking in the Holy Spirit!  Do your thinking later!"              Rob Rufus

               With love to all,
                                      
                                 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Grace Works? (Part 2)

How exactly do works and behavior fit in with a life lived by grace?  Here are some more thoughts I have had about how grace shows up in our outward lives:

I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me - the life I now live I live by faith in Him.  That sums it up for me, I think - I go through my day, I freely make choices not to be irritable, I find myself loving others, I find myself drawn to listen to Him, I serve my kids and clean up their messes, yet it is not I but Christ doing those things.  It looks like me thinking, desiring, deciding, doing, following Paul's instructions on action, and yet it's Him in me.  I simply believe He's there and is living in me.  I simply believe the gospel, that I am now in union with Christ and He is my very life and righteousness, living His life in me.  He does the doing but it looks just like it's me.  Weirdly cool.  It's like watching Him work...
The best days are when I am not focused on what I'm supposed to do or not do but instead caught up in Him, just thinking about how He loves me, just being glad that I'm accepted, just realizing He's smiling at me...and the actions part just seems to flow so much better, yet I'm not thinking of it.  To me, that is eating from the tree of life, not the other tree.  To me, it feels like being in love.  When you're in love, you're caught up in your love and you are nice to the world without even thinking about it.   "He has made us welcome in the everlasting love He bears toward the Beloved." (Eph. 1:6 Phillips) and "Now, through the blood of Christ, you who were once outside the pale are with us inside the circle of God's love in Christ Jesus." (Eph, 2:13 Phillips)  I like that idea of being inside the Holy Love Circle!  Included in that love!   Being included in that love is the best thing in the universe, it's what we were made for!  Everything else flows out of that!  That relationship is the focus, not works (which are just the result of that relationship).

I have tended to focus on behavior change and improvement, always measuring myself and comparing myself to others or making sure I'm really "getting better."  I thought if I didn't, God would be disappointed in me.  After all, wasn't that the point of the Christian life - good works?  I think I see it so differently now.  God has drawn us up into His works, and He worked through Christ to make us new and loved us when we couldn't love Him.  Now He is working to spread the good news of what He did and to love others even through me.  He does it, not me.  The main point of the Christian life for me, then, is just receiving and resting in His love.    It's neat to watch God love others through us, but we don't have to be ashamed to just sit and receive His love.  That's not selfish, it's actually the better part that Mary discovered so long ago.  God will take care of the works He wants to do while we rest in Him. 


Grace does show up in our outward lives.  But that's not the main thing about grace.  The main thing about grace is that it ushers us into a love relationship with God that will never fail.  May we all enjoy that unconditional love named Jesus today!

                    With love,
                                     

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Grace Works? (Part 1)

I know some people worry that those who believe in grace don't think works matter.  So what place do works have in the life of grace?  Do "grace people" care at all about seeing Christ's life show up in their outer lives?  Don't the letters of Paul contain commands of things to do or focus sometimes on works?  These are questions that have come to me at times.  Here are my humble thoughts on these questions..

Works do matter and He will bring them out- He will actually do them in and through us so they can safely be called His works in us!  We can relax.  Doesn't mean we are lax.  We strive/labor, but it's not us but the grace of God in us (1 Co. 15:10).  It's not that we don't care or will go sinning all over the place.  It means we do care because we have a new heart that longs to do right - "we make it our aim to be pleasing to Him", we just realize we can't do that on our own strength and trust Him to bring it about.  We have His seed in us and it will come forth.  That's the law of life.  The promise:  I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My ways (Ez. 36:27).

What about the two commands in 1 John - to believe in Christ and love one another?  (Some see this as one command and a result - we believe and that naturally brings forth His love.  We believers have already believed into Christ, who is Love; Love dwells in us and loves through us.)  I think that is the law written on our hearts at salvation.  It's our nature to believe and love.  They are already fulfilled in our hearts and God brings that out in our lives.  That is why the verse in 1 John says "we keep His commands and always do those things that are pleasing to Him."  It's amazing to think we have Christ's very nature within us!  And that nature will shine forth.  Christ is our life and lives the Christian life in us.  Our job isn't to live but to trust (and we even trust by His faith!). 



What about Paul's instructions in his letters?  Paul does talk about actions quite a bit in the second half of his letters, and to me it's building on the first half where he reminds them of who they are in Christ/what Christ has done for them.  Hey, you're new creations!  So why not live that out, just being yourself?  Be who you are, you in Christ, for example.  You are dearly loved, you are children of light, so walk in love, walk in the light. Light and love are what are really in you, so just let that come out, Him loving and being holy in you.  I think Paul's admonitions can always be read in light of what Christ has already made us - new and accepted and righteous people.  He seems to say look what Christ did in making you new!  You're holy and righteous!  Why not live that way, because it's what you really want to do.  Always doing it in His strength, understanding it's Him living through us..Col 3 is a good example of this for me.

Steve McVey says that whenever he reads a command in the New Testament, he sees that as a way Christ is going to live out His life through him.  I like that.  We can see the commands as what Christ is going to look like living through us, and we can trust Him to live through us just like that, working and willing through us to make it happen.

More thoughts to come in Part 2...

                        With love from


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Fruit Check


You (or I) may say, "Hey, I don't always see the good that's inside me (new creation) come out" -  you know who you are in Him but then go out and live like you belong to the world.  Well, me too, and that is one of my biggest frustrations.  And we know we'll never be perfect in behavior this side of heaven.  But it's not up to us to make the fruit come out, it's up to Him.  He's doing it for sure along His own timetable.  

The more I focus on what I'm doing wrong and trying to change/improve, the worse it gets.  Also, if there is any way I'm condemning myself for not being better, that only makes it worse, also.  The only thing that ever helped me actually live righteously was to stop focusing on that and just feed on grace remember He loves me, He's already made me righteous, He's living in me and taking care of my concerns.    And I do believe it's really all His work, a work of grace He does to bring us to feed on grace, believe the truth..

Fruit matters but it seems if we focus on or look for the fruit, things don't work out right!  Yet with our focus on Him, all flows more smoothly.  I used to have a saying in my kitchen:  Focus on Jesus, not what you think you should be doing for Him. 
 
HE 's the one who produces the fruit, we only bear it. HE'S the one who renews and transforms, we only look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.  What is our job?  Rest in Christ.  He will work in and through us and His life will come out and the world will be attracted to its beauty!  What's the job of the mother bird on the nest of eggs?  Rest.  Those eggs will hatch for sure, she need do nothing but rest.  The law of life will take effect. We have His seed and it will bring forth fruit by the same type of law - for us the law of the Spirit will work in us.  The Promise:  I will put My Spirit in you and cause you to walk in My ways - Ez. 36:27  He will do it.  

So we don't go around doing fruit checks or searching our branchlets for any sign of fruit growing.  We just enjoy the life of the vine.  The Life flowing in us will naturally produce all the fruit He wishes in His own perfect time and way.  The pressure is off of us to "produce fruit" for God.  We can relax in the vine.. 



                 With love from

                           
May the amazing grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, and the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. 2 Co. 13:14