How He Loves Us

27 Feb

It’s been a little over a week since our son Eli was born into this world. As I look back at the entire experience, and even what has happened since his birth, I am floored by it.

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When he is in my arms, I notice all of his perfect features and all of the detail that went into his design. It’s then that I realize his creation is still only a glimpse pointing to the true power and love of God. When I’m tired and worn out – and he sleeps for more than an hour at night, it’s then I realize that I’m not alone – God is still caring for me. And when another friend, coworker, or a family member brings us food coupled with conversation, it’s then that I tangibly see how God provides not just for our physical needs but our emotional needs as well.

In this time, and as we move forward from now – my prayer is that I don’t miss the love and power of God in all of this. If I can remain grounded in the work God is doing, and his presence in the good and bad – I won’t take credit for the blessings he gives me and I won’t be tempted to shoulder the struggles ahead without his presence.

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As the scripture below states, may I become even more confident in Christ and find all my sufficiency in him.

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. – 2 Corinthians 3:4-6

The Heavens Declare the Glory of God

28 Sep

Today I read out of an old devotional and feel amazed at how powerful God is, how I can see his handiwork all around me, and how he sustains not only my life but our future child’s life. When I look around at God’s power, I can’t help but also ask to God, “what is man, that you are mindful of him?”.

The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead. He left not himself without witness. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night into night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the starts, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

Surely today, I should reflect on all things that are a witness to his power and his glory. I love how God has “not left himself without witness”. What joy I can have discovering these witnesses.

Psalm 46

5 Sep

This week, our sermon was on Psalm 46. With so much unknown in my life right now, this verse brought me comfort and reminded me that God is my strength, he is my fortress. He is present in the day to day, and he is fully ready and capable to help. This is something to be joyful in, and something I need to constantly remind myself of.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob our fortress.

Comfort in the Power of God

21 Aug

This morning, I’m in Isaiah, a book that is filled with truths about who God is and how he pursues us. This particular passage shows me what comfort I should have in reflecting on the power of who God is.

I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man that is made like grass, and have forgotten the Lord, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, and you fear continually all the day because of the wrath of the oppressor, when he sets himself to destroy? And where is the wrath of the oppressor? He who is bowed down shall speedily be released; he shall not die and go down to the pit, neither shall his bread be lacking.

I am the Lord your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar – the Lord of hosts is his name. And I have put my words in our mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand, establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth and saying to Zion, “You are my people”. – Isaiah 51:12-16

Jesus + Nothing = Everything

13 Aug

There is a perception of summer that things “slow down” because vacations are typically taken and that the pace is more relaxed than other seasons.

The reality is that summer always turns into one of the busiest times for me, in my personal life and even in my work life. Most of the time I’ll have nearly every weekend committed to weddings, family gatherings, or visiting friends in different places. Then to top it off, I’ll have a week like last week where I’m traveling the entire week and 15 hour days are the norm.

In all of this, I have felt more and more as if my attention to God has been divided. My routine and daily reading and prayer completely dropped off the radar, and I was left with the sense of feeling like I had been thrown from a horse and not sure how to get back on. I knew I needed to be close to God, I just felt so distant.

Because of God’s grace, my preacher reminded me of a simple, beautiful equation: Jesus + Nothing = Everything. In the last few weeks or even months, I admit that following Jesus felt a bit burdensome, as if it were a task on my list of to-do’s. I felt a sense of guilt if I hadn’t read or prayed, but I didn’t feel the overwhelming desire to follow through.

This equation reminds me of the religion I must put down. I must realize that it’s not the actions that I do that dictate how near or far I am from God. The truth is that God is near. Always. That’s the beauty of the cross. That’s the truth that makes me fall to my knees and praise.

When everything in this world demands something more of me, Jesus simply calls me as I am. He doesn’t tack on a new skill or a new to-do list for me to complete before I come. He looks on me with love, gives me true freedom to walk with him, and gives me purpose in letting me share that with others.

This is the true message of the gospel. Jesus didn’t just die on a cross, but he put to death my sin so that I could walk in the freedom of being right with him and the Father. There is nothing else I can place on top of that truth that makes me any more right with God.

Return to God, Obtain Faith

2 May

This morning I’m reading Jeremiah. It’s such a beautiful ebb and flow of God working through Jeremiah to call Israel to repentance, while reminding them of his mercy and love. As I’m reading, I notice how Israel’s primary offense is that they forgot what God had done and worshipped other things.

How often is that the pattern of my life? The fear and anxiety I have in my life is completely unfounded if I remember what God has done and who he is. Over and over again he delivers me. Over and over he blesses me. Over and over he has taken me from one place to another. Over and over he helps me conquer the impossible.

The faithlessness of Israel is the same faithlessness that I struggle with today. How often I forget. How often I run to other things.

So what do we do when we realize our faithlessness? God says the following in Jeremiah 3:22:

Return, O faithless sons; I will heal your faithlessness.

It almost seems too simple. We are to return to God, and he will heal our faithlessness. We only need to return to His feet and we will be healed. Only there will we see His power. Only there we will remember what He has done. Only there we will praise him for changing our hearts, and letting us conquer sin.

My prayer is that I would see the beauty in the call to return. It is only God who can heal my faithlessness. There is no need to fix it myself. There is no need to feel stuck. There is no need to try to muster up enough faith on my own.

Praise God for this gracious and powerful call. If we return, we will obtain faith.

Freed Hearts, Captive Minds: Breaking Free from Guilt & Shame

27 Apr

At the Vintage 21 Women’s Conference, “Freed Hearts, Captive Minds”, I chose to attend the breakout session, “Breaking Free from Guilt and Shame”, led by Natalie Holm. This session was designed to show differences between guilt and shame, show us the role the two play in our Christian lives, and teach us more about repentance.

Guilt vs. Shame

In a nutshell, Natalie started the session by saying “Guilt is about what you’ve done, shame is about who you are.” Up until this point, I had never taken the time to dissect the two in my life. Although I often feel guilt whenever I don’t live up to the call of God, I have rarely felt a sense of shame of who I am. The following quote included in Natalie’s study guide caused me to stop and consider if this could be because I have a less-than-biblical view of sin.

If you have a less-than-biblical view of sin and its effects on you, it may be tempting to conclude that the shame can be remedied by merely affirming yourself. It goes something like this; you are sorry for what you’ve done, but you don’t feel bad about who you are. But according to the Bible, real guilt results in real shame. And yes, it’s not just a matter of what you do; it has to do with who you are – who you are in relation to God. (Mike Wilkerson, Redemption, 88)

The Good News: The Gospel is for Both Our Guilt and Shame

The very good news from this session is the reminder that my guilt (and even my new-found shame) do not define my identity in Christ. Instead of looking at my guilt and shame as baggage, I should look at them as opportunities to glorify God. What good news it is to know that our recognition of our shortcomings leads us to a cross of immediate reconciliation and grace.

When we see ourselves in light of the Gospel we can see that we’ve all done terrible things (guilt), and are separated from God (shame). The cross makes a way for our sins to be forgiven (no more guilt) and it also enables us to be reconciled to the Father (no more shame). If shame is primarily about who we are, then we must hold tight to our new identity in Christ.

Remorse vs. Repentance

So how do we handle our guilt and shame? How do we bring it to the feet of Jesus? We must start with learning the distinction between remorse and repentance. Natalie noted the following distinction between the two:

  • Remorse: Typically me-focused. Leads to lots of wallowing.
  • Repentance: Moves you toward God, doesn’t skew the image of who you are.

If you know me, I’m a wallower. This session made me realize that I often deal with my sin by believing that if I roll around enough in my guilt and remorse that it will somehow make me right with God. How often we need to look to the glory of the cross to appropriately see our standing with God and come to a right relationship again.

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