All around us people are striving for beauty. Ways to stay young, look young and defy gravity. If we are honest, we find ourselves striving for the same thing. In the process we can carry this mentality into our spiritual life. We want to look spiritually pretty and never let God in to speak to our “ugly”. The “ugly” is still there whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. Similar to the problem areas of physical aging. We want to hide our “ugly”. Try to find ways to defy it or cover it up. We think that if we don’t acknowledge or talk about it maybe it will go away.
John 1:17 tells us that we receive God’s grace through Jesus. Through Jesus we have God’s unmerited, unearned, undeserved favor and blessing. We have grace because of Jesus. We do not have to do anything. God’s grace is undeserved. We have it even though we don’t deserve it. Then why are we walking around try to hide our ugly? We have a tendency to walk around like we are not dealing with any issues. Maybe, we don’t believe God’s grace is enough for our ugly. Our ugly is too big, or not big enough. We put “ugly” on levels of severity; good, fair and poor.
In John 8:1-11 is the story about the woman caught in adultery. The men brought her to Jesus. She was caught in the act. She wasn’t just accused. It wasn’t that they suspected, thought or were unsure about what she had done. She was caught red-handed. What humiliation she must have felt as she was brought out into the open. Put yourself in her shoes for a moment. Imagine friends, neighbors, family catching you in your pride, jealousy, anger, bitterness, yelling at your spouse and kids. The list can go on. When they catch you they take you along with a crowd and announce your sin. The shame that you would feel would be the same as this woman. At least it should be. It doesn’t matter what act of sin it is. All sin brings shame.
BUT Jesus is on the scene. His presence makes all the difference. He didn’t say a word to her accusers. He bent down and wrote in the dirt. Then He stood up and said, ” If anyone is without sin let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” He bent down again and wrote on the ground. After this one by one her accusers began to leave. All of them left until it was just her and Jesus. He stood up and asked her where are your accusers . There was no one to condemn her. Jesus told her, ” I don’t condemn you either, go and leave your life of sin.”
Jesus doesn’t just leave us where we are. He sees our ugly, comes in, silences the accuser, and covers our ugly with His grace. There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. We do not have to submit to the accusations of other people or the thoughts in our mind. Surrender to God and allow Him to silence your accusers and walk in His grace.
Trust and Obey. Familiar lyrics of a hymn I sang as a child. The words roll of of the tongue and we declare to God that we will trust Him and obey His commands. If I am honest these words are much easier said compared to practicing in every day life. The last several years God has been using the times when I would choose fear and worry to speak to my heart, “Trust Me”. He would gently say, “Marybeth, trust Me in this”.
The situations were all different and some would say silly to worry about. We all know that when we are faced with worry and fear no matter how big or small the circumstance is it is important to us. Whether I was worried about finances, my kids, ministry, or family God wanted me to trust Him, obey His Word and live in peace. There is a familiar Bible story that shows us this kind of trust and obedience. A man named Noah and his family were found to love God and serve him whole heartedly. God decided that He was going to destroy the earth because of the sinfulness of the people.
God said that He would send a flood that would cover the earth and destroy it. As we know, God spoke to Noah and told him to build an ark and that his family would be saved from the flood. God told Noah all of the details he would need to build the ark. Noah had no tangible sign that it was going to rain. He only had God’s word. Noah knew God’s voice and that God can be trusted. So, against all earthly odds Noah did not waste time; he started working without sparing any time. He started building and kept working until it was finished.
The ark was finished and Noah gathered the people and the animals God said should be in the ark. Noah didn’t add to or take away from what God said. He didn’t try to take a short cut to make it easier for him. He obeyed- He did exactly what God told him to do. They were all safely in the ark. Okay, at this point I would think it would immediately start raining. This was not the way the story unfolded though. God always has a plan and usually it is not the same as ours. His ways are higher than ours. In fact it didn’t rain for several days. The Bible says that it began to rain on the seventeenth day in the second month. This means they were in the ark one week before the rain began. (Genesis 7:11) Yes, that’s right one week. It doesn’t sound like a long time when you are reading the story and you know the end. When you are going through something and waiting it can seem like an eternity. Waiting for God to come through on your trust and obedience.
In our life it is the same. God speaks to us and we have to choose to trust what he says and obey. We read the Bible and have to trust that what God says to us in His word is true. We have to make the decision to trust God and then step out and do what He said. We have to continue to trust and obey even when we do not see anything happening in the physical. When we have prayed for healing and it hasn’t come yet. When we have prayed for a financial breakthrough and we are still struggling to make ends meet. When we have prayed for the relationship to be mended and there is still tension. It is hard to continue to trust in these circumstances. It is hard but not impossible. We have to look back to the times that God was faithful in our lives. We look at scripture and see how God was faithful and provided. This builds our faith.
Then we practice trusting. We actively make the decision and resolve in our mind to trust God and not worry. For instance, your child is struggling in school and your first response is to worry or try to figure out all the things you can do. Instead determine to stop that way of thinking and choose to trust God. Give it to Him in prayer and trust Him to give you wisdom in what you can do and leave the rest to Him. There are so many things in life to worry about. God’s plan for us is that we live in peace no matter what the circumstances.
As I walk through this season of treatment for breast cancer I have a choice to make. I can choose to worry and fear or trust God and obey. It is easy to let my flesh gain control and worry, but I choose trust. Like you I can see how God has gently molded my heart over the years teaching me trust and obedience. Every day we all have a choice; worry and fear or trust and obedience.
Choose trust and obedience and be filled with peace.
There are times in our lives when God out of his justice and love needs to discipline us. he sees in us, in our flesh the things that need to die. Attitudes, feeling, thoughts that need to come under His submission. God takes us through this disciplinary process to carve out our heart for Him and His purpose. During this time of discipline, out of Hi love of us He still desires to be gracious to us. He desires to show us unmerited favor. God knows that to have us closer to Him more of our flesh has to be carved out to make our heart reflect Him.
Isaiah 30:18 says, “Yet, the lord longs to be gracious to you, He rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him.” He sees us in our current state and desires for us to continually come closer and closer to Him. He speaks to us and shows us the areas that we need to surrender to Him, areas that need to be carved out of our heart(unforgiveness, pride). Then He patiently waits for us to respond. Longing to be gracious to us and rise in compassion.
Every day we encounter hundreds of opportunities to trust. We trust when we sit down that the chair will hold us. We trust that when we turn the faucet on that clean water will come out. These are the “little” things in life that we trust to happen. We trust that our spouse, friend, boss, co-worker are trustworthy and honest with us. We know that as we live life we will encounter days when trust is broken. God is the one that we can always trust. He is always faithful no matter what. His Word is true and sure. Isaiah 30:15 says “in returning and resting in Me you shall be saved; in quietness and in trusting confidence shall be your strength.”
There are moments when all of us believe and feel like we are flourishing in our life. We can look at different areas of our life; our marriage, family, work, etc. and “feel” like we are flourishing. There are other times and moments that we may feel like these areas of life are a dead decaying wasteland. As Christ followers we do not live by our feelings. We live with an attitude according to God’s Word. This is not an easy task when floods of emotions and feeling come reigning down on our heart and mind. God says that His peace that passes all our understanding will guard our heart and mind in Christ Jesus. We have to turn our face and heart toward Him. As we are looking full into His face his peace washes over us and guards our heart and mind from these thoughts.
Psalm 52:8 says, ” I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love forever and ever.” God’s presence is where we flourish. his presence is where we thrive and grow. The olive tree produces flowery blooms as well as its fruit, the olive. When an olive tree is flourishing it is producing both. This comparison in Psalm 52 show us that if we remain in God’s presence we will produce flowery spiritual blooms and fruit. When we constantly remember to turn our face to Him, His peace overwhelms and we live in His presence. He is not looking for perfection but persistence. This constant attention on Him causes our heart and mind to focus on His unfailing love. We can trust that no matter what happens in life His love never fails. The gives us a place to flourish.
We think we flourish when the things in or life look right. We think when relationships, kids, finances, career are all feeling right we are flourishing. We just need to turn our heart and mind on God and His unfailing love. This keeps us in His presence. Then we flourish like an olive tree in the house of God!
There are not many things in life that are “a sure thing”. There are people in our life that we can trust and have proven to be reliable. So you may say, well, my spouse, or this friend is a sure thing. I am not here to say they are not trustworthy, or that you cannot count on them. In life there is only one that is always forever true and sure. Hebrews 6:13-20 tells us of God’s promise to Abraham. When people make promises they will say, “I swear to God”. In verse 13 it tells us that God swore by himself since there was no one higher than Him. God promised Abraham that He would for sure bless Abraham and that Abraham would have may descendants.
We are reading this with an advantage. We already know the outcome and that God did in fact keep His promise. Abraham on the other hand was an old man along with his wife Sara. Abraham had no human reason to believe that what God said would happen. He had the promise of God! It is impossible fr God to lie. God made an oath to Abraham that He would do what He said. Throughout Abraham and Sara’s life there were times of doubt. Out of this doubt they took situations and made decisions out of fear instead of trust in God. God’s promise was ALWAYS sure.
I began thinking of the things I know for sure as a daughter of The King. I know:
God loves me
God will never leave me
God is faithful
God keeps His promises
God forgives me
God’s grace covers me
God’s mercy is new every morning
We can trust in the unchanging faithfulness of God’s promises. We are anchored to God through what Jesus did on the cross. Jesus is our hope and our hope is our anchor. We make promises everyday. Likewise, promises are made to us. some are kept and some are broken. In this world of broken promises there is one where certainty of promises are sure. The one is God. We can count on Him at all times and in all ways. We have to determine to wait patiently to receive the promise, because God will come through on His promise. That is what I know for sure!
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I think back to the Chris Farley days on SNL. Chris would do a sketch and ask remember when and repeat it and ask if several different insignificant moments were remembered. If we are honest at all, we would admit we forget the things we would like to remember and remember things we would like to forget. We tend to dwell on and camp out in memories of what we consider “great” times. Sometimes we live there and never move on with our life. In Joshua chapter four there is story that gives us God’s plan for remembrance. The Israelites crossed the Jordan and when they had all crossed over safely they took stones from the river and built a monument. This monument was a testimony to God’s guidance, provision, and love.
In our lives we experience seasons, just like in nature. Our life and world are ever changing and it can be challenging to manage these changes. One thing that remains unchanged is God. As we live through theses seasons we have moments of great joy and sorrow. As we watch our kids, parents, friends, and family grow older it brings a mixture of emotions. God created us to be able to remember and be able to recollect moments of life. This ability is a wonderful gift from God. we can look back in our life and remember how God healed, provided, protected, encouraged, and spoke to us. Like with anything else it can also be a hindrance to us. We can dwell on the negative instead of the positive. We can constantly wish that we were still in that time in our life and miss what God is doing in the present.
God’s plan is that we remember and give Him praise for what He has done. Then we continue to follow Him today. Don’t be so caught up in what God did then that you miss what God is doing today. Thank Him, build a monument of thanksgiving and praise, and then move on. Don’t allow the monument to keep you where you are. The Israelites didn’t stay on the bank of the river when they crossed over. They moved on and possessed the land.
Determine today to praise God for what He has done and then move on to posses the land He has given you today!
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In Joshua 3 the Israelites were camping at theJordan River before they crossed over. They were three days and the officers gave instructions to the people. They told the people when they saw the Levitical Priests carrying the ark of the covenant move from your positions and follow it. You will know where to go. Joshua told the Israelites to consecrate themselves for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things. Joshua told the priests when you reach the edge of the river go and stand in the river. God gave clear instructions to His people where to go and what to do.
God is speaking every day. Anyone who will open their ears to hear con hear what He is saying. We have to choose to hear. We cannot be consumed with life and hear God. We have to allow Him to consume us. So many things in life take our energy, emotion, time and thought. Choose today to allow God to take all of your effort and striving. Strive and spend your energy on Him. Then you can stand and watch Him go amazing things in your life, family, church, city and work place. We have to consecrate ourselves and be ready to move from our position and follow God when He moves.
God is wanting to use us to change this world for His glory. He wants us to stand in the river and hold back the waters. The priests stood in the Jordan River and God used them to hold back the waters so the Israelites could cross over. Are you ready for God to use you to hold back the waters so those around you can cross over to their destiny in God?
He cannot use us when we are caught up in ourselves, our needs, our responsibilities, or our accomplishments. May we decide today to simply be caught up in God and what He is doing. Lord we pray that you would use us to hold back the water so others can cross over.
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Jesus sacrifice on the cross brought us forgiveness of sins. He redeemed us to God. We can have a relationship with God. We can pray, worship, read the Bible and He reveals himself to us. I don’t know how God does it, I just KNOW He does. When I am struggling emotionally I begin to turn my focus on God and worship Him. The things around me didn’t change, but being in His presence helped me to focus my thoughts on God. I am allowing Him to work and move in my heart. I am then filled with peace instead of anxiety.
After the birth of our second daughter I experienced this peace that passes all understanding. I had a miscarriage four months before I found out I was pregnant with Alyssa. My hormone levels were not at the levels that they needed to be. This brought feelings of depression, anxiety, and worry. During pregnancy these feelings subsided as my hormones were at proper levels, but came back with a vengeance after I gave birth. These feelings were so strong they totally invaded my life. I felt as though I was in a dark pit trying so hard in my own strength to climb out. I would try my best to climb out but would quickly slip and fall feeling like I just fell deeper. This emotional turmoil was in part due to post partum depression. I also realized that is was a spiritual battle. I needed to seek medical attention as well as dig in like never before to scripture.
2 Corinthians 10:4 says the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. That is the Word of God that can demolish these strongholds. I began to write scripture on 3 x 5 cards and place them by the kitchen sink, by bedroom and bathroom. I prayed the Word over my life every day.
During this time of intense emotional turmoil as I memorized scripture and prayed it over my life God began to work in a miraculous way. He pulled me out of me emotional despair. The path that God led me to dive into scripture during this time has stayed with me. I studied scripture before, but God walked with me through this journey to show me His grace, mercy and strength. He also, gave me such a hunger and love for studying His Word. He revealed Himself to me in such a way it is hard for me to express in words. His word is the source of my life.
I know I am designed by God for His purpose. Satan’s plan in the Garden to deceive, steal and kill is still very real today, but Jesus paid the price. Jesus died on the cross for my sin, shame and pain. His blood covers my life and sets me free. Even though there is enmity between Satan and woman we can arise in God confidence knowing He designed us for victory.
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