Monday, June 29, 2015

Grace Isn’t Just for Mistakes

When I clean out the pantry, or the closet, or the basement, it’s a mess. Everything has to come out, in total chaos, to be sorted through and then put back in order. 

It feels like the Lord has been doing that in my life lately.

He’s been taking out all the tidied up stuff and making a mess –so that He can put it back in right order. This has been chaotic, but a blessing.

In the meantime- here’s my brain:

That’s not how it usually looks. I’m a neat-freak with my thoughts too. But that’s how I keep things in order. 

And I love order.

So the whole God-making-a-mess-to-clean-it-up-better thing has been….troubling.

I can’t remember which day that major event happened on. I can’t recall if I paid her back. She told me about a difficulty that I did pray for then, but today I can’t remember what all that was about to ask how it’s going.

No one is dying because I can’t remember these things. I’ve found ways to figure out the answers. But the disorder makes me feel like I’m failing. So I find myself praying for grace.

And that’s weird.

I’m praying for grace in stuff that I’m not making mistakes in. That aren’t sin. Because it isn’t sin to have something slip the mind or to have to look something up. Yet grace is needed, and not just for me.
Grace is needed in many situations, not just after you’ve messed up.

We need grace because of how we’re made: imperfect. Flawed. Limited. Insufficient.

You and I know this. We sense it because when we feel that our circumstances are plaguing us or our efforts aren’t enough, we call for grace. We ask God to be gracious with us because we aren’t worthy and we aren’t able. Yet God’s grace was sufficient for Paul in His weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). 

What about in yours?

Romans 11:6 also hints alludes to the nature of grace: “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.”

Isn’t that wonderful?

We get to: “Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Not just when we mess up or make mistakes. The Lord knows we need His grace all throughout times of need –and success, joy, change, challenge….

Think on this: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect” (1 Corinthians 15:10). That’s why grave is about more than covering up sin: it’s about His transforming us and being in relationship to our limited, flawed persons.

The famous verse “draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8)? That comes right after we’re told that God opposes the proud and favors the humble. Those words come after these: God “gives us more grace.

Grace. Grace. Grace.

Allowing room for imperfection, humbly recognizing weakness, accepting who we are and submitting to His will that we might transform in His power….all a part of living in His grace.

Come to think of it...when I clean out a closet and have to make a mess in the process, there is a grace period. A full 30 minutes or so in which the chaos is perfectly acceptable because it's necessary and helpful. 

Are you dwelling in grace amidst your own disorder and chaos today?

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkupIntentionally Pursuing,Titus2sdayWoman to Woman WednesdayWomen with Intention, andTellHisStory.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Asking “Why?”

Your grandfather dies and you cry out to God “why now?”  The circumstances you find yourself in seem unnecessarily tough. Meeting the right guy or girl never seems to happen though you feel so ready. This week was one disaster after another. Someone who’s been through so much gets even yet more bad news.


Do you ever feel guilty for asking God “why?” Don’t. You aren’t the first –and you may not be sinning.

It isn’t disobedience to say, as the desperate father found in Mark 9:24 did: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” In John 11, we read about Lazarus’ death, Jesus’ weeping, and Mary’s words: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Think of the faithful examples in the Old Testament as well. Didn’t Job ask God why? And David? Consider his cry in Psalm 10:1 for example:

“Why, Lord, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”

Can you imagine Joseph, a young man sold into slavery, not at times asking the Lord why He allowed these things to happen? In fact, Joseph referred to have sought a reason for why God allowed so much to happen to him, saying in Genesis 45:7 to his brothers: “But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”

Esther 4:14 also contains this powerful example of looking at the “why” of God’s work: “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?"

The prophets give us example after example as well. Just imagine Ezekiel’s question of “why” as God explained to Ezekiel that he was to be a watchman to a people who were hard, rebellious, and unlikely to listen to him. He asked Ezekiel to perform strange rituals as warnings –acts that often caused Ezekiel to live despised. What a futile task, it would seem!

But in all of these examples, in all of the implied and more direct “why” moments, God never rebukes His people. Our Lord never condemns any of us for asking “why.”

To ask God “why” often isn’t wrong at all. The confusion about this comes, however, when “why” involves:

  • A test of His character
  • A rejection of His will
  • An act of disobedience

To disobey God, your intentions or actions contradict His Word, work, or person. You can ask why humbly, faithfully, and as a plea toward the perfect Lord. You can also ask Him why with the implication that He has done wrong –which is blasphemy.

Likewise, you can have doubt, you can struggle with unbelief, without sinning. Watch, however, that you do not act on doubt. To say, “because I don’t understand it, I won’t do it, Lord” negates faith. “Because I can’t grasp how you can be good and do this, I won’t go along with it” is rebellion and requires the pride of assuming you know better than He does.

Sin is sneaky like that. Satan clouds and distorts the truth to trick us –that’s more effective in many cases than outright lying. The “bent” truth here?

That asking “why” is sin. It’s not. Avoid assuming that your “why, Lord” trumps your ability to say “yes, Lord.”

…And ask away. Cry out like David. Consider His answer like Esther. Testify to His revealing of the “why” as Joseph did. Pray for Him to help your unbelief. The Lord does not condemn us for acting like His children.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Thinkers versus Feelers

Heart and mind: the two go together, don’t they?

We read about what we are to do with the heart and the mind in Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” Of course, we also read about the nature of that heart that we’re supposed to trust with, “The heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9.)

I’ve noticed that outside the lines of introvert and extrovert, there also thinkers and feelers. We all think and feel -but most of us tend to be governed more by either our thought or our emotions.

That means something for each of us as followers of Christ.

Characteristics of a Thinker:

The easiest way to spot a thinker is to listen to their reactions and opinions. Thinkers will say “I think” often when expressing themselves –even about emotional subjects. Other characteristics of thinkers include:

  • ·         Requiring time after something new has been encountered to develop an opinion
  • ·         Seeming stoic or disinterested when discussing personal issues
  • ·         Overthinking (enough said?)
  • ·         Being able to work through a problem in the mind without waiting on circumstances or others people
  • ·         Having the ability to set issues aside for a time, sleep, move on, etc., and then return to it
  • ·         Finding that emotions come up as surprises long after events cause or contribute to them

Characteristics of a Feeler:

On the flip side, feelers tend to have their perception of a day, event, person, or experience governed by their emotions immediately. The body language of a feeler tends to be more expressive. Feelers also tend to:

  • ·      Find themselves unable to move past something, sleep, or otherwise perform daily functions regularly when they are troubled by something unresolved
  • ·       Easily find themselves in situations or relationships without feeling as if they chose to be there
  • ·       Feel as if their lives are out of control if their emotions are not in control
  • ·       Have immediate responses to everything AND can change responses to the same thing over time
  • ·       Look back instead of forward to create expectations and plans

Loving one Another

I happen to be a thinker. If I’m having a terrible day, I can go to sleep at night. I can figure out a plan and choose a perspective based on my thoughts. But I can also go awhile without recognizing how I feel about a matter…and I can come across as if I don’t care when I’m still processing something.
Fortunately(?) for us, my husband is also a thinker. But some of our loved ones aren’t.

Some of our loved ones can’t sleep until a problem is resolved –even if it’s completely out of their control. We have been baffled before by this notion, along with our loved “feelers” making decisions and then changing them based off of what they feel –over and over again.

But those same “feelers” have been able to change their wrong opinions much more easily than we tend to. They have had fewer miscommunications about what their preferences are and…well, our beloved feeler-friends don’t tend to get to the end of the day just to realize that although their “to-do” is complete, they’re feeling empty. We thinkers do that because we get caught up in sticking with our brains than going with our hearts.

Both feelers and thinkers need to be guarded by the peace of Christ, as Philippians 4:7 suggests: “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

But that looks different for feelers and thinkers. To find the sort of peace that guards heart and mind, we have to understand where our defenses are lacking, and where we’ve been gifted naturally:

Weaknesses of a Thinker:

  • ·         Relying more on our thoughts than on God’s wisdom (Proverbs 3:5)
  • ·         Growing double-minded due to internal doubts (James 1:8)
  • ·         Being led astray by so-called knowledge instead of cling to the truth (1 Timothy 6:20)

Strengths of a Thinker:

  • ·         More naturally setting thoughts on heaven despite sinful desires of the heart (Colossians 3:2)
  • ·         Taking captive thoughts that might lead us astray for the sake of true knowledge (2 Cor 10:5)
  • ·         Thoughts ground us in wisdom and understanding, giving discernment despite mixed feelings (1 Cor 2:11)

Weaknesses of a Feeler:

  • ·         Trusting in limited experiences more than God’s truth (Jeremiah 17:9)
  • ·         Acting in ways that look right with bad intentions as the heart rules (1 Samuel 16:7)
  • ·         Easily feeling discouraged and having days and seasons ruined by emotions (Luke 21:34)

Strengths of a Feeler:

  • ·         Embracing emotions healthily and benefitting from them (Proverbs 17:22)
  • ·         Love and an array of fruits issue from the heart (1 Timothy 1:5)
  • ·         Having firm emotions in regard to God roots feelers in hope when logically there is none (Psalm 112:7)

Though our minds can be darkened and our hearts hardened –and we each tend a certain way- there is hope (Romans 1:21.) There is a defense to rely on in Christ.

We have the option to surrender both feelings and thoughts to the Lord, loving with our hearts, souls, and minds (Matthew 22:37.) Then we can pray earnestly and confidently: “Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind!” (Psalm 26:2)

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkupIntentionally Pursuing,Titus2sday, Woman to Woman Wednesday, Women with Intention, and TellHisStory.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Don't Have Time

One of the most frustrating things on this earth is time. You can’t rush it any more than you can skip over it or slow it down. It also seems that time is a tool.

We’re told in Scripture that we can use time to:

These things don’t happen without time. Healing doesn’t come when time doesn’t pass. The best of friendships don’t develop in a moment. Life’s greatest and worst experiences –birth, marriage, death, the fulfilling of dreams- all these things take time.

We’re a generation (or two, or three) that loves shortcuts. We don’t wait in lines, we book online. We don’t sit praying and caring patiently about each other for months while we wait for the next letter to arrive. Instead, we text and get it done.

Achievement-driven, our lives are packed with plans and goals. Rather than doing something well, we qualify ourselves by citing how much we do overall. To be “busy” is a backwards badge of honor.

Full of ambition and zeal, it can often be said of us that “they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness” (Romans 10:2-3.)

I’m guilty of this. I’m guilty of writing –even this post- in haste. I want to produce good works for the Lord. My desire in blogging, in writing at all, is that I share the words He gives me. Yet so often I don’t wait for His Word to teach me first.

I suspect I’m not the only one whose passion gets in the way of the stuff that time spent by the Lord is made up of, stuff like patience, listening, understanding, humility, and reliance wholly on Him.

Have you ever set a deadline for God? Not “God do this by this time,” but “God, if you haven’t come through by this time, I’ll know it can’t work out so I’ll take that as a sign to go with the other option.” That’s what we say to the Lord who created time!

It’s simple evidence of how, to us, a day can feel like a thousand years of weight while to God, “a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. –Psalm 90:4. So fleeting, so simple.

Time is no constraint upon the Lord or His plans. It is yet another thing created, as in Genesis when He separated the night from the day to “let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years” (Genesis 1:14.)

Put in the time. Take the time. Use it wisely. Because you and I are free to do so. You and I are free to believe that: “there is a time and a way for everything, although man's trouble lies heavy on him” (Ecclesiastes 8:6.) It’s heavy right now. Time marks out plenty that we’re not comfortable with, like beginnings, ends, changes, and that life is out of our control.

But we know who made time. We trust in the one who uses time for our good. He “has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11.)

The verse continues. All that God does endures. The time He made and set for our lifetimes on earth –that’s a gift, too. Our time is part of something complete, something far beyond our understanding. Lean on Him and know that that is cause for relief.

That horrible, wonderful, frustrating blessing called time is His too. So let it be and know that like all gifts, His time is good.