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There is no gra…

There is no grace apart from mercy. – M. Herrington

Grateful today for the Great Priest who has sprinkled his own blood upon the mercy seat in the Most Holy Place, allowing me to boldly approach the throne of grace, for grace, in my time of need.

Mercy: The withholding of punishment and judgment deserved.

Grace: A free and unmerited favor, gift, and blessing.

 

 

in hope i believe

May it be said of me, then, that…

In hope Jane believed against hope (against overwhelming odds, against her sin, against her circumstances) that she should become a wholehearted, steadfast, resolute, pure and holy daughter of the living God of hope and be delivered day by day from the entanglements and stumblings of sin for all her days here on earth, just as she had been told, “It is for freedom you have been set free!”

She did not weaken in faith when she considered herself and the weakness of her own body, speech, appearance, and personality which were all just as good as dead anyways (since she was quiet and tearful and hunched over and introverted and slow to argue and quick to be opinionated and stubborn and impatient and prideful). Or when she considered the circumstances of her life (her husband’s schedule, her child’s school, her only child, her “stuff”, her husband’s “stuff”, her rental home, her lack of funds, her not very clean house, her books stacked on floors, her pots and dishes stacked on floors, her very normal and not very dramatic yet very traumatizing in her own mind life).

No unbelief made her waver concerning the promise of God (though it was there at times!), but (instead) she grew strong in her faith (she did not allow unbelief to take over) as she gave glory to God (this is what kept her eyes off of unbelief and doubt and caused her faith to increase with great strength), fully convinced (more and more and more) that God was able to do what he had promised.

That is why her faith will be ‘counted to her as righteousness.’ Because she believes in him who raised from the dead Jesus her Lord, who was delivered up for her trespasses and raised for her justification!

Therefore! Since she has been justified by faith, she has peace with God through her Lord Jesus Christ. Through him she has also obtained access by faith in this grace in which she stands, and she rejoices in hope of the glory of God.

Not only that, but she rejoices in her sufferings (those trials and circumstances and all those silly things listed), because she knows that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.

And hope does not put her to shame, no! Because God’s love has been poured into her heart through the Holy Spirit who has been given to her. For while she was still so, so, so weak (failing every day, unable to keep up with the Jones’, unable to always be nice, unable to be very compassionate, unable to give generously, unable to keep judging and blaming attitudes at bay), Christ died for her. God showed his love for her, that while she was still a sinner (reckless, unloving, wanting to remain unloving, wanting to be right), Christ died for her!

May it be said of me, then, that I am one who rejoices.

May it be said of me…and may it be said of you.

(taken from Romans 4:18 – 5:11)

hammer away, then

Lord, be the hammer that breaks open hearts of stone - in me, around me. May I take up this old-fashioned gospel hammer and strike as hard as I can with it, that I might see hearts burn, the brains of sin dashed, and souls running joyfully to Christ.

(The following are portions taken from We Endeavor: Helpful Words for Members of the Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor, As A Fire…And Like A Hammer, by Charles Spurgeon. Be sure to watch good old-fashioned rock-breaking, too! I think it will enhance your reading, as it did for me.)

Is not my word like fire, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces? Jeremiah 23:29

Brethren, when you preach, take the gospel hammer, and strike as hard as ever you can with it. “Oh, but I must try to improve the look of my hammer; it must have a mahogany handle!” Never mind about the mahogany handle; use your hammer for striking, for hammers are not for ornament, they are meant to be used for real hard work. And when you come to use the gospel as it ought to be used, the result is wonderful; it is a rock-breaking thing. “Oh!” you cry, “there is a very obdurate man there!” Strike at him with the gospel. “Oh, but he ridicules and scoffs at the truth!” Never mind if he does, keep on smiting him with the gospel. “Oh, but in a certain district, I have wielded this hammer against the rock for years, and nothing has come of it!” Still go on wielding it, for this is a hammer that never failed yet. Only continue to use it; everything is not accomplished with one stroke; nor, perhaps, with twenty strokes. The rock that does not yield the first time, nor the second time, nor the third time, nor the twentieth time, will yield at last. There is a process of disintegration taking place at every stroke; the great mass is inwardly moving even when you cannot see that it is doing so; and there will come at last one blow of the hammer which will seem to do the deed, but all the previous strokes contributed to it, and brought the rock into the right state for breaking it up at last. Hammer away, then with nothing but the gospel of Jesus Christ. The heart that is struck may not yield even year after year, but it will yield at last.

How this gospel has also been like a hammer to break down human obstinacy! The gospel of redemption through the precious blood of Jesus, the gospel which tells of full atonement made, the gospel which proclaims that the utmost farthing of the ransom price has been paid, and that, therefore, whosoever believeth in Jesus is free from the law, and free from guilt, and free from hell,—the telling out of this gospel has made men’s hearts burn within them, and has dashed out the very brains of sin, and made men joyfully flee to Christ.

I am afraid that there are persons of whom we speak as unlikely to be converted, who have never been fully brought under the influence of the fire of God’s Word, or beneath the fall of the hammer of the gospel. “I brought one person,” says somebody. I am glad you have; but have you ever spoken faithfully to that person about his soul? “Well, I do not know that I have; I have said a little to him.” Have you ever plainly put the gospel before him? “Well, I do not think he was quite the person to be spoken to in that fashion.” Ah! I see that you thought you were going to burn him without using fire, and to break that rock without lifting the hammer. The fact is, you believed that something better than the gospel fire was wanted in his case, or that something gentler than the gospel hammer was needed. Will you not try that old-fashioned hammer upon him? Will you not try that old fire upon him?

“But,” says someone, “there are certain districts where you cannot do any good if you try to preach the gospel. You must … have amusements and entertainments for them, you must have penny readings and concerts.” Very well, convert sinners that way if you can; I do not object to any method that results in the winning of souls. Stand on your head if that will save the people; but still, it seems to me that if God’s Word is like a fire, there is nothing like it for burning its way; and if God’s Word is like a hammer, there can be nothing like that Word for hammering down everything that stands in the way of Jesus Christ. Why, then, should we not continually try the gospel, and nothing but the gospel?

“Well,” says one, “but the poor people are dirty; we must have various sanitary improvements.” Of course we must; go on with them as fast as ever you can; the more of such things, the better. There is nothing like soapsuds and whitewash for dirty people and dirty places; but you may whitewash and soapsud them as long as you like, yet that will not save their souls without the gospel of Christ. You may go to them and plead the cause of temperance with them, and I hope you will; the more of it, the better. Make teetotallers of every one of them if you can, for it will be a great blessing to them; but still, you have not really done anything permanent if you stop there. Try the gospel! Try the gospel! Try the gospel!

The sooner we get back to that Word, the better; and the more we throw away everything else but the simple telling out of that Word, the more speedy will be the victory, and the more swift and sure will be the triumph for our God and for His Christ.

because of rain coats

I was driving on the highway, in the rain, in the dark, on the way to small group. My daughter was in the back seat singing and making up her own lyrics to her own melodies about the rain falling steadily against our windows. In the middle of her song, I heard these lines:

The Lord protects us;

The Lord gives us rain coats

to protect us from the rain!

Obviously he loves us!

My daughter seemed to be living out a portion of Ephesians 5 in that moment, in my presence: “be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And I think, that in that moment, something was clicking for her that I forget so, so often.

For my daughter, it started with her rain coat. Her gratitude for it caused her to reflect on how God delights to provide for her. His provision for her in the storm caused her to ponder anew how he protects her. His protection of her reminded her of his great, vast, unimaginable love towards her. And this love that she was reflecting on – which all started with her small, little need – inspired her to make melodies in her heart, singing, making music, addressing me with a spiritual song. In the midst of the awareness of this glorious, comforting, awe-inspiring truth, praise erupted from her heart, was poured out like honey upon her lips, and was heard by the one near her.

How vast and beyond our imagination our God is! For the magnificence of his grace and plan of salvation for the fullness of time is all the more amazing to us when we see how very small we are in the midst of it, and yet he cares for us, very specifically, very individually, all the while.

You could say I was edified by my little sister in Christ that day. Oh, my dear sweet one! My heart echoes your song, and I sing with you that obviously, obviously God loves us!

You can find this originally posted at First Free Church, part of a short series on memorizing God’s Word.

Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. Isaiah 1:5

“Great is the Lord, and bmmmbsflk mumble jumble…” I heard my daughter say, as we were working on her memory verse for Awana.

“Sweetie, I can’t hear you. You need to speak up and speak clearly.” My insides were churning with rising anger while I attempted to keep the tone of my voice patient and kind. I had stated this verse to her dozens of times. I knew she knew it; I could hear her mumbling it, for goodness sake! And yet the quiet, rebellious heart I have seen in her since she was in the womb was rising up in her each time I asked her to say it herself. Mumbles. Whispers. Silence. Stares. And finally, tears.

“I don’t want to do this!” she cried out. I remembered how often I have felt the same. The work, the practicing, the repeating…it is so annoying. So not fun. I remembered the countless times I have seen in myself this same stubbornness to do things my way, the rebelliousness to not practice as I’ve been told, and the pride I have held that I could breeze through life without exerting effort.

Memorization is hard work. And for some of us who have this natural instinct that wants to go against the grain and not do what we’re told or not put much effort into the process of preparation…this “task” of memorizing can cause that rebel heart to sprout up within us. In the smallest of tasks we are challenged to do, the rebel heart can be stirred awake, make our heads sick with excuses, and our spirits faint with the inability to do the appointed work.

So, our question for today is, as many First Free women around us commit to pursue the hard work of putting scripture to memory, will we surrender the rebellion that we harbor? Will we search our hearts and bravely ask the Lord to reveal how we can die to self in this task? Will we put effort and practice into learning his Word? For, this isn’t about us, is it? It’s about his eternal Word that stands forever in the heavens, his exaltation in our hearts, and his abundant glory to be spread over all the earth. Yes, even in this smallest of tasks, that is what it is about.

Many of us may not struggle as intensely with this willful rebellion; for myself, I see others being so much more teachable than I am nearly every day! I stand in awe of their ease to surrender their opinions and the way they think things should be, and I always desperately wish I was more like them. For I know in the very depths of my heart that I cannot be like them; all my efforts to surrender and submit to my teachers and leaders has failed to help me. Rebellion still stirs and wakens when I hear the call to do something that I haven’t thought of doing myself.

But glory be to the Most High God! There is hope for us stubborn, rebellious ones yet. For we know that we are weak in this, that we cannot be strong, and that we need to hold tightly to the example of willful surrender that Christ has demonstrated to us. For Christ himself prayed that his cup of suffering would be taken away, yet the Father told him to continue his path of obedience, his path of preparation, his path of burial, his path of dying. Thanks be to Jesus Christ, who did not harbor a rebel heart as we so often do, but was without sin and – get this –actually listened to his Father’s voice!

And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39

Even in the effort we must make to memorize his Word, the time we must commit, the space in our brains we must surrender, the books or the shows or the crafts we must lay aside for a time, Christ can and will do a work of great proportion in us. Do you know why? Because, beloved ones, we who are so rebellious and fail to listen to the Lord in the smallest of things, have been lavished with not only forgiveness, but with Christ’s life of great surrender. May we ask for the willingness to lay down our rebel hearts and allow God to prompt us by his faithful Spirit to do the work involved. And in so doing, as we lay down these rebel hearts towards this very small task, we will see his work of transformation, the supernatural ability to take up our cross, the power to follow him, and the miraculous willingness to die to self. I’m quite convinced that when we lay down our rebel hearts, he will, in fact, change our “I don’t want to do this!” to, “Lord, I want to know more of you!” Surely, surely he will do it!

in glad adoration

 We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,

the holiness of your temple!

David tells me in Psalm 65 that as the Father is satisfied, so he makes me satisfied. It is a progression; as I recognize the satisfaction the Father has because of the action of the Son – the atonement God has provided - I experience the satisfaction that his goodness and holiness is. And the full satisfaction of soul I experience causes me to understand joy, to understand and notice his work in creation, and to respond with glad adoration.

Praise is due to God, David says, because…

  • God hears prayer; he is the one to come to, no other (v. 2). He hears me and as I pray and come to him, I remember that…
  • He has provided atonement for me, for all my sins, through his Son. And when sin overwhelms me, when sin seems to be winning and having its way with me, he reminds me to look upon Christ – as he does himself on my behalf (v. 3). We look together, him and I, remembering together, standing together, looking down together, side by side, upon the the picture of the Son upon the cross. And in this moment…
  • He brings me near to him. He brings me into his courts, his holy dwelling place! He brings me near to hear his answer and…
  • He causes me to be satisfied with his goodness, his good dwelling place, his holiness, his temple, and his house. Yes, he makes me quite satisfied, indeed (v.4) with these things. And as he begins to satisfy me with himself…
  • He not only hears my prayer, but as his Son provides my atonement, as he brings me into his courts, he also answers. He answers in righteousness! He answers with hope! He answers with redemption! He answers with might! With strength! With power and with sovereignty (v.7)! And as he answers me in this way…
  • He causes me to be in awe of him and of what he has done. He makes me to see even the joy that belongs to the sunrise and the sunset (v.8). He causes me to see the joy that belongs to the earth because of his faithful provision (v. 9-13). He makes me stand in awe of JOY! He leaves me satisfied and filled with his joy, as I look upon it filling the earth around me.

Satisfied. Such a blessed, rested place to be. So grateful to have been chosen, drawn near, and made to dwell in his courts. That is the place where happiness and delight of soul is found, and where wandering of heart ceases.

In awe of joy! Knowing joy! Remembering along with God his great acts! Being satisfied together with my God! Oh, what a thing to be mine! In glad adoration of it all, I let this Amen sound from me again.

I’m About To Be 31

When I turned 29, I was terribly traumatized. The thought that it was my last year in my “20s” and that I had only one year left until I was 30 sent me into freak-out mode. Thank goodness I have a few years to go until 40 hits.

Yes, turning 30 was a little, teensy, weensy bit difficult. My eyes already bug out, and when I thought of being 30, I am certain they truly then popped out.

Now, I’m about to turn 31. And, it’s not quite so dramatic, but it’s still a little traumatic. You know what, though? So far, my “30s” have been the best years of my life. So I thought I’d share some notables with a list, for your reading pleasure; a little “year in review”.

At 30 I…

- participated in my first triathlon (never in a million years thought I could or would actually do that! Wow! Craziness.).

- read a book that convicted and challenged my prayer life and since then, have seen God answer all kinds of prayers and petitions and requests that I have asked according to his Word, nearly every week, sometimes every day, for the entire last year, on behalf of my family and the body of Christ around me.

- have experienced the incredible power of God’s Word to comfort my soul, heal afflictions in my heart, show grace when I sin, and guard my mind against all kinds of things.

- watched the unity of our little family of 3 blossom; abounding in love for one another, learning to be patient with one another, considering one another’s needs above our own, and learning to be established in God’s Word.

- experienced how awesome marriage can be when we both live selflessly towards one another, cheer one another on, remind each other of the power of Christ’s work on the cross, and seek to obey God’s desire for us to be holy as he is holy and filled with the humility of Christ.

- have been brought to many, many tears before the Lord, as I have knelt in amazement that he would delight to so faithfully lead me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake and keep me grounded in his Word, firm and steadfast and unyielding.

- have seen God provide for our food, our clothing, our utilities, our rent, our activities. The littlest of food on our table is an astounding blessing to our family; I hope we never forget it.

- watched my husband grow and grow and grow in great strength of character and mind, taking pleasure in leading his little family along very faithfully in truth, protecting us, watching over us, caring for us, providing for us, cherishing us, giving us literally all of his strength, and pouring all of his joy over unto us two, his girlies.

Praying that your “30s” will be such a great delight and testimony of great grace to you, as well…(or 40s? 60s? 80s???).

Much love to you,

jane

 

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