grace

Ten Big, Daily Reminders (Desiring God)

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Image taken from article at Desiring God

I was encouraged by this blog from Matt Reagan at Desiring God where he gives 10 different reminders for Christians concerning realities about God and ourselves. Reading through these, I’m compelled to remember these daily as I am weak and often need reminders. I agree with the writer where he says that somehow during the night, he’s forgotten the big realities about God and the universe and himself and the Gospel. He states, “I desperately need to steady myself with biblical truth rather than stumbling forward to live from unbelief… I’ve learned over time to put structures in place that remind me of those unseen things, especially during my bleary-eyed, half-conscious mornings.”

Link: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/ten-big-daily-reminders

I pray that it encourages you as it encouraged me.

Fire-starters, Fury Makers, & the Humility of Christ

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Image from Flickr

I often like to read online comments on various articles or news stories to see what people are talking about. They often give me insight into how viewers are thinking or processing the information contained in the story. It seems to be inevitable that there will be commenters arguing about anything from typos in the story to facts to what they think should have been the outcome.

This morning, I was reading a Facebook post by The Gospel Coalition where 2 commenters were going back and forth in a heated discussion. The discussion could have been civil, but one of the commenters had to go there. Where is there? There is where the conversation gains new heights of irritation, where fuel is heaped onto the fire. What took it there in this conversation?

“Are you smoking crack?”

Purely incendiary! Not to mention, offensive. However, we are all often guilty of saying the most unhelpful things in a conversation that ultimately bring up walls and end conversations quickly! Things like:

“Are you serious?”
“You can’t be serious!”
“You don’t really believe that!”
“You can’t be that _____!”
“You ARE that _____!”
“Where did you get THAT from?”
“Oh, please!”
“You have LOST your mind!”
“No person in their right mind would think something like that!”
“Oh, you think you know everything. Right.”
“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard!”

The list can go on and on and on… and on. Now, reading those, we will probably cringe, especially if we remember ourselves using any of those phrases before. I will admit, though embarrassed to do so, that I surely have. We become those that start the fire and create fury. As one who is a believer & follower in Jesus Christ, I understand that saying these things reveals a heart of anger toward the other person. In those moments, there is a failure to love that person as I should (Matt. 22:39) which is ultimately a failure to love God for He has commanded me to do so (Matt. 22:37). I am failing to see the other person as an image bearer (Gen. 1:27) who is deserving of my respect and dignity. It shows that there is a preoccupation with self as well, a self seeking preoccupation, a self serving preoccupation, and that is wrong as well. I am more concerned in those moments with winning an argument, than winning others & being kind to others.

When I think about the Gospel of Jesus Christ in regard to those moments, I’m reminded of Philippians 2:

[3] Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. [4] Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. [5] Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, [6] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. [8] And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [9] Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, [10] so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, [11] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:3-11 ESV

Jesus is my perfect example of humility. He was never concerned with winning an argument; He was concerned with winning people to the Kingdom of God. He was never self centered or self serving, but rather, Scripture says that He came to serve, not to be served (Mark 10:45). He loved God and He loved His neighbor. He did everything that I fail to do day by day.

But – there is hope in the Gospel! I fail daily because I sin daily! I am born in sin! I, Jenn, am a natural born sinner like everyone. I know that this presents a problem in light of God’s holiness, therefore I need a Savior. I need Jesus! Praise God that He provided His Son, Jesus, to save us. Christ lived the perfect life, the life that I could never live, yet He died the death that I deserve to die. We all deserve to die that death. We all deserve to bear the full brunt of God’s wrath. But Jesus bore that wrath on the cross so that all who repent and trust in Him would receive His righteousness. He died on the cross for sin, and rose 3 days later, ascending to the right hand of God, and He is there now. My sin, our sin, deserves wrath, but, because I have trusted in Jesus and have received eternal life, I don’t get God’s wrath or judgment. I am forgiven! I have received the Holy Spirit and He convicts me of sin when  I fail. And when I fail, I can run to God for forgiveness, knowing that He is faithful & just to forgive me and cleanse me of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Christ is our only hope. He is the only way (John 14:6).

Because of Christ, there is hope for me. There is hope for all of us, all who are fire-starters and fury makers. When I am prideful and humility is the farthest thing from me, I can look to Christ, my perfect example, and hope in His glorious Gospel.

The Gift of My Beloved Husband

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wpid-20131207_200733.jpgOn mornings when my husband wakes up before me, I know where to find him. I sleepily stumble into the dining room where I see him sitting at the table, iPad and/or Bible open, with a cup of hot coffee. It’s an encouraging sight to me; I walk toward him and he embraces me. (His hugs are one of my favorite things!) I try not to linger around too long since he is having his quiet time in God’s Word but I can’t help but sneak a quick snuggle in. It’s a precious sight to me to see my husband pursuing the Lord in His Word. It blesses me because I know that as he learns and reads, the Lord will bless him and cause fruit to bear.

Lately I have really been reflecting on the grace that the Lord has shown me in granting me David as my husband. Although he is not perfect (and neither am I!), he is perfect for me. Through many ways and in many times, the Lord has used David to clearly show me His Son, the Gospel, and remind me of His own love, protection, guidance, & provision toward me.

As I prayed one Tuesday afternoon, I thanked the Lord that I do not have any worries or concerns when it comes to finances. My husband handles the budget, makes sure all bills are paid, puts money in our savings account, and spends time forecasting for the future. I worry about nothing in this area. I am not worried that our lights will get turned off or that our car will be repossessed or that there will be a lapse in any area. I am not worried that we will get a notice on our door saying our rent is late. I am not worried that he will put me in harm’s way; I know that he fiercely protects me and looks out for me. I know that he loves me. I don’t doubt it at all. And in this same way that I am so secure in David’s leadership, protection, and provision, I know that my Savior is all of those things and more!

While David fiercely loves and protects me, my Savior does all the more! David provides for me what I need; my Savior does so all the more, perfectly! David shepherds me well; my Lord is the ultimate Shepherd. And while as humans, we let one another down, we sin against each other, we hurt each other, my Savior will never be guilty of any one of those things.

Yet, in all of our imperfections, I love him dearly. I always tell him that he is ‘my favorite’. He is my best friend, my sweet man, my Beloved. He is a true gift from a gracious God to me who always holds out the Gospel before me. He stands with me and helps me fight lies, suffering, and pain with the Truth of God’s Word. He encourages me to read it rightly, to make sure I’m reading the Word in its proper context. He shepherds me through wrong thinking and he has grown to be an empathetic and sympathetic man. He embraces, yet laughs at (!) our differences (and they are many!) but respects me as the individual that God created me to be. The Gospel and the Word of God is never far from his lips and in that, I know how extremely blessed I am!

I remember, years ago, when we were in the courtship phase, I confided in a sister and told her that I could see myself submitting to his leadership! Years later, I must admit – it is a joy to come up under him! In a world where submission is a dirty word, I readily do so.

Beloved, I pray that our marriage is one that honors and glorifies the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I love you!

How the Lord Saved Me

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crossLast Fall, during our church’s Disciple Now (DNow) weekend, I was asked to share my testimony of how I, a DNow leader & redeemed sinner, was saved by a gracious God. Here is what I shared with the youth, parents, and fellow DNow leaders.

Good evening, friends. I stand before you a redeemed sinner, a sinner saved by grace, and this is how that very grace transformed my life.

I grew up attending church because being an African American, this was a cultural norm for my family. I was 12 when I was baptized and helped with different ministries yet I lived a life that didn’t reflect Christ. My high school years were the pinnacle of my rebellion. I did the things my classmates did: I ran away from home, I disrespected my parents, I got into drugs and alcohol. As I got older, and graduated from high school, I’d left the church I grew up in while my sinfulness continued to escalate, finding me with a desire to learn more about the occult and pagan practices. I read all the books that I could read, researched, and made purchases to support this newfound desire. It was interesting though – even though I wasn’t a Christian, I found myself praying to God, while in my ignorance, pursuing my new interest. At that time, I thought that I was a good person. I thought that I was going to Heaven. I thought that there were many ways to God, not just one. I thought I was perfectly fine doing what I was doing, but praise God that He did not see fit to leave me to that way of thinking.

On the evening before my 21st birthday, I met someone that spoke truth to me about the life I was living. He warned me that my new interest was dangerous and it scared me. I returned to the church I grew up in, afraid that God could never forgive me for what I’d done. The youth pastor at that church comforted me with the truth that God is a forgiving God and He could forgive me.

Over the next several months, the Lord was working in my heart, causing me to see my sinfulness more clearly. In the summer of 2002, God’s Gospel became clearer to me. I understood that my sin separated me from God and I deserved His wrath.  It also became clear to me that God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to live the perfectly righteous life that I couldn’t and to die as a substitute in my place. Jesus took the wrath of God that I deserved. Three days after His death, Jesus rose from the dead proving His innocence and his righteousness. I knew my only hope was to respond to this gospel by repentance and faith and that is what I did.  Over time, I saw evidence of a changed heart that had new desires. My desire toward sin was replaced with a desire to please God – a desire that only He could give! My life is different and I am a new creation in Christ. The cross changed my life and I now realize there is no greater joy than living a cross centered life.

A Great Forgiveness

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This morning, while reading Matthew, I came across the following and my heart was struck in such a way to share. I have read this passage of Scripture many times, but as I thought through the great debt that we have been forgiven, I also thought about our tendency at times to hold grudges & to hold others to what we think they should be held to.

[The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant]
[21] Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” [22] Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
[23] “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. [24] When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. [25] And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. [26] So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ [27] And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. [28] But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ [29] So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ [30] He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. [31] When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. [32] Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. [33] And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ [34] And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. [35] So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Matthew 18:21-35 ESV

talent was a monetary unit worth about twenty years’ wages for a laborer (10,000 talents were owed), & a denarius was a day’s wage for a laborer (100 denarii were owed).

So, looking at the difference between the 2 wages, it is very clear that one is a much greater debt. It almost seems impossible to pay it back.  It is an absolutely impossible debt to repay. The smaller amount was much more feasible, and compared to the larger, it is barely a drop in the bucket.

We are born with that same type of debt – one that is absolutely impossible to make amends for. Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death. We are born sinful and death is the only thing we earn and deserve because God is Holy, perfect, & just. However, just like the servant in the passage above, God has shown mercy and has provided a way for our debt to be absolved and cancelled – His Son: Jesus Christ. When we place our faith and trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, we receive His righteousness. Our sin is taken out of our accounts and is replaced with righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). Those that are in Christ are forgiven much, and because of this great truth, our lives should be marked by forgiveness.

The servant in the above story seems to have quickly forgotten how great of a debt he was forgiven. I think, as Christians, we do too. When someone ‘crosses’ us, offends us, or does us wrong, we are so quick to write them off and make them pay in our hearts & minds. Praise God that He has not done this to us! He showed great grace and mercy to us and we should do the same. By the power of the Holy Spirit, God has given us new hearts in Christ Jesus, hearts that are able to forgive with the same forgiveness we have received. May we always remember, and be grateful for, the forgiveness of our infinite debt from a Holy God and seek to honor and glorify Him in our forgiveness, mercy, and grace toward others.

Meeting God (A Prayer from “Valley of Vision”)

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“Valley of Vision” is a collection of Puritan prayers. I read it often, using many of its prayers to ‘jumpstart’ my own. This is one of my favorite ones from the book. I especially like the sentence that says, I bless Thee that great sin draws out great grace, that, although the lest sin deserves infinite punishment because done against an infinite God, yet there is mercy for me, for where guilt is most terrible, there Thy mercy in Christ is most free and deep. That is so beautiful to me and a great reminder of Truth – As a believer in Christ, I can not ‘out-sin’ God’s grace (however I should never try to either!). I am just so grateful for God’s mercy and grace shown to me through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Meeting God

Great God, in public and private, in sanctuary and home, may my life be steeped in prayer, filled with the spirit of grace and supplication, each prayer perfumed with the incense of atoning blood. Help me, defend me, until from praying ground I pass to the realm of unceasing praise. Urged by my need, invited by Thy promises, called by Thy Spirit, I enter Thy presence, worshipping Thee with godly fear, awed by Thy majesty, greatness, glory, but encouraged by Thy love.

I am all poverty as well as all guilt, having nothing of my own with which to repay Thee, but I bring Jesus to Thee in the arms of faith, pleading His righteousness to offset my iniquities, rejoicing that He will weigh down the scales for me, and satisfy thy justice. I bless Thee that great sin draws out great grace, that, although the lest sin deserves infinite punishment because done against an infinite God, yet there is mercy for me, for where guilt is most terrible, there Thy mercy in Christ is most free and deep. Bless me by revealing to me more of His saving merits, by causing Thy goodness to pass before me, by speaking peace to my contrite heart; strengthen me to give Thee no rest untiI Christ shall reign supreme within me in every thought, word, and deed, in a faith that purifies the heart, overcomes the world, works by love, fastens me to Thee, and ever clings to the cross.

– Published by Banner of Truth