Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks

On that day David gave to Asaph and his fellow Levites this song of thanksgiving to the Lord:
Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.
    Let the whole world know what he has done.
Sing to him; yes, sing his praises.
    Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.
Exult in his holy name;
    rejoice, you who worship the Lord.
Search for the Lord and for his strength;
    continually seek him.
Remember the wonders he has performed,
    his miracles, and the rulings he has given,
you children of his servant Israel,
    you descendants of Jacob, his chosen ones.
(1 Chronicles 16:8-13)

This small portion of a song of thanksgiving to the Lord was sung after King David had the Ark of the Covenant brought back to Jerusalem. It was a time of great rejoicing for all of Israel.

I may not be celebrating the return of something precious. And, if I look at my life through the world's eyes, I might actually feel sorry for myself. Life hasn't worked out the way I envisioned when I was a teenager. I never had specific goals in mind for my life, but I had envisioned something much different than what I'm living right now. 

I can still be grateful because God accomplishes His purposes and His plans for my life. 
      Even when I step off the path. 
            Even when I grumble or complain. 
                  Even when I compare my life with someone else's.

Just like the children of Israel, I can continually seek Him, I can remember His signs and wonders and miracles, and I can know that before I was even formed that God thought so highly of me that He had a grand plan in mind.

I was reminded yesterday about God's timing in all things. He can be trusted. Just as surely as the sun will rise in the morning, I cannot rush it to rise sooner nor can I delay it. The sun will rise at its appointed time. 

So, I can be thankful that God is in control of it all. He only has eyes for me and is so focused totally on what I need and care about, yet amazingly God is also focused totally on you and your needs. That's something I cannot fully wrap my brain around. 

This was sort of a stream of consciousness writing this morning as I process some of the things the Lord has been teaching me lately. He keeps reminding me to LOOK UP! To sing my praises to Him! Be thankful. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Grace, Grace, God's Grace

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary's mount outpoured,
there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive?

Grace, grace, God's grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God's grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin!

I've been thinking about the word Grace for the past few months. Having grown up in an evangelical church, I heard about grace all the time. We sang about such things as: Amazing Grace, Marvelous Grace, Matchless Grace, and so on. The song above is one of those wonderfully rich hymns I recall about grace. I also remember hearing teachers speak about grace a few times. And as a believer, I understood how grace through Jesus Christ redeemed my life.

A while back someone mentioned getting so caught up in trying to always do the right thing that she forgot to live life (my loose paraphrase). Essentially, it paralyzed her confidence in being able to make big decisions.

Now, don't get me wrong. Striving to live a "perfect" life (being like Jesus) and doing our best to make the right choices is a good thing. But if we live in fear of making the wrong choice and it keeps us from living life, that's not a good thing. It might actually keep us from serving effectively as a believer.

In reference to the person mentioned earlier, fear of doing the wrong thing was preventing her from stepping out in faith and trusting God. She almost missed an opportunity which eventually resulted in a great blessing. For the record, this was not a good vs. evil choice.

So, I've been pondering this idea of GRACE sometimes defined as...
God's undeserved, unearned favor, goodness and love.

I know it's there to cover me when I inevitably do the wrong thing (sin), but that grace (God's love) also prevents me from testing Him. I don't want to take advantage of God's grace by knowingly doing something wrong with the idea of asking for forgiveness later. Yeah, that's just wrong any way you look at it.

But it has gotten me to thinking about missed opportunities and those moments when I wasn't sure what the best choice was so it kept me from making any choice for fear of making the wrong choice.

I'm also reminded that I WILL make mistakes. God's grace is big enough to handle my sins when I confess. But, God's grace is also big enough to handle those times when I make the wrong choice, I open door number one and find out I've just stepped into quicksand. His grace can use those opportunities to demonstrate His love, to use it for His glory, and to teach me something in the midst of it all.

Grace is a big subject. I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of it, but I am enjoying learning about it.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Thoughts About Life

Just a few thoughts to share this week...

1.  Life is fleeting.

2.  Love others.

3.  Let God have control.

Point #1:

I mourn with friends this week who lost a loved one—a beloved patriarch of the family. It was a sudden death that came a few days after celebrating his life.

It reminded me of the loss of my own father several years ago. There was no warning. No last-minute goodbye. He was on this earth one moment and in heaven the next. However, I wouldn't have changed a thing in how that transpired in my life.

Even though the deaths I have mentioned were sudden, both lived full lives and were men after God's heart. In His sovereignty, God made the choice of when it was time to bring them home. For that I am personally grateful.

Yes, life is fleeting. We don't always understand God's timing or God's ways. But, I do know that God is still good. He was with me through that time and will be with my friends as they walk through this, too.

Point #2:

I was reminded several times this week through scripture that God is love. He loved us first. And, we should love others, even though they might not love us back. Why should I expect love to be returned? It's easy to love those who love us back, but it's not so easy to love those who resist our attempts at showing care and love. Or worse, what about showing love to those who don't like us or persecute us?

I really like this quote:  "God’s intent is that the people who receive His love will become the conduit of His love to others." —Julie Ackerman Link

I'm asked to be a conduit of love, not simply a receptacle. After a while, a full receptacle will get stagnant. You have to keep pouring the water out and adding fresh water or it gets nasty.

Point #3:
I sat back and watched God go to work this week. There were a couple of situations that came up in which I felt as if I should "do something." But, this is an area of my life in which God has been teaching me a lot. I did do something. I prayed about it first instead of trying to fix it myself. Then I waited on the Lord (because that seemed to be the right thing to do in this instance).

The peace that I had as I surrendered those things to the Lord was incredible. Then as I saw answers to prayers come through, it was so evident that God's hand was in it. That's when things started falling into place.

When I try to do things in my own strength it's a lot like pushing a boulder up a mountain. It's exhausting!

To be fair, this doesn't mean that life and problems will always be effortless if we turn to the Lord first. Scripture already tells us we will have problems, but it also tells us that the Lord help us bear these burdens.

For His glory!