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the miracle of being kept by God

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I turned 26 this week, and the day was great.

As many do when their birthday rolls around, I tend to be reflective. Looking at the past year – how have I grown? what I have learned? what am I thankful for?

Year 25 held much refining and changing from God, much wrestling in my faith, much growing as a communicator, much shaping as a teacher and woman in ministry, much humbling and learning as a graphic designer, and much enjoying as a wife, sister, daughter, and friend.

Amidst highs and lows, one reality stands out like a flashing police car at midnight: if my faith in Jesus, or my love for others, or my diligence with work, or my enjoyment of Scripture, or my joy in life hinged on me, not one would be present with any kind of fervor or endurance.

It’s possible that I could stay connected at work because I like being creative.

It’s possible that I could choose kindness and humility within difficult relationships maybe 50% of the time. Because I was raised to be a peacekeeper.

It’s possible that I could find a little joy in every day, but it would be weak joy, brought on by a new shirt or fun meal. Not durable.

Now, to the one with enough power to prevent you from stumbling into sin and bring you faultless before his glorious presence to stand before him with ecstatic delight, to the only God our Savior, through our Lord Jesus Christ, be endless glory and majesty, great power and authority—from before he created time, now, and throughout all the ages of eternity. Amen! Jude 24-25, The Passion Translation

I start this new year, my 26th year, with a clear understanding that if it was up to me to keep me in the Light, keep me turning from sin, keep me loving others as myself, keep me loving God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength… I would be flailing.

 

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Why do I say this? Because life is grounded in one major reality: I have been born again, I am a new creation, I am a child of God. 

How did this happen? I certainly didn’t do anything to create this new identity for myself in life and gain more in death.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1), but because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved (v. 5).

May we remember we have limits; God is infinite. We know little; God knows everything. We have weaknesses; God is all-powerful and never tired. We can’t see things coming; God is sovereign, with everything under His rule and authority. We have inescapable boundaries; God is always present in all places. We are flawed, with a bent toward sin; God is unchanging, perfect and whole. We were born and we will die; God is eternal.

In great power and love, He made us alive with Christ even when we were buried in sin, and He promises to sustain us.

 

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  • “I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:9-20
  • “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live.” John 14:16-19
  • “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:25-26
  • “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins… For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:13-14, 16-17
  • “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Philippians 4:19-20

 

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“The glory and majesty and power and authority that it takes to keep you and me alive in Christ — to keep us praying and trusting, to keep us in the love of God — was secured for us sinners, when Christ died for us. Therefore the glory and majesty and dominion and authority that keeps us from falling and presents us blameless and joyful to God is through the blood of Jesus Christ — the blood of the covenant. And therefore when we ascribe glory and majesty and dominion and authority to God we do it through Jesus Christ.” John Piper

Without Jesus, my identity would be bound as a timid communicator, approval-seeking pleaser, religious Pharisee, self-absorbed friend, joy-starved human, misguided worshipper, and discontent wife. These days I recognize the miracle: my identity as one flawed, yet entirely kept by the faithfulness of God and beautifully changed by the gospel every day.

I encourage you in this: Jesus is the Yes to all God’s promises. When we become His, His Spirit seals us in. Lean in to the miracle of His joyful faithfulness to you. Explore the wonder of His character and your redemption. Ask for eyes to see how the gospel transforms and grows you. Find joy in your daily need of Him and in His great desire to be your strength.

Let’s keep ourselves as close to Him as we can, and when our keeping abilities are spent, live grounded in the grace that for the glory of His name, He will always hold.

the wonder of simple prayers

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“Prayer is the quiet, persistent living of our life of desire and faith in the presence of our God.” Andrew Murray

The Bible says we have God’s Spirit inside us. In other words, there is someone by your side every moment of every day. And even more amazing, this someone is purely good and perfectly wise and beautifully kind and insanely powerful and loves you unconditionally.

Why wouldn’t we share every detail with this person?

My answer to that question, though difficult to admit, is I get distracted by lesser things, or I’m so absorbed with myself that I don’t think of anyone else, or sin deafens my desire to share, or I’m juggling so many expectations and tasks I never still long enough to listen. I read that sentence, and I repent.

The gift of prayer, of ongoing conversation with infinite, holy, all-knowing God, reigning King Jesus, and Counselor Holy Spirit, is a gift I take for granted too often. And there’s a need for right understanding of this exchange. He’s not asking for long monologues and formal phrasing. He’s not expecting a pretty appearance or perfect grammar. Like I told my middle schoolers last Sunday, a way we worship is by confessing our need of Him. God is not glorified when He’s made small in our minds.

You do not need to swindle yourself into thinking that you are strong. You can face your weakness with joy because you know that you have been given grace for that weakness; grace that is not a thing, but a person—the Holy Spirit, who makes you the place where he dwells in power. Paul David Tripp

A way to magnify God’s greatness, care, and love is to invite Him into every decision, conversation, and circumstance.

I’ll paint a recent scenario for you. The morning of a meeting I know will result in awkwardness and honesty, I ask for God’s help in preparing what to say. At the table, I visualize Him sitting in the chair next to me. While others are speaking, I wait patiently, peacefully, awaiting His ‘cue’ to voice my opinion. Dialogue ensues. I lean over and ask what He thinks the topic, and I listen. The conversation ends, having had it’s uncomfortable but healthy interactions, and I see His smile, affirming He’s in control and I did well. In a situation I deemed a little trivial, something I would handle on my own, God worked with me. He helped me, and I could sense the difference it made. I actively engaged with His power and presence, and it turned a big gear inside me.

This could be our everyday experience. We may not perceive Him clearly or even feel His presence, but the Bible promises He is with us (2 Timothy 1:14). Some days will take greater faith than others, but I have no doubt the habit of sharing and listening will produce beautiful fruit in our lives.

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chronic pain: exchanging my brokenness for God’s wholeness

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There is something about suffering. For those of you who read this not near me on a daily basis, a little context: for 2+ years, I experienced constant pain in my neck. What began as a (surprising) pinched nerve after a 10k race resulted in a variety of doctors’ appointments, physical therapy sessions, x-rays, dietary changes, a steroid injection, and lifestyle changes, with no relief.

I have, however, become quite educated on the spine. (If you aren’t interested in the anatomical explanation, feel free to skip down.) Hereditarily, I have a more ‘upright’ neck where most are curved. I also have disc degeneration (which is not uncommon) and a bone spur on the C5 disc. The facet joints, in between each disc, are primarily long and flat, but with my neck’s lack of curve, around the lower discs, those joints are shorter and steeper, causing sharp pain and stiffness. (Let it be noted with joy that I am now seeing a chiropractor and experiencing genuine relief.)

After two years with no real change, I was in a pit and needed new vision.

My feelings and knowledge were at odds with each other, and the battle was exhausting me.

When we choose Jesus, a desire is permanently implanted in us to glorify God with our lives. But when suffering walks in and decides to stay for a while, weariness, discouragement, self-absorption, and a lack of glorying can mark the days. I’m sure everyone can relate to this.

How do I magnify God when I would rather stay hidden from the world and distract myself from the pain? How do I glorify God when my body isn’t what I think it should be, when every other movement hurts, restful sleep is a struggle, and giving of myself feels impossible?

My injury wasn’t debilitating, and didn’t call for surgery (for both I am deeply thankful), but managing daily chronic pain was new territory for me.

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