Irresistible Grace

What exactly does it mean? This word came up in a conversation today and it seems important to explore the concept. It is the 4th basic doctrine in Calvinism.. but that does not exactly shed light on its true meaning.. does it? Calvin used that term to communicate the way that the  Holy Spirit works on the hearts of those who hear the gospel. It refers to the inner working of the spirit.. in places we cannot see.. that draws us into a relationship with God.  What that means for us is that we cannot take credit for having responded to the Lord since He was always pursuing us..even when we did not pay any attention to Him or His people. It is very reassuring to know that God takes the initiative with us and desires to be in relationship with us when we think we are fine without Him. He works through circumstances, books, movies.. music.. relationships..nature.. He uses everything to seek us out.. to draw us closer to Him so He can pour out His love into our broken hearts.

I love the fact that nothing is too hard for Him.. that He seeks us out.. that His love is so large that we only get glimpses of it… God is at work in our world.. He never tires of revealing things to us.. pursuing us and healing us. One of the worst things we can do as believers is make Him too small.. if we make it all about us and our abilities we have missed the point.. He is able to do more than our human minds can comprehend. Ephesians 3:20 says:

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”

Read that again slowly and allow it to sink in. How is He able to do more than we can ask or think? ( some translations say imagine) Through His mighty power! Are you making Him smaller and less powerful than He is? If you are you are not alone.. in our insecurities we often think we make our roles more important than they are. God is the one who finds us.. His grace is irresistible.. that means He finds the keys to our hearts and unlocks them so we run out to meet Him. I remember when I realized the sovereignty of God at a much deeper level in theology class and I was amazed.. God was so much more involved in everything and I could trust Him in a much greater way than ever before because of this new revelation of His goodness. It was life changing!

My prayer for you is that you will be set free from any bondage that is keeping you away from the Lord.. any condemnation that causes you to believe that someone’s eternal destiny rests on your shoulders. Your God is huge and He will never stop pursuing you and those you love.. He is at work in mysterious ways fulfilling every plan that He has put into place!

The newness of Spring..

 

I love this time of year.. after a long rainy winter, we are finally getting some beautiful weather and the first signs of spring are here. All my potted plants are showing signs of life.. it is always a surprise when I see that they survived so much rain and I never managed to transplant them.. yet they are coming back again. Their conditions are less than ideal.. but they persevere..reminds me of our lives.

We live in less than ideal circumstances.. yet every spring we can look ahead with hope and trust that the Lord has new things for us in this season. The hardships of winter may have beaten us down.. but there are signs of new growth.. signs of life. I don’t know about you.. but I need to have hope for the future.. to believe that there are going to be surprises.. things that God is going to do that I never expected..I try to make a point of noticing those things when they happen.. even if they are very small things.. like my rose bushes looking exceptionally healthy this year.. almost ready to bloom.. a precious gift from God.

Easter is coming in two weeks.. a time of celebration.. rejoicing in what the Lord has done for us. We have this time to begin to savor each day and to be thankful for this life.. to pray and ask for restoration and healing.. to seek a greater glimpse of His goodness. This is a special time and I don’t want to waste it looking back at the disappointments..the desire of my heart is to experience the abundant life of John 10:10 every single day in the midst of the challenges and trials.. He is always with us and always pouring out His love into our hearts.. time to drink deeply of the Living Water.. to fill up so we can pour out that love to others.. Let it be so Lord!

 

7 Years Today

 

My blog is 7 years old today. I remember when I started it.. I really did not know what a blog was or if I could write anything that people would want to read. So here we are  way down the road.. and I am still writing.. and there are some of you who benefit from what I share.. I am thankful to the Lord for providing me with the words and ideas for the last 7 years.

The month of March is significant in many ways.. my dad died 10 years ago this month and I got married on March 30th..15 years ago.. to the love of my life after waiting many years to meet him:) God is so good. My son-in-law’s birthday in March as well. It is a significant time for me.. endings and new beginnings. They always go together.. often things need to end so that new things can begin and it can be painful while it is happening. Steve and I are in a new season right now and the transition has been challenging. After 7 years of job disappointments for both of us and a long period of unemployment.. we are finally in a more stable place. The things I hoped for during that time have not happened.. but God has been sovereign over all of it. He has taken care of us and provided for us during this long pruning season. I look forward to the fruit that will come from this time.

The road of life is unpredictable and uncertain.. we hope for stability and the ability to see way down the road and know we will be safe.. that is natural for us. The truth is this life is not going to provide that.. our certainty and safety is only in the Lord.. not in our circumstances. He leads us and we follow.. knowing that He is ahead preparing things is very reassuring… we are in His hands and He will never forget us. In our world that is shaking daily.. where all the news is bad and frightening.. we have our God and our real life is in His kingdom.. Someday we will experience it fully and the things of this world will fade away.. Right now we can only live a day at a time.. or maybe an hour at a time.. trusting that He is with us and for us!

” Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
  In the light of His glory and grace.” 

 

Discernment

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I like this word.. discernment. It is the ability to tell right from wrong.. truth from error. This is critically important in our present day culture. So many things that are not true are presented as facts.. everyone is an expert. We need wisdom so we can tell the truth from the lies..that is not always easy. Fortunately we have the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth. What that means for us is that there is a source we can go to and we can seek the truth about everything.. if we really want to know it.

Sometimes it is easier to just read something in a book and believe it.. the problem is that it may not be true.. unless that book is the Bible. There are no errors in the Bible, but there are many books that claim they are interpreting scripture.. in reality they are misrepresenting  it.. very troubling. Our only hope is to pray and seek clarity from the Lord .. to use the minds He has given us and to realize that His truth is not hidden from us. It is available if we seek it with our whole hearts, minds, and souls.. we need to desire it and to search for it and to make it important enough that we would die for it.

This is not a popular outlook in our narcissistic culture..we are constantly being sold a bill of goods. Our lives are to be filled with comfort.. remember anything goes.. don’t rock the boat or question things too deeply. You may cause division or create conflict if you stand up for what is right.. better to just roll over and be a peacemaker. There are times when there is no way to achieve peace.. relationships are messy and they don’t always end well. Life is complex and the road to the Kingdom is filled with potholes and traps.. we may fall if we are not careful.

So.. let’s be discerning people.. opening our eyes to the truth.. searching for it and believing that God is revealing it daily as we seek Him and His ways. Don’t blend in and don’t fit in.. stand up and speak out. Let’s pray for courage and strength in these times.. God knows we need it.

” When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.”  (John 16:13)

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God does not waste anything..

 

 

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I cannot remember who first told me that.. but I imagine it was over 30 years ago. I did not understand it the way I do now:) God is at work in every circumstance and will use every single experience for good. Yes, I had trouble with that one ( Romans 8:28) at first, but now.. it is very real to me. Every difficult and challenging trial I’ve experienced has been training for times when I can sit with another person and encourage them.. the reason? The more hard things you go through in life.. the more you have to offer others who are hurting. When people come to me for counseling I often say ” you really cannot shock me because of all the life experiences I have lived through” usually that turns out to be true. God does not waste anything.. He uses it all to help us understand and help others.

It feels really good to realize once again that He is always training me to be more understanding and compassionate. He is preparing me to see into the next broken heart that sits in front of me and needs healing. How does He accomplish that? I am not sure.. I do know that He stretches me and finds those places that need changing and as I agree with Him.. He begins a deeper work of transformation.. It is awesome.

I don’t know about you.. but I want the full measure of life that God has for me ( John 10:10) and I realize that often comes through trials and tests. Somehow we don’t learn as easily when things are going smoothly..in reality that is rare in the life of a Believer. No.. it is not all trials and suffering, but we are never promised an easy life here. What we do have is His promise to be with us.. His Spirit to guide us and strength for the journey.

So if things are difficult right now.. remember He is doing something deep inside your heart.. preparing you for the day when you will share what you have learned with another person.. when you will encourage someone who has a broken heart or is struggling with pain and suffering . You will become a source of life to them.. bringing hope and healing.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
   and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

This is one of my very favorite scriptures ( from Isaiah 61) Jesus read this in the temple in the book of Luke.. It describes perfectly what He came to do and what He allows us to do with Him.. Amazing!

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Choices

 

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A conversation I had with a friend this morning made me think deeply about choices. We have so many of them in this world. Everyday we are choosing without even knowing it. The Lord gave us free will and He gave us a mind. Both of these enable us to choose.. He seems to be very in favor of that or He would not have created us with the ability to choose so freely. I realize that there are people who think we should choose everything that feels good with no regard for anyone else.. I am definitely not in that camp. Then there are those who believe if you do not choose what I choose.. then something is very wrong with you.. not in that camp either. Choices are very serious and they are messy.

What prompted this blog post was the realization that we may have more choices than we realize..  maybe we feel like if we don’t choose wisely right now.. this could be our last chance. While I realize that there are grave consequences to choices made lightly without careful prayer and seeking God’s best.. I also know we are serve a God of second chances. third chances etc. Basically we cannot run out of chances with Him. So how do we navigate this road which often feels like it is full of potholes? I can’t claim to have all the answers.. but I do know that we live in a world where the Lord is constantly redeeming things. I also know that so many of the heroes of the Bible did really unbelievable things.. in fact if we were in charge we might say to them.. ” that is it.. no more chances.” Fortunately we are not in charge and that is not how God sees things.. He does not run out of grace and mercy.. even we take a wrong turn He will steer us back in the right direction.

So choosing is an awesome responsibility .. God knows that through our choices we will see Him more clearly.. even the bad choices. He knows that we will learn to seek Him more deeply as we choose.. if we desire to follow Him throughout our lives and He does not have a list of consequences we can read before we decide. Choices are deeply entrenched into our life.. we are walking by faith and not by sight. Choices tell the Lord we trust Him even if everyone around us thinks we are crazy.. Choices knit us to Him in a way that rules and regulations never will. We are given freedom.. lots of it.

Really the only thing we can do is pray and seek Him and ask Him to stop us when we are moving in the wrong direction. Then we can shut out of the voices of well-meaning people or how- to books and leap ahead in the direction that is right for us. Once we realize that if we fall He will catch us.. We can ask for courage and turn away from fear as we move forward..

I hope this year is one filled with hope for you as we move into 2017.. may you choose wisely as you follow our amazing God.

 If you wander from the right path, either to the right or to the left, you will hear a voice behind you saying, “You should go this way. Here is the right way.”  ( Isaiah 30:21)

 

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Lessons learned in the wilderness.. or good bye 2016 :)

Yes.. 2016 was one of the most challenging years yet. I believe that there were some very big lessons that God was teaching me during the trek through the wilderness and I hope they stick..that is always the tricky part. Probably the most important thing for me was actually realizing how much I wanted my own way and how little that had to do with what God was interested in. Yes.. He is very focused on us but not on giving us all the things that we think we should have. It was startling to realize how my own vision for my life was so ingrained in my thinking.. so this year has been a season of letting go..grieving disappointments.. and allowing Him to get to the root of my desires so He could yank them out and replace them with a deeper longing for Him.. Still in process.

I discovered that I had pride that was hidden deep in my heart..that my longing for the things of this world was very much alive.. that I actually don’t look at much from an eternal perspective.. and that I crave things that I see all around me . Living in a very affluent area is the catalyst for seeing the depth of those desires. It is normal here for people to have nice homes, new cars, and many vacations. . Without realizing it those things have gotten under my skin and I found myself thinking.. well, doesn’t everyone else have them? Why would God bless them and not me.. Pretty dangerous territory.. especially if you linger there.

The cure for that is the news.. Syria, Afghanistan, and many other places where people literally have nothing. we are all rich here and I am convicted of being very selfish and ungrateful. What about the pockets of poverty all over this country?.. people without homes, jobs, or hope.. people doing drugs and wondering how their kids will ever have a better life when they can hardly survive.. I am convicted of being shallow and self-centered. Thank you Lord for showing me the dark places in my heart.. What about those who have lost loved ones too soon? Their grief is so deep and so painful.. how could I ever forget that? I know grief and I help people with it.. yet I stand convicted of being self focused and lacking compassion.. Keep digging Lord.

I think you are getting the picture. The wilderness is our school.. it is our gift. Without the dark times and the struggles.. we won’t grow in our faith or learn to trust or be thankful.. He knows what He is doing and yes.. it hurts..yes we want it to stop. So as I grieve the loss of so many things that are never going to happen because it is too late.. and tomorrow as I enter the last year of my sixth decade here on earth.. I praise the Lord for all the suffering.. all the challenges and all the ways that He loves me enough to change me despite my resistance. I am not expecting 2017 to be an easy year.. none of them have been.. but I am expecting God to be working around me and in me.. I trust Him as much as I am capable of doing and rest in knowing that He is faithful even when we are not.

Happy New Year! May the Lord of Glory fill you to overflowing with His goodness and mercy.!!!

 

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