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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 hidden places..

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We have these places in our lives. They are like closets full of things that we don’t want to look at too closely. The truth is they are not hidden from the Lord. He sees and knows all the things we are keeping from Him and from ourselves. This closet may hold secret sins and idols.. but it also holds pain. Pain that we put in the back under everything. Why? So we don’t have to grieve and face the losses that happen in life. So when God goes into that closet and begins to pull out things.. He has only one purpose in mind and that is healing. How do I know that.. because I have experienced healing from His hand over and over again.

He wants to bring us into freedom. To touch our wounds and heal them. To bring out the poison.. the toxins that have developed because the wound is old and is covered with band aids that are filthy.. underneath there is an infection.. His desire is to clean the wound and heal it so that it is finally unable to keep us in bondage. Why do we resist this process? because it is painful. It order to receive this healing you need to open up and feel the pain that is stuffed down inside. It is not as though you have to relive it is.. but there is pain in remembering and releasing grief that is unresolved. The beautiful thing is realizing that God can take this process and change you.. He can ” create a clean heart” in you.

I am writing about this because I am concerned about Believers who run from this process. They hide their pain deeper and deeper because they are either embarrassed, ashamed or fearful. We are here on earth for a reason..not just waiting for the day when all this over. Eternity is here now.. we have entered the kingdom of God and He is at work restoring us. We need to let Him in fully if we want to begin experiencing the abundant life He promises in John 10:10.

Our God is pursuing us daily. He desires to go deep with you.. to take you to your hidden places and help you bring them out into the light so you can be set free to walk with Him without always looking back and without fear of the future. I want to encourage you to allow Him to come into those places.. if you are unable to do it alone, find someone to help you.. there is nothing wrong with needing help. The Holy Spirit is the counselor and He leads the way when it comes to unraveling your past and unveiling those wounds.. but He often works through counselors..especially those that walk with Him. Pray that the Lord will lead you to the right person and take a risk.. you won’t be sorry. He has only good things for you!

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free” (Luke 4:18)

Excavating

If you’ve been reading my blog.. you know that my passion in life is to see God bring healing to His people. As a counselor.. there is nothing more important to me than being a part of this deep work that He is doing through the Holy Spirit. For the last year I’ve been in a season of grief and healing..yes the two often go together. When we grieve God has an opportunity to go deep into our hearts and bring up things that we might never look at under other circumstances. I would go so far as to say that without grief, the healing really isn’t complete.

When God opens a wound from the past.. there are emotions that become jarred loose and we find ourselves face to face with our losses. Every life is full of them. The older we get, the more losses we experience..it is inevitable. I have some very deep wounds from the 25 years I spent in an abusive marriage. When it was over, 14 years ago, I began to grieve and unravel my past. Recently God has been excavating some remaining emotions from that time.

He is going deep into the recesses of my heart and pulling out old memories and the feelings that are connected to them. It is a painful process and even more so since so much of it is happening in the middle of the night. I imagine because it is a time when I am quiet and not busy with life. So I am sleep deprived but looking forward to the fruit that is going to come from this season of healing. As I work with my counseling clients.. I am constantly reminded by the Lord that I am only His instrument and their healing comes from His hand.

“The wounded healer is a phenomenon that occurs between the healer and the one receiving the healing. Psychologist Carl Jung used the phrase to describe experiences in the relationship between the counselor and their patient, where the counselor would examine themselves and experience depths of their own pain, in order to probe, understand, and heal the pain of their patient. Jung expressed that the experience was entirely necessary to the healing process, as well as warned of its many dangers.”

Jesus is our wounded healer..the one who enables us to become the same for those He brings into our path.

 

The next generation..

My heart overflows whenever the Lord gives me the opportunity to support and encourage the next generation(s). It feels like exactly what I should be doing in this season of my life. I am a grandma.. I also have many younger friends and I look for ways to speak life into their lives. Not that I am wise, but I have lived a fairly long life and along with that comes wisdom that God gives through His Holy Spirit.

It is a rich season.. and one that helps me understand some of the struggles I have endured in a new way. My life experiences enable me to encourage those who are following the Lord. I can say with absolute confidence that after 35 years of being a Believer.. My God ( and yours) is faithful and will never ever fail you.. His promises are true. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We walk through the trials and the joyful seasons with Him. He carries us when we cannot find our way. He is our life and our salvation.

I see a picture of all of us who follow the Lord.. it looks like we are on a journey  walking on a very long road.. a road that goes uphill. We are all walking together, but some of us have been on this road longer. We look back and say to those who are behind us ” Don’t give up..trust God. He is with you. Rely on Him.. you cannot do this alone. Keep your eyes on Jesus..He is the way.”

It is all true.. He will take us to the end of that long road and when we get to the top of the hill..He will lead us into the promised land!

“On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand
And cast a wishful eye
To Canaan’s fair and happy land
Where my possessions lie.

I am bound for the promised land
I am bound for the promised land;
Oh who will come and go with me?
I am bound for the promised land.”

(  From  the hymn..I am Bound for the Promised Land)

This hymn text, written by an English Baptist minister, Samuel Stennett, first appeared in John Rippon’s Selection of Hymns, in 1787, with the title “Heaven Anticipated.”

 

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The year of the Lord’s favor..Isaiah 61

“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. “

Since the beginning of this year.. just a week ago, I have been hearing God say that this is the year of His favor. Immediately I remembered that this phrase is found in Isaiah 61. The same passage that God spoke to me 13 years ago ..here we are in 2013 and I am hearing it again. It is the passage that Jesus quoted in Luke 4.

After the temptation in the wilderness,  Jesus returned to Galilee and by the power of the Spirit He stood up and read from the scroll of Isaiah in the temple. He told everyone that today that scripture was fulfilled. He came to rescue and heal and restore the brokenhearted.  He was revealing His identity to the Jewish community, many of them would fail to believe that He was the Messiah..the one that they were waiting for.

How many of us are failing to recognize who Jesus really is? I’m not talking about people outside the church, but rather those of us who proclaim to be believers..who claim to follow Him. God is speaking to us right now..telling us that He is here among us ready to do great things. He is our both our savior and redeemer. He has come to set us free to live abundantly..to live fully..to restore us..to heal us..and to bless us beyond anything we could ask or imagine. Surely this is truly the year of the Lord’s favor.

He has great things in store for His faithful followers..rewards, blessings, gifts that will come in surprising ways. Keep your eyes open for the work of God in and around you..you will be amazed.

I will bless my people and their homes around my holy hill. And in the proper season I will send the showers they need. There will be showers of blessing.”

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Hearing His Voice

Does God speak to us? Yes..He is always speaking and revealing new things to us. Learning to hear His voice and follow His leading has been the focus of my life for the last 35 years. What better way to live than to follow Him and receive all the things He has intended for our lives. The living God who created the universe has a unique path for each of us.

Do you doubt that? I believe we all do. One of the things that has helped me is to look back on my life. If I look carefully I can see the way one thing led to another. I can see how the pieces of my life fit together like an amazing puzzle. One piece by itself does not make sense.. but put them all together and you have a picture of God’s faithfulness.

Another practice that encourages me.. is to look around my home. In every room and on every wall are gifts from God. We purchased a few things, but most of it was given to us..God’s abundance is so visible. I am very visual and love beauty..God knows that ..we have views from every window in our condo. Nothing is an accident or coincidence.. it is all part of the story that God has written for my life.

I encourage you to begin to look for the places in your life where God is speaking to you..revealing His goodness. He wants you to know that you are the apple of His eye and that He loves you more than you can ever imagine. His arms are open wide.. longing to embrace you and fill you with everything you need to continue.

He is speaking.. listen.. it is the still small voice that only says wonderful things to you!

“See! I have not forgotten you..I have carved you on the palm of my hand.”

Be Still

This is not easy to do..at least for some of us. We find it difficult to remain in one place..to wait..to stop moving.  There are times in life when we just need to be still..to stop trying to figure out our next move and to trust that God has a plan. He requires our cooperation..that can be the tricky part. Our human nature thinks that He needs our help..we will figure out the next step. We want to come up with the solution..the answer.. the plan. I am guilty of this continually.

God gets my attention through my feelings. I realize that many people discount their feelings and refuse to take them seriously..not a good idea. The Holy Spirit will direct us through them if we are praying and seeking His will. He leads us intimately..in very subtle ways. If I am moving in a direction that is not the best for me..the passion for what I am doing begins to fade..I lose the desire. Yes..the desire. Our desires are important..they tell us about ourselves..desire is foundational to our walk with God.

Desire for God leads us to Him in the first place..without that desire there would be no relationship. Desire leads people into marriage..education..careers..parenthood..missional living..personal growth..music..art..cooking.. traveling..the list is endless. Our passion is from God and He speaks to us through it every single day. The challenge is to be still and let those passions come to the surface..to keep the channel open so God can speak and lead and encourage. The other challenge is to stop second guessing the answer..to quiet our own hearts and minds.

In this short season before we come to Easter..let’s get quiet.. be still..allow Him to bring up those things that we long for..trust Him with all the uncertainty..remember His goodness..

“Be Still and know that I am God.”