Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Running with His Grace

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith...let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility He endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. ...No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. ...So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.

....You have not come to a physical mountain, to a place of flaming fire, darkness, gloom, and whirlwind, as the Israelites did at Mount Sinai. ...No, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering. You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God Himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness...

Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking...When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: “Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.” This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain...Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe..."

I don't think many of us cannot relate to weariness, exhaustion...maybe even a fear that a trial or a "season" may be never ending. I totally get it, and have been there many times myself. I know the crushing weight and burden of those fears...and I also understand the temptation to try to come up with a worldly solution to try to speed up or end the trial that is being suffered. Isn't it HARD to wait sometimes? Especially to wait patiently as God encourages us to do in Psalm 27:14 "Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous.Yes, wait patiently for the Lord."

But do you see the beauty of what God is saying to us in Hebrews 12... He reminds us that those who are close to Him, as well as those that are far from Him are a witness to how we are dealing with these battles. God is telling us that He doesn't want us to just crawl and drag our way through it...He says RUN the race! Run with confidence that Christ has already laid the footwork for us to come behind Him in His footsteps. God's precious Son has already run the same race, fought the same battles, endured the ultimate fight--AND WON!

Wow...being reminded of this is like taking a deep breath of His grace when I feel like I am about to suffocate.

When life is tough, it is so easy to go into our little hopeless bubbles of self, thinking no one understands, no one can relate...and we end up isolating ourselves and try to bear these burdens and trials alone. This is not God's design! It is a tool of evil. So what do we do when we feel like we are losing the race, or we just can't "run" anymore? The answer is right there in Hebrews 12:2..."we do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the Champion..." Sounds too simple to be actually work though, right? But here is the absolute truth of that statements: When we keep our eyes on Christ, we know that we, like Peter in Matthew 14, we can walk on water through the most intense storms of our lives. And when we not only can't "run" but instead we are drowning in the seas of our struggles, unable to endure the crushing waves of life...look up! Jesus is reaching His hand out to us to pull us up, to save us, to walk with us on the stormy waters! (Matthew 14:24-31)

The truth continues on to remind us that when we think we are alone and no one can understand...Christ does! He understands because He humbled Himself from the sitting at the right hand of the Creator of the heavens and earths to endure everything that we would ever struggle with, to conquer every trial.

He knows what it is to be weary,
He knows grief,
He knows betrayal,
He knows heartbreaking loneliness.
He even knows the really nasty uglies of our fallen world...
...to be beaten
...to be spit on
...to be ridiculed
...to be abandoned
...treated as if He were worthless.

He knows our pain, our hurts, our inequities...He suffered them with the knowledge that upon Him winning the battle there would be unfathomable joy, and profound peace that our broken hearts are desperately seek. He had sufferance so that we may have hope and endurance through His victory. And how blessed are we, that since we are called His, that He runs beside us in this race whispering in our hearts,

"You can do this! Keep going! You have already won because you believe in Me...I have seen the wonderful things that are on the other side of this! Keep going!"

There is such powerful hope found in John 16:31 (MSG) when Christ said:

"...The Father is with me. I've told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I've conquered the world."

And be encouraged by God's promise of ultimate withstanding victory for you during whatever trial your are in right now:

"...but now he makes another promise: “Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.” This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain...Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe..." Hebrews 12:26-28.

Be unshakable in trials because Christ is in you...know you will endure, and you will make it through!

Stay on course of this race! Keep your focus on Jesus, and remember He is with you and you are not alone, and He is cheering you on with His promises!

"...In the same way I was with Moses, I'll be with you. I won't give up on you; I won't leave you. Strength! Courage! ...Give it everything you have, heart and soul. ...Don't get off track, either left or right, so as to make sure you get to where you're going. And don't for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you'll get where you're going; then you'll succeed. Haven't I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don't be timid; don't get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take." Joshua 1:1-9 (MSG)

I pray that your heart is overflowing with encouragement and promises from His Word. We serve a God of Good. Our God is a God of Hope and Victory. Be unshakable in Him!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Leaving my Egypt...

"This is what the Lord says:
“Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom,
or the powerful boast in their power,
or the rich boast in their riches.
But those who wish to boast
should boast in this alone:
that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord
who demonstrates unfailing love
and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth,
and that I delight in these things.
I, the Lord, have spoken!"
--Jeremiah 9:23-24

I am wrapping up 6 weeks of battling an ugly sin that reared it's head in my life. If you are interested (or really bored!) in reading the whole story, you can start here
and then continue to read how God continues to refine and heal me as I get serious about sin here and here.

At the risk of sounding repetitive (okay, I am!), God continues to blow my mind every time I step on the scale and see the numbers decreasing. It is crazy-hard to try and wrap my brain around the fact that I put food in place of my Savior, and not only does He forgive me, and comes to my rescue in this battle...but he blesses me on top of everything! Every time I step on the scale, I truly feel incredibly humbled and undeserving...and mostly overwhelmed with gratitude that God loves me even in my betrayal to Him and His place in my life.

One of the biggest things I have learned over these past few weeks as God draws me closer to Him, is that I chose this sin. I liked it....loved it, in fact. But Satan takes these little "cherished" sins that we maintain (choose to keep, or not acknowledge) in our life...sins that we think that we can control...sins that we think we can choose to "stop anytime we want"...the fact for me is that I realized I was not in control of it at all. It controlled me! I was, in fact, a slave to this sin. Praise the Lord, no kidding, that He is leading me out of this grip that sin has on my life! I love Deuteronomy 7:7-9 and how it speaks into my life (my inserts):

"God wasn't attracted to [me] and didn't choose [me] because [I was] big and important—the fact is, there was almost nothing to [me]. He did it out of sheer love, keeping the promise he made to [me]... God stepped in and mightily bought [me] back out of that world of slavery, freed [me] from the iron grip of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know this: God, [my] God, is God indeed, a God [I] can depend upon. He keeps his covenant of loyal love with those who love him and observe his commandments..."

Just even typing that verse encourages my heart! And I am excited to share that as of this morning, I have lost 29 pounds! (Editors note: In my mind, I picture confetti and balloons falling from the ceiling!). I am excited about what God is doing in my life! I will tell you it is ALL God's workmanship. As the weight continues to come off, there have been some sweet friends that have noticed the subtle changes...and truthfully, I love to hear the encouragement! But I also have to stand guard that I do not, for one moment, boast on my own accord--because then I am not honoring God. I am working to honor God with my eating...and what I am not eating...but I also have to ensure that I honor God and give Him all of His glory.

"We have heard of Moab's pride—
her overweening pride and conceit,
her pride and her insolence—
but her boasts are empty."

--Isaiah 16:6-7

"My soul will boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice."--Psalm 34:2