Monday, November 17, 2014

Overwhelmed by Grace

Overwhelm: to bury or drown beneath a huge mass.

This past week I was so struck by being overwhelmed by God's grace. It was a message that God just kept before me all week.

It started Sunday when witnessing a couple get baptized. I was reminded that God ministers to us and meets us where we are. He doesn't demand that we obey. He just loves us and continues to put truth before us until our hearts are softened to hear Him beckon.

Then Tuesday I had the privilege to pray with a friend. As I was praying, I again was struck with that feeling that I couldn't even really comprehend or articulate God's grace. Just think about it. All the wrath and judgment of God that I so much deserve, God holds back. But what I don't deserve, His love, His patience, His righteousness, salvation...He gives it freely. That is His grace. But He doesn't just give grace freely, the Bible says He pours out His grace lavishly upon us. He heaps it on us.

And as I was meditating on this, Wednesday I flipped on K-Love and  heard Lauren Daigle's "How can it be?" That song just cuts me to the bone every time I hear it. "You plead my cause. You right my wrongs. You break my chains. You overcome. You gave your life to give me mine. You say that I am FREE, how can it be?" I just have to raise my hands and praise God because the Bible teaches that Christ lives to make intercession for us. I know that He takes all of the accusations that Satan makes against me and He pleads my case to God. Christ breaks the chains of those things that hold me in bondage...some of my own making, others by Satan's design. Christ sets me free. Then ultimately, to be reminded that He gave up His life freely, He surrendered it, that I might have the opportunity to live a life now with purpose, and to know that I will live my life in eternity with God.

Listen to: "How Can It Be?"

Then, on Thursday I read on Facebook that Shia LaBeouf, the actor from the Transformers movies, had accepted Christ. What pricked my heart about that story was the blog titled "Cookie Cutter Christians." The piece indicted Christians that expect new converts to talk a certain way, act a certain way, be a certain our minds if they are "truly" Christians. And again I was reminded of grace. My faith walk as a new believer when I was 18 looks totally different than my walk now 20+ years later. As well it should. But I would be an absolute hypocrite to deny Shia or anybody else the power of grace to transform their lives as I was richly afforded by God many more second, third, and fourth chances that I absolutely did not deserve. But He gave to me because He loves me.

Shia was on my heart again Friday, and so I googled to see if it was true that he had accepted Christ or was it just a hoax going around on Facebook. And yes, after reading several stories about his conversion, it was true. The pushback that was coming his way was from Christians who felt his use of expletives to describe his conversion was inappropriate. We of all people should be conduits of grace, knowing that we ourselves have received it from God without cost. And I was reminded of the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18. A man who had begged for forgiveness for his own debt, once pardoned, went and demanded repayment of a debt. He did not reciprocate the grace that was given to him.

I don't believe Satan has to do a whole lot to drag new Christians back to their old lifestyles. We as Christians push them away with our critical, judgmental spirits. By no means do I mean to imply that we don't call sin what it is, and challenge people to grow. But it would be absurd if I were to bring home a newborn baby from the hospital, and expect that infant to walk and talk, dress itself, feed itself. Why? Because babies have to grow, mature, develop, be taught, etc. New believers are the same.

And then Friday as I was wrapping up my Beth Moore study on the Book of Acts, I noticed a theme...grace. In the margin...she has a place to write down how you will apply the lesson for the week, and my answer was about grace. I took a few minutes and started flipping back through the book at answers I had written weeks before....and in the margins I had written, "be more gracious," "take time to show more grace," "pray for opportunities to be an agent of grace." I had not seen God speaking this message of grace over my life these last months and it made me smile.

Finally, God brought the week of grace to a full circle. My college-age son showed up for church on Sunday. As I was driving him back to campus, we began I discussion. I recounted how in my early walk with Christ I had sinned so much that I was ready to walk away. I did not want to ask for forgiveness not one more time. And it wasn't because I did not love God. It was because I loved Him so much. I just felt like He deserved better than me. I was the embodiment of Romans 7:19, " I don’t do the good things I want to do. I keep on doing the evil things I don’t want to do." And on that day, God reached out to me and reminded me of His grace that is sufficient.

The imprint of His grace is on my life, everywhere. He has richly poured it out on me. I am compelled by the presence of His Spirit to extend it to others.

Today, may you know His grace, and may you show His grace!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

I will follow

I'm sitting here in my hotel room pondering the work of God in my life right now. It's been a lot going on the last first weeks, but this is what God spoke and has confirmed over and over these past few weeks.

1. Don't live in fear or operate out of fear. Fear IS NOT of God. He doesn't dwell there. I don't want to be any place that God is not, so I don't want to make decisions out of fear. So from that lesson, I took a big leap of faith, to leave my position as a children's ministry director and step into the unknown.

2. Obey. God is calling me to obedience. To just trust Him and have faith. He has revealed to me so many times this week, my lack of faith in who He is and what His Word says. So I have been challenged. Do I believe what I say and what I teach? I mean really believe it to the point that it changes my life. That may sound weird coming from a children's ministry director, but knowing God's word and walking in obedience is NOT the same thing.

3. God has reminded me of the power of prayer. Prayer changes things. We have power in prayer. God speaks to us through prayer. God answers prayer. My problem is not talking to God, it is listening. So He is challenging me to BE STILL and listen!

4. God has been pleased with my work and continue to water what I faithfully planted. I saw a Facebook post this week from an old friend that I served in ministry with several years ago. I left that church feeling defeated like I had failed the children and left the volunteers and leaders just when we were starting to connect. But I clearly felt God's leading to go. And to see how He has been faithful and raised up others to continue that ministry. I was grateful and encouraged.

5. God loves me. Yeah, I know He does, but here's the shade of difference. I know my husband loves me, but when he says it, it is a confirmation. That's what God has been doing for me. Just saying, "Daughter, I love you." Through the speakers here at the conference, through the worship music, through friends who sent me words of encouragement before I spoke. I needed to hear it, and He brought it in spades like He always does.

6. Encourage others who walk in ministry with you. We never know where our brothers and sisters are or what they're dealing with. So speak words of encouragement to them and life-affirming words over their lives. Let them know what they mean to you.

7. NEVER, EVER, EVER forget that the most important thing is the message of the Gospel. Without the cross and Christ's resurrection from the dead, we have NOTHING. When I lose sight of that to programs, processes, even people, I've lost sight of EVERYTHING. Christ must be first, last, center. Everything. I must decrease that He may increase. And at the end of the day, if I'm not doing everything I can to make Christ known, I've missed it. And truly, what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose His soul. There must be an urgency in that understanding and application.

So I'm totally charged up. Not sure what's next, but I have faith that God knows, so I will follow.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

HE can change who you are

I know it may seem silly to some, and maybe it is just a sign of me going into middle age, but it doesn't take much to make me cry. One day I was listening to K-LOVE on the radio (and as a total and complete aside, if you don't listen to K-LOVE, I invite you to take their 30-day challenge to listen to nothing but Gospel music and see the impact on your life). And by the way, Ms. Martin, my English teacher from high school, would kill me for that last sentence I wrote, if it is even a complete sentence. Anyway, I truly digress! :)

So I was listening to the radio and this guy came on and gave his testimony. He had been sober for 12 years and he was celebrating his anniversary of being off the bottle. You could hear  him getting choked up, and I could just feel the emotion welling up in my chest as I listened to him talk about his life--the man he was and the man he is now. After that, I just had to turn off my radio and praise God. And then I began to pray for him, thanking God for my brother in Christ and rejoicing that one day in heaven we will get to meet and I can just celebrate with him that work that Christ did his life.

But then my heart grew heavy, and I thought of two others I had learned of a young lady struggling with addiction, another a young man diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Not likely comparisons in many ways, but here is where their stories intersected for me with the man on the radio.

You can struggle with things in your life, and yes, at the end of it, or maybe I should say, at the beginning or root of it all, is the spiritual battle. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us: "For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places."

The power of addiction is something I cannot truly grasp, nor can I truly appreciate the struggle of those who deal with depression, but I do believe that at the root there has to be some desire to live life differently than the one you slog out from day to day.

That choice may not be the one that heals you, or delivers you, or changes your life completely on the first time, but there has to be a decision to take that first get counseling, to get meds, to just honor the people who are in that struggle with you...those in your corner that want to see you well and made whole.

But it could also be other lifestyle choices that keep us in bondage...the decision to stay in a bad relationship, the decision to continue to hang with friends that drag us down, the decision to continue bad  habits and attitudes that are corrosive to our spirits, the decision to disobey the very basic truths of God's Words that He has put in our hearts.

The good news is we can change who we are. We can make that choice. Unspoken has a song that has such a powerful word of encouragement. The chorus says: "You can never fall too hard, so fast, so far, that you can't get back when you're lost. Where you are is never too late, so bad, so much that you can't change who you are." 

We all have that power available to us. And I love how they end that's at the foot of the cross you can change it, who you are, you can change. I believe that anything can be changed at the foot of the cross. We cannot overcome any problem in our lives without the power of Christ to sustain us and give us lasting victory. HE can change who we are. Not matter how large the issue or seemingly insignificant, Christ Himself intercedes on our behalf everyday believing that we were worth dying for. Through His blood, we can change!

WOW...that is a WOW to K-LOVE! :)

Click HERE to watch Unspoken "Who You Are"

Friday, February 14, 2014

An encounter with God

Before I ask you to take this journey with me today, I wanted to remind you why I named my blog "The WOW Moments!" These are the moments you have an encounter with God, and you are so amazed, that you can only say WOW. Sometimes it is something He allows you to experience where you clearly see His hand at work, and sometimes it is something He reveals to you, a truth in His Word that is just powerful. And today's blog is of the second variety....a revelation that brought me to tears.

I remember that there was a time when I finally understood and grasped the words of "Amazing Grace." Before, it had just been an old hymn we sang at church. But after I committed my life to follow Christ and put Him at the center of my life, I realized how amazing it was that God, the Creator of life, would give me such an amazing do-over, in spite of the life choices I had made before making the decision to receive Christ as Savior, and the life choices He knew I would make after. And yet....BUT GOD, in His everlasting love for me extended His lavish grace. WOW!

But this week, God took it step further for me. I was reminded that God does not just take away the penalty for my sin, He takes away the guilt and shame of it as well. It is gone, but why do we still experience it? Why do we hang on to those negative emotions, even while God continues to are forgiven?

And God painted this picture for me. It is like someone who has received a life sentence. They know without a doubt that they will spend the rest of their lives in prison. They know it with such certainty that there is no hope. Hope as defined by Webster's is "to want something to happen or be true and think that it could happen or be true." Can you imagine being at a place in your life that you are utterly without hope, you can't even envision the slightest possibility that it could ever happen? They become institutionalized, where they have lived this way so long, they have been conditioned that this is the only way it could ever be.

And then, imagine that this same someone is granted a pardon. Their sins are forgiven. Their debt to society has been erased. They are free. And even though they have been released from prison, they choose to stay in their cell and live their lives. That's what it is like when Jesus says to us as He said to the woman who anointed His feet with oil, "Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace." And we know that we have been forgiven, yet, we are so ashamed of what we have done, we are unable to "go" to put the forgiveness into action. We don't have "peace" which Christ gives when He forgives.

John 8:36 says, "If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed." We must have the courage to walk out of the cell, and not just accept part of the pardon, but to receive the entire gift that Christ offers. "Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace."

But in this WOW moment, it was the sadness that I imagined in the heart of God to look down upon His children whom He has called, whom He has adopted, whom He loves so see that He has bought their freedom with the most precious ransom, the blood of His dear Son Jesus, and yet, we allow our own feelings to override the work He has done for us.

The Son has set you free, and you are truly free indeed....from the penalty of sin, but also from the guilt and shame you feel. Embrace the truth of God's Word: "Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace."