Tag Archives: Salvation

Bracing for Impact

Monday I saw my doctor’s replacement doc (as mine was away) to request more iron infusions, and I was surprised to discover my biopsy results were in. The young doctor opened them and without any time to brace myself I adjusted my chair to view the screen.

Gibberish. The page he had opened was full of what I can only assume was technical medical language, that may as well have been Greek. My eyes scanned the document for words I could understand, and I only found three: “GIST” (gastro-intestinal tumor)- which I already knew, “Rare”- which I also already knew, and “aggressive.”

Aggressive. Shoot. I do not like this word.

The doctor admitted this is unfamiliar territory for him and I should contact the specialist to explain.

So I did, and got an appointment for Thursday afternoon, which gave me approximately 72 hours to stew over this word “aggressive,” sandwiched between a bunch of Greek, while trying to maintain my cool and keep it quiet in case I was wrong. No need to stress people out before I had to.

As I’d imagine anyone would, I spent many of those hours bracing for impact. If this was bad news, how would I survive it? How would I get through this without being emotionally destroyed? The Lord knows I have gone about these things in both wrong and right ways before. What had I learned from darker days, that I could apply now?

Did I get ahead of myself? Probably. Yet, the Lord allowed me to have this scare, and even used these ridiculous three days for my good.

So, I will share some of the conclusions I was coming too while I waited:

1. God will do with me whatever will bring Him the most glory. This is a pretty simple, but powerful truth. I think of Philippians 1:20-24:

“As it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”

Those are some very challenging words, and no doubt my faith would need to grow to make these claims as boldly as Paul. But there is truth here to grab onto- Jesus Christ will be honored, if I set myself to either live for Him or die for Him. He knows which is better for me. He has a plan to receive glory by either my life or death, and that thought is comforting. It gives meaning to everything. If I live, I live for Christ, and if I die, I gain Christ.

2. There is only One whom I must fear. Psalm 34:9 kept coming into my head this week: “Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!” As I thought about that I realized that if sickness, pain, or loss made me turn away from the Lord, wouldn’t that prove that I feared those things more than I feared Him? But if I feared Him above all else, that fear of Him would help me respond in reverence instead of sin. And what did Jesus say? “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him (Luke 12:5)!”

People, illness, or disaster can destroy your body, but not your soul. In Jesus Christ, my soul rests safe. I have a refuge in times of trouble, and atonement for the day of judgment. Sometimes, it is those ultimate, overarching truths, that settle our hearts and bring us rest. Continue reading

Confidence in the Face of Fear

I’m going to be straight up with you- it’s been rough lately. I’ve had this weird cough that comes out at night for weeks, and a muscle spasm in my back for a week straight which isn’t loving the cough, and among all this I’m trying to process and go through the rigors of figuring out what is going on with this tumor I’ve been diagnosed with.

But the regular daily routines continue, and I’m keeping up with them as best I can. Laundry. Dishes. Groceries. Diapers. Children to chase and keep occupied. I am incredibly blessed to have a husband who works from home full time and has prepared 90% of all lunches and dinners for the past- how many years? I don’t know, but he’s a gem, that is for sure.

Almost strangely, by the grace of God I’m sure, I have been ok for the most part. I’m taking one day, one task at a time, and trying to enjoy what I can in this life, as much as I can. Mostly these days, I’m enjoying watching my tiny person start to explore her world, and interact with it. I mean- there was that moment today when I took my eyes off her for 30 seconds and she got into the garbage can, started eating a banana peel, and I kind of lost it, but overall, she is just this tiny little package of contagious joy.

I just love my kids. They make my head spin sometimes and I am crazy tired at the end of the day, but there is nothing I would rather be doing.

I recently shared an article “Worrying About Your Future,” and by the grace of God I have actually stomped my foot down on occasion and said “No. That’s it. Not going there,” put the worries about my future behind me and carried on with my day. I like that groove. It’s working for me. I don’t like to think about things I have no control over. For example, when I had a scheduled C-section last year, I prepared by not reading a single article about C-sections. If there were potential complications, I preferred to remain in the dark, because what could I do about them anyway? But when they brought me into that bright and surprisingly busy room, it suddenly hit me: I have no idea what is happening here. What on earth was I thinking?

I met with the surgeon this week who might be doing my surgery, or might not be. This surgery seems to be more complicated than I would have hoped, and it sounds like she will be involving more people in the matter. There were many more maybes in this appointment than I would like. So many potential things that “might” result, or treatments that they “might” try, or methods that they “might” use to “maybe have to” reconstruct my stomach. Just so many maybes. And I’m supposed to do my research on these maybes, I suppose, so that I’m not surprised by them. Continue reading

We Rejoice In Our Sufferings

 

 

Romans 5:3-5 “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

“We rejoice in our sufferings.”

We have here a totally unnatural response to suffering. Only God can produce that. It isn’t hard to be angry or frustrated with suffering. If we just give way to our fleshly, automatic responses, this is likely where we are headed. Nobody wants to suffer. I don’t want to suffer. I want an easy life; I want goals met without roadblocks, I want plans carried out without interruptions, I want pleasure that is unhindered by pain, I want choices that are dictated by pure want and not scribbled out by limitations. I want myself and everyone I love to be healthy and happy.

I suppose we call that hedonism. For the Christian, we might not want to attain this “easy” and “pleasure-filled” life in the same way the world might, or at least we shouldn’t. Many of the pleasures of this world Christ has made ugly in our eyes. But if that is the case it doesn’t mean we are free of self-indulgent want. It doesn’t mean we are free of the idolatrous and entitled thirst for easiness.

Simply put, we want a smooth road and pleasures by the wayside. Comfortable and enjoyable friendships, respectful children, loving spouses, a healthy church, steady income, hobbies, health, vacations, laughter- simple things. Not ungodly things. Good things. And it is so easy to make them all idols.

So I’m preaching to myself. Suffering can lay its hand on so many avenues of life. It can interrupt our “good things,” or turn them upside down. It can even destroy them completely. And who wants to rejoice at that?

No. It is not a natural response. In fact, many circumstances call for what I have called “fitting sadness.” Rejoicing does not mean there must be the absence of sorrow, for the bible says we are “sorrowful yet always rejoicing (2Corinthians 6:10).”

But here we have it. “We rejoice in our sufferings,” strange as it seems, and the scripture says it is because of what we know God is going to produce through them. Continue reading

Hem Me In

He had hemmed me in
Behind and before,
Drew the lines that fall
But I thought to soar
Past sunsets that looked
Like bars might prove more.

Pastures green, like plain
Bread, stale and dry
Rolled on for days; Streams
Meandered nearby-
My eyes gazed elsewhere,
I refused to lie.

“Pleasant places, these,”
Said a lamb. I nod,
Pretend, but o’er the
Valley there’s a broad
Place with less restraints-
To please! But not God…

Oh, but there to taste
To spread like wild vine!
Should such a pleasure
Be deprived of mine?
Can sweet fruit not grow
Among fainter lines? Continue reading

5 God-granted Realities for War

I said here that I would share more on God-granted realities for waging war against sin, stating that “You can’t begin to war against your flesh today without remembering and walking in the new realities that have been granted to you in salvation.” So here we go. If you are in Christ these spiritual realities (among others) have been made true of you:

1. Your sins are forgiven.

Here’s the one truth that is at the very core of gospel application for believers: You have been forgiven. It is such a basic truth of Christianity, but I wonder if sometimes we neglect to think about it because of that. “As far as the east is from the west so far does He remove our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12).” “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God… ‘I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’ Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin (Hebrews 10:12,17,18).”

There’s simply nothing left to do to atone for your sins. Jesus Christ’s perfect offering was complete. He paid your penalty in full. If you neglect to remember, glory in, and appropriate that forgiveness to yourself in continuing with repentance and faith, then you are going nowhere spiritually. Here, at the cross, is your foundation, your core, your wellspring – Never trade Christ’s offering in for works-righteousness or faithless, ongoing penitence that forgets to find a cleansing flood in Jesus. If we are saved “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace… Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 5:16, 10:22).”

2. Your old self has died with Christ, and slavery to sin is over.

Romans 6:6 “We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”

This is to say that sin’s reign and rule in you and over you is dead. You are no longer bound to defeat. Sin is still at war within you (Romans 7:23), but Christ has freed you from its’ dominion and supplied you the means to continually put it to death. What He has done for you in bearing your sins and dying your death has robbed sin of its’ power (Roman 8:2, 1 Corinthians 15:56-57). His faithful work to sanctify you will continue through to glorification (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

3. You have been made a new, living creation.

2Corinthians 5:7 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Ephesians 2:1-7: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

The old person was spiritually dead and unable to discern spiritual things. He had no appetite or love for God, but rather hated Him. He conformed after the world, followed Satan, and acted according to sinful passions that ruled him.

The new creation has been made alive to God, with a new capacity to love God, obey Him, and please Him. He has been set free from Satan’s dominion, and enabled to follow after Christ instead of the world’s system. The new creation no longer has to obey sinful desires, but has been freed to live righteously.

4. You have obtained a new position before God.

This point naturally flows out of the last. As a new, born again creation, you are no longer “by nature children of wrath.” Rather, you have been adopted as sons and daughters of God.

Ephesians 1:4-6 “…In love He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”

Romans 9:25-26 “As indeed he says in Hosea, ‘Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.'”

I should note here what should be obvious- the new position you have been granted before God is one that brings you into an intimate relationship. “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!'(Romans 8:16)”

5. You are a temple of the Holy Spirit.

Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit none of these other spiritual realities would be possible. Without the Spirit’s work and power you certainly would not have been born again (John 3:7-8, John 6:63), nor could you wage war against your flesh and gain victory over sin (Romans 8:13). This is something I want to give more thought and study to, and hopefully address this spiritual reality more thoroughly soon.

When Your Profession Has No Power

Shortly after I had asked “Jesus to fill the God shaped hole in my heart” at fifteen years old, I went to a Christian bookstore for the first time. I came out with a Teen Study Bible and a poster for my bedroom. Finding a poster that I wouldn’t be embarrassed of was hard work; A lot of flipping past rainbows, butterflies, and kittens was involved. I found one poster that appealed to me, black with scrawled writing on it, and a scratchy, blood streaked cross. This is what it said:

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” -Matthew 16:24-25

I cannot tell you how many times that poster glared at me. Or maybe I was glaring at it. It sounded hardcore, intense, life changing. It didn’t reflect the soft peddled message of Christianity I had heard, neither did it reflect my experience. That poster stared me down, hanging above my own reflection in the bedroom mirror, and kept on telling me to do something that I had no power to do.

Deny myself. Lose my life in order to save it- In order to find it. The commandments of God weighed heavy on my soul and there was no ability in my flesh to carry them out in a way that would please God. I was supposed to go out my bedroom door and die to self. Live for God. Obey commands that were only burdensome, and only death to me.

Romans 7:10-11 “The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing and opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.”

That is the condition of a spiritually dead person hearing the commandments of God, feeling the weight of His law, and recognizing that at the very core of your being you cannot fulfill them. I couldn’t make that sin-loving person in me die in order that I might live. I could not, in the weakness and corruption of my flesh, deny myself and follow after Jesus Christ. For that dear friends, I needed to be truly born again, not of the flesh, but of the Spirit (John 3:6-8).

2 Timothy 3:2-5 talks about people who inwardly hate righteousness while loving self, money, and pleasure, all the while “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” They might look alright on the outside, at least to a distant spectator. But there is no effectual power in their lives. No power to obey God, live righteously, or overcome sin. In their hearts, there is no desire even to do so.

If you are somebody like I was, then I have good news for you. “The letter (that is the written law) kills, but the Spirit gives life (2Corinthians 3:6).” If the law has produced death in you and you have seen that you have no ability to fulfill it (and fulfill it you must, James 2:10), then the law has done its work in you. Perhaps, you have been living as a false convert like I was. Maybe you’ve attended church since childhood but have never received forgiveness for sins, a new heart and Spirit, and in Christ the promise of eternal life. Or maybe you don’t care about God and you don’t even pretend to. I don’t know.

If you don’t have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, then at this point I’ll refer you to a series I did a few years back called “An Appeal to the Modern Mind,” which discusses salvation at length. Or, if you only have a bit of time part 4 of that series: How Does Jesus Make Entrance Into His Kingdom Possible?

If you are a believer, chances are part of you still resonates with some of the struggle I described. Though we are no longer slaves of sin (Romans 6:6), our new reality still includes a daily war with our remaining sinful man, or flesh. As Galatians 5:17 explains “The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”

I want to write some more about that war and how to wage it, so check back in soon. God bless.

Before the Throne of God Above: A Hymn For the Sin-Grieved Soul

Sometimes Christians lose sight of the gospel. I’ve been there. You give yourself over to ruthless self examination and slip into works righteousness thinking that loses sight of hope. You’ve seen that your heart is fickle. One second you worship God and the next you curse men who are made in God’s image (James 3:9). You read Proverbs about fools, and nagging wives, those who are quick to anger, stinginess, pride, and laziness, and you see more of yourself painted than you would like to see. Perhaps you read Matthew 5 and 6 and you’re struck by your own harsh words, love of money, lustful thoughts, or nagging anxieties.

If you lose sight of the cross, then you lose sight of God’s love for you. You think only of His holiness and wrath and start believing He does not want to hear from you. Do you need to grovel? Do you need to be punished? Do you need to just “get right” before you can approach God again? How can He be appeased?

Examining yourself, sorrow over sin, focus on holiness, and a desire to change are all very good things. But to think about these things without remembrance of the gospel, God’s power and promises towards you, your thoughts will not only become burdensome, they will become faithless. The soul in that place, dear friends, whether saved or not, is in desperate need of the gospel of grace. Continue reading

Abide With Me: A Hymn For the Dying

When I search my mind for a favorite hymn “Abide With Me” rises quickly to the surface. CyberHymnal.org gives us this information about the circumstances surrounding the writing of this hymn by Henry Lyte in 1847:

Lyte was inspired to write this hymn as he was dying of tuberculosis; he finished it the Sunday he gave his farewell sermon in the parish he served so many years. The next day, he left for Italy to regain his health. He didn’t make it though—he died in Nice, France, three weeks after writing these words. Here is an excerpt from his farewell sermon:

“O brethren, I stand here among you today, as alive from the dead, if I may hope to impress it upon you, and induce you to prepare for that solemn hour which must come to all, by a timely acquaintance with the death of Christ.”

I know of no greater hymn which so honestly puts into words the experience and struggle of those dying under the curse of disease, a thing I have not experienced but have seen. The lyrics in full may be read here, and below is my favorite rendition of this song. Please take time to listen and to read the words.

You might wonder why I would love this hymn so much, when its’ topic is dying. But it is not just about dying- it is about dying in and dying for the Lord. “If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s (Romans 14:8).”

Jesus can “deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery (Hebrews 2:15).” He did this “by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:14).” “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law (1Corinthians 15:56);” He has removed that bitter sting and broke that power which stood against us, condemning us, and He gives and will give us victory over these things. The bible testifies that a day will come when death will be destroyed, and resurrection life will be ours. For the Christian, death needs not be a topic of dread, but of anticipation.

Yet for all the good death will bring to us, anyone who has witnessed death knows- it is usually not as glorious as Hollywood makes it out to be. Disease has no pity; It has no respect for human dignity. It is a cruel tormentor, ugly and stealing from its victims, wasting them, and crippling with pain. Not always, but surely this is often the case. It is not so much the death, but the dying that can surely cast a Christian low, even in agony. Continue reading

Just As I Am: Singing to God

It would be hard for me to fully express the role that worship songs- especially hymns, have had in my life. God used the lyrics to “Amazing Grace” to reach me when I was a teenager, finally and reluctantly confessing I was a sinner on my bed at night. Words I never knew existed in my memory bank came rushing back to me from childhood and all at once the word “wretch” struck my heart with tremendous force. I was a wretch, it was true. But the song said God had an interest in saving wretches like me. I didn’t know how yet, or why He could save a wretch like me, but I’m grateful He shone a light in my heart and kept on drawing me.

I had started attending church around that time, and having not grown up in one, witnessing people worship was fascinating to me. It just seemed amazing that people could really sing to God, and the looks on their faces were like they actually knew Him. I still have a poem I wrote as a teenager reflecting on what I experienced during this time they called “worship”:

I stand, swaying just enough
To blend in with the world
As they are wrapped up in their ecstasy.
Shouts of joy bounce off the walls
And I try to reach out;
To catch it without making a statement
Of my obvious attempts.

There are those who wear their love so
Glorious across their faces,
And I would expect them to be proud
Yet they are the meekest.

Often I hear words of great inspiration,
And the thirst deep inside of me pleads
To be filled.

(I smirk every so often, so that the
Stranger next to me won’t know the ways
Of which I have been intrigued)

I walked to the back of the room
Into a corner where no one would see,
And tried to speak a word to God
(To the air?)
My heart raced…
“It’s because you fear God!”
Or is it only for the people who have glanced back?

It’s kind of funny to have this poem as a little reminder of the foreignness and intrigue a “worship service” held for me then. I remember having a sense of the seriousness of singing songs to God. One Sunday morning I was singing a song, something about giving Jesus all of my life. But it wasn’t true. He didn’t have my life, and I knew it full well. I also knew the guy leading worship- a highschool friend, and that Jesus didn’t have his life either. I just remember shutting my mouth mid-song. How could I sing to God words that weren’t true? Words that I didn’t mean? The weight of it felt heavy enough to crush me so I fled, but on the way I asked the worship leader’s mom to send him outside when the singing was over. Continue reading

Gethsemane

Did I hear my Savior cry
And did I see Him suffer?
Did He with sorrow and in grief
Not ask “Is there another?”
“Another way for death to die,
Or must this bitter cup be mine?”
“The only way?”
He cried, He cried
And knowing, yes, bowed and complied.

“The hour comes, the hour comes,
Betrayer is at hand!”
Did I hear the Lord say “Stay?”
“Stay here, keep watch, while I go pray.”
Three times looked back
Three times asleep,
Without companions He must weep.

“Wake up! The Son of Man must go!”
As has been told so it unfolds
A kiss, with venom behind lips,
A friend, with feet swift to shed blood,
A silver flash, an ear in mud.

“But no, but no,
Away your sword,
It’s me you want-
I am the Lord.
Let these ones go, let these ones go,”
So turned and fled
All friends, for dead.

He gave:
His wrists to chains
His back to beat
His face to spit
His love to cheat
Kingship to mock
His grace to scorn
Omniscience taunt
Then fully torn-
A cross to bear
Nails to pin
Then lifted up
My soul to win.

“But no one takes my life”
He said, “I lay it down”
Laid it down when-
“Nevertheless your will be done”
Grandest surrender
By the greatest one
Bowed low in Gethsemane
He chose the blood stained path
For me.