Saturday, May 16, 2020

before the throne of God above

Verse two of this hymn hitting me hard:

When Satan tempts me to despair
and tells me of the guilt within,
upward I look and see Him there,
Who made an end to all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died,
my sinful soul is counted free;
for God the Just is satisfied
to look on Him and pardon me,
to look on Him and pardon me.

Friday, May 15, 2020

cheap grace

Excerpts from one of Phylicia Masonheimer's IG stories, back in November:

"Cheap grace" - the grace of God misinterpreted to mean following Jesus doesn't require any "works." It's "come as you are" twisted to mean "stay as you are."

By this is my Father glorified: that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. (John 15:8)

We often say grace is "unmerited favor" but in reality, it IS merited favor - just not by us. The grace we receive as Christians was merited by Jesus. He had to die to reconcile us to God, because sin/evil/any hint of unholiness cannot be at peace with Him.

So when people say, "I'm under grace" as a reason to live a lukewarm or morally compromised life, what they're really saying is, "I have no idea what this grace cost God."

Another reason people fall for cheap grace is they misunderstand God's purpose in saving us. He wasn't "in love with us," as an emotional attachment based on our own beauty or goodness. He made a love-choice, a covenant, to save us, to make us holy so we could be in relationship with Him.

The point of Jesus' death and reconciliation was to make us holy. Sacred. Pure. Guiltless.

This is why Paul was so adamant when he said, "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; hwo can we live in it any longer?" (Romans 6:1-2).

This is why Jesus could say your fruit - your behavior, words, media consumption, friendships, evangelism, character - prove whether or not you are a disciple.

A true disciple understands the grace they are under and just how much it cost God. They know that God loved them so dearly, He paid the highest price to provide grace.

Throughout Scripture, grace always motivates obedience. Grace always results in a changed life. Anyone who uses "grace" as a reason to live unchanged does not rightly understand it, and is likely abusing it.

"Faith is only real where there is obedience, never without it, and faith only becomes faith in the act of obedience." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Obedience is not legalism because legalism adds to God's commands; obedience obeys what has been revealed.

If you have to do mental and biblical gymnastics to defend your "freedom," that's your first sign something is wrong.

God is kind, and He slowly reveals things we need to let go of and change over time. Our responsibility is to obey His voice.


what to do vs who to be

Without meaning to, we can begin to regard our relationship with God primarily as a means toward better decision-making.

If we focus on our actions without addressing our hearts, we may end up merely as better behaved lovers of self.

If Scripture teaches us anything, it is this: God is always more concerned with the decision-maker than He is with the decision itself.

Quotes from pages 12-13 of Jen Wilkin's In His Image

Thursday, April 23, 2020

covid-19 // i. learning


I struggle with knowing how to talk about COVID-19. Not that I don't have thoughts, but I feel almost too untouched to speak about it -- I still have my job and a steady paycheck, I live in a safe home with no threat of violence, and as an introvert I love all this time spent alone at home. As terrible as this virus has been for the world, it's been a gift in my personal life.

***

One of my shortcomings, and I think one of many people's shortcomings, is the desire to skip the painful, hard times and get straight to the lesson learned. We prematurely surrender things to God without first working through them; we cheat themselves of wrestling through our desires with God and experiencing Him transform those desires within us. When we face something like the coronavirus, we instantly want to know what God is doing, what lesson we should learn, and then move on with life as before.

During the first few weeks of the crisis, I kept asking those questions, "What am I learning in this? What is He doing?" And to be fair -- there were some immediately obvious answers. He showed us how fragile we really are, how the things we cling to are not secure, and how only He is unshakeable and unchangeable.

But there were some personal lessons to learn as well. I asked the Lord to reveal the idols of my heart. I've spent more time praying in these six weeks I've been home, and I've felt the Spirit move significantly in several ways:

generosity // My income has remained the same and many of the things I used to spend money on (eating out, work clothes, activities with friends) are no longer priorities. At the same time, so many people are out of work and struggling to get by. My money is better spent meeting others' needs.

contentment // Now that I'm in my apartment all the time, I'm more appreciative of the things I already have. This time has been a gift to savor small joys, like a good cup of coffee in the morning and a daily walk around the neighborhood.

selfishness with time // I'm overly protective of my time. Work right now is busier than normal, and I was resentful of work hours spilling over into my evenings because that's my time. And yet I felt the Spirit prodding me about this one last week in the midst of my grumbling. These are some of the works set aside for me to do, and I should do them joyfully, regardless if they sometimes cut into my evening hours.

letting go of anger // Jennie Allen's podcast episode about anger revolutionized the way I think about it. She said the key to letting go of anger was to give up our rights to whatever we felt entitled to, which allows us to respond with humility. I often get frustrated with others because I impose my expectations on them, but when I let go of these, I see how often my anger is rooted in selfishness or a desire to not be uncomfortable.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

magnolias

the magnolias near my office, two weeks ago, before everything changed

Sunday, March 8, 2020

trail walk




Views along the trail behind my building, in the first days of "spring"

Monday, February 24, 2020

stuck in sin

 From Alasdair Groves:

The simple fact that your heart is grieved by your sin, rather than saying, “Yes, giddy up to the horse and let’s go,” is a wonderful fruit of the Spirit. There’s no such thing as being back at square one. Every day, every battle, every fight, every victory, every little tiny fruit of the spirit that you are tasting is not square one. 

That is an advance in the kingdom of sanctification, of glory to God, of your heart learning to worship and hate what is evil and cling to what is good. And the more you see it that way, the less you’re going to end up in this despairing mindset of, “Oh no, I did it again; all past growth is now undone.” Instead, you realize, “God has given me grace daily. “I’m actually tasting His graces,” and ironically, that is one of the most inspiring, powerful, motivating factors to help you move away from sin and actually live with purity that is deeper, longer, more profound.

The battle line’s moving in a better place where you are now advancing toward the enemy and your struggle is in a different place than it used to be. We’ll all be tempted until the Lord comes. We will all have sins of pride, greed, selfishness, lust, until the Lord comes. But we eagerly desire that those battle lines keep being pushed further and further, and further away from action, further away from our willful patterns into moments of slipping, rather than moments of racing the other direction, and guiltless indulgence. 

Those little victories are the things to zoom in on and recognize if the Lord is present, and if you are learning to grieve your sin more, then there is no square one reset.
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