Do You Care?

Laurie asked a simple question that opened my eyes in a dramatic way and similar way. She said: “Do you care?” She asked this question, and then elaborated, “How much do you care that you are living your own way? Do you care enough to say NO to you and YES to God? Are you willing to ask God for His grace to overcome, truly overcome your sin?” These were probing questions for me. How easy it is to slumber in comfort.

This week, we were asked to share three to four sins with our small group that the Lord revealed, measurable by word or deed. We have not yet been asked to examine the “why” or root of these sins, we are just naming them and being very specific.

Most people—even Christians—find the topic of sin unpleasant and truthfully, don’t want to discuss it. I know the thought that we are sinners—that we are selfish, prideful, desire control and ultimately desire our way over God’s is not how we’d like to describe ourselves. The Bible tells us that ALL of mankind sin. In order to grow in our relationship with the Lord, however, we must confront our sin. Confess it. Repent of it. Praise God, He does not leave us on our own to mount the impossible to overcome our sin. He lovingly guides us. We must choose to believe there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Our sins were, are, and always will be forgiven by our faith in the redeeming blood of Jesus, because Jesus paid the penalty that we ourselves could never pay.

I confess, I believe that much of my sin occurs on the inside. I attempt to make the “external” person look ok, while on the inside, my heart is unclean. I sin in my thoughts. I make excuses. I lie to myself and others by not being forthright in my answers. I can be prideful and defensive. I care too much about pleasing people vs. God. But all of these are feelings. It can be difficult to catch yourself sinning in an action, reaction, or in the words that actually leave your mouth. So much of what we do is so commonplace, we don’t even see it as sin.

A sin that I recently caught myself doing (by the grace of God) was lying. Outwardly. When my husband asked me one day how I was doing, I lied and said I was fine. But I wasn’t. I lied because I didn’t want to engage in a conversation with him. I was too tired. I also sinned by not taking care of myself. I excuse my lack of exercise and healthier eating habits because they require discipline. I want MY own way.

I also sinned by retreating from my family to be left alone, to read or surf the internet. In short, I wasted time. I wasted precious time the Lord has given me to enjoy the gifts (my family) He has given me because I placed my needs first.

Our greatest work is faith—choosing to believe. In hard times, do we believe that God is present and faithful? Am I equipping myself to put my sin to death? Are you equipping yourself? How do we do this?

Consider the beautiful words of Psalm 1, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers” (Psalm 1:1-3 NIV).

We equip ourselves to see and deal with our sin by meditating on the Lord and His Word. Moment by moment. This is challenging and goes back to the question that gave me the Smaug moment—do I care? I pray God’s grace will allow me to care more about Him than wasting time alone or by prompting me next time to be forthright with my husband in a loving way. It’s a process, but a process worth fighting for. I pray and ask for grace to care, for myself and for you.

Growing in Grace

The Best Use of Time

We just began a new Bible Study after a summer break. For me, the accountability of being in a weekly study is necessary because I can easily veer off course.  I have great intentions of following a reading plan and journaling, but I find that days go by and I haven’t even opened my Bible. Structure, accountability, and encouragement from other believers are all means of God’s grace that help me keep my commitment to stay in the Word.

As I write this, I am aware that my thoughts and feelings are not necessarily aligned. I recognize intellectually that Bible Study is necessary for my relationship with the Lord, and I want that to continue to grow, but my selfish heart feels differently. 

The truth is, my flesh, my sin nature, enjoyed having extra time to myself during the summer. The first few weeks after school resumed, I continued to have my Bible Study morning free. I could almost hear the enemy whispering to me, “See how you have enjoyed not having to be anywhere on your regular Bible Study mornings! Hasn’t it felt good to do with your time as you choose?” The enemy uses my weakness to establish sinful routines. I begin to be guilty of wrong thinking, of believing that the time I have is actually my own, and I don’t have to share it.

 The truth is, time is not ours.  It’s not yours, and it’s not mine. It’s God’s. Time is a gift from God, and like all the gifts He give us, we are called to be good stewards with it. 

Our culture teaches us the exact opposite. We are taught to “seize the day.” We are encouraged to work hard, yes, but also to play hard. When it comes to our “down” time, we have t.v., the internet, our phones, books, and any number of activities to distract us from our thoughts, responsibilities, and certainly, the Lord. 

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul said: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph 5:15-17). 

The Bible is very clear that as believers, we are to use our time to advance the Gospel and God’s Kingdom.  Our time on earth is short.  Eternity is forever! That is why Paul counsels the Ephesians to make the best use of time they can, according to God’s will.

Jesus said, “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be” (Matt 6:21). If we guard our unscheduled time and are reluctant to give it up, we treasure it. We also must remember that no one can serve two masters.  (Matt 6:24). As in all matters, we can serve God or we can serve ourselves.

If I truly believe that God is over all things, is completely sovereign, then I believe time is His, not mine.  It is from there I must build my view of my day, hour by hour (sometimes minute by minute!), asking the Lord to lead me and use me according to His will through His day by His grace.

In that context, attending a Bible Study is far more important that running an errand, cleaning, or meeting a friend for coffee. It becomes one of the most important ways I can use the time God has given me.

This is challenging with the constant demands we all have during our days, which is why I constantly need the Lord to realign by priorities to His. Where are some areas you’ve seen this to be a struggle in your own life? Do you have any practical ways that the Lord has helped you put your flesh to death and look to Him when those times come up?

Growing in Grace

 

 

 

 

Celebrating the Triumph of Jesus

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Well, I read the first page of our new lesson this morning and had to stop because these thoughts came immediately to me. Don’t give up! Don’t give in! If we give up, Satan wins. Why are we depressed and despairing when we see our sin? Again I have to confess this must be my pride. My flesh is still deceiving me into thinking there is some good in me apart from Jesus. My flesh is trying to get me to believe Satan’s lies that I’m okay; I’m not as bad as another; I’m not a murderer or thief or a prostitute. Or am I? Or are we? God’s Word says the answer is yes. That is precisely who we are apart from the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Jesus told me if I have hate in my heart that is the same as murder. In fact He says, “and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Mat. 5:22). The book of Hosea is intended to show us who we are, spiritual adulterers. And the Lord says He will not give His glory to another (Isa. 42:8), yet my flesh works like a thief to steal His glory for myself.

This is why the Son of God had to die. This is why royal blood had to be shed! Instead of living in shame, despair, hopelessness — we have to look up and out. “I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psa. 121:1-2). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).

The flesh is one of our mortal enemies. Let’s not grieve any longer that she exists. Instead, let’s celebrate the triumph of Christ on the cross. Our sin has been dealt a mortal blow! “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezek. 36:26). “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” (Eph. 1:13). We have been adopted, chosen by God before the foundation of the world. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide…” (John 15:16). I am exhorting my own soul and hopefully my sisters’ along with me to stop identifying with the flesh. Stop looking within for salvation, hope, goodness, and righteousness! Remember? Charles Spurgeon wrote that there is nothing more deadly than self-righteousness and nothing more hopeful than contrition.

Our God has made a way where there was no way. We were under wrath, justly condemned to death because we are guilty of high treason. But our Judge had mercy. “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities” (Psa. 103:10) because another stepped forward to take our place. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Jesus, out of His great love, willingly endured the wrath of God that we deserve so we could be set free. What will our response be? Continuing to live in the filth of the flesh? Continuing to yell at our children or giving the cold shoulder to our husbands? Continuing to believe the lies of the enemy? Or will we choose by faith to believe the truth of our Savior? It’s not about how we feel. Just because I don’t feel like the Holy Spirit lives in me doesn’t mean it’s not true! “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” God’s Word is true and we have to choose to believe it by grace through faith. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). The Lord has graciously granted us new life. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).

Let’s see this gift anew today. May the love of Christ be our motive from here on out for everything we do and say. May His life, death, and resurrection compel us to turn from our sin and labor to put our flesh to death by the power of the Holy Spirit and no longer live for ourselves but for Him who died for us. “And he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:15).

I love you all. And I know more than anybody that is the grace of God in the life of this introverted, judgmental, prideful, critical, angry, hopeless, and fearful woman (my old self that I must work to put to death). I thank the Lord for bringing us all together! I praise Him that I’m not in this battle alone. We are one body in Christ. “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, Barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all” (Col. 3:11). Praise be to God for His amazing grace. Life can be so terribly hard and heart breaking. But this world is not our home. Christ is now preparing a place for us and He is coming back for us. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). I’m so thankful His mercies are new every morning!

Learning to Live in the Garden of Grace