Saturday, March 30, 2013

More than Easter

As I have been working through Isaiah 53 this week it has really hit me, "Why does this stuff cut me so deep mainly at Easter time?"  Now, don't get me wrong, there are many times I'm just singing along to a song in church or on the radio and it hits me in the gut.  Many times I'll just burst into tears singing along to the music and really thinking about what the words say.  Music is what gets me.

But it is at Easter where this is almost an everyday occurrence.  It is during this time that I can read scripture and be pierced to the very soul.  Why?  Why mostly now?  Doesn't it mean the same thing every single day?  Shouldn't it have the same effect on my heart every time I think of His sacrifice; His blood stained body; His brokenness?

I have really been thinking on this as I have read the words in Isaiah 53, "He was beaten so we could be whole, He was whipped so we could be healed (5b)..... No one cared that He died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream (8b)."  Heart wrenching words, condemnation and guilt.  What a weight to carry, to know He went through this for me.

But yet, most days, it is just something I take for granted.  It isn't something that makes me stop and really feel the weight of the grief and the gratefulness for the salvation every single day.  It is something I take for granted all to often.  This realization bothered me.  It is my new goal.  Every time I sit with Him in prayer or in His Word, or talk about Him with my kids, or thank Him for a small blessing, I am challenging myself to stop and really, truly feel the weight of His sacrifice and the weightlessness of His forgiveness and let it cut me to the core.  More than just at Easter. 

Do you do this too?  Is it easy for you to take this awesome gift for granted?  Do you have any tricks or triggers to help you remember to really take it all in; to let it effect you more deeply?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Prophesy and Falling in Love

Please pardon my absence for the last couple of weeks.  I really have been reading my Bible, but I have kind of slacked on my journaling.  Not sure why.  Just needed a break from my computer for a little bit I think.  But I always seem to get more out of what I read if I process through talking to someone about it, and since I don't have someone at my house to chat with (on an adult level that is) on a daily basis during my quiet times, typing it out on here pretending to talk to someone works.

So, after chatting with my friend last week on what I had been reading, she shared that she had just read Isaiah 53, which is a fabulous chapter of the Bible on the prophesy of Jesus.  I usually steer clear of Isaiah, minus some of my favorite verses and chapters, because it is mostly prophesy, aka confusing to me.  But 53 is pretty easy to break apart because we have the clear answers in the New Testament and since it is the week before Easter, I thought this chapter would be very fitting to read.

Hang in there.  Like I said, I am not much of one for figuring all this stuff out so I'll just be stumbling through.

I love the second part of verse 2:  There was nothing beautiful or majestic about His appearance, nothing to attract us to Him.  When you think about falling in love with someone, usually the first thing to happen is visual attraction.  Granted, this isn't always true, but for the most part it is pretty typical.  But, Isaiah tells us here that there was nothing to cause us to be attracted to Jesus initially.  He looked just like anyone else and didn't gain attention through His looks.  He gained attention by what He did.

We love Jesus because of what He did for us, the love He gave to us, and the hope He places in our hearts.  Oh, there are so many more reasons we love Jesus; His Word, His promise, His peace.  The list could go on and on.  But none of them have to do with anything on how He looks.  When your heart is so full of love from Him and for Him, He already is majestic and beautiful.  I can think of nothing more attractive than seeing His face on the day I join Him in glory.  Just the thought of it brings tears to my eyes. 

But thankfully, it is His love that attracts us to Him and not His looks because we all know how things end up when you base a relationship the other way around.  I am pretty sure I am nothing special to look at compared to the beautiful and majestic things He sees everyday, but He knows my heart and finds it beautiful as well.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sucked In

Today Jude talks about teh dangers of fellowship with non-Christians, even those who attend church events.  He is talking about those who claim to be believers but abuse God's grace to let themselves believe they can do whatever they want and they will be forgiven for it. 

These people would still attend large dinners held before communions and turn them into big parties rather than a time of healthy fellowship.  Jude warns of the dangers that could come from being with these people, basically saying they could take you down with their sinking ship; suck you in to their dangerous way of life.

It is easy for us to get trapped in the same type of relationships today as well.  Perhaps parents of children in your kids' classes, people from your children's activities or even people at church who might not be saved.  They might be people we want to get to know better.  They might be people we find very fun and interesting and really want to be friends with.

The hard part comes when you like the people and want to spend time with them, but have to be careful on not getting sucked into the habits they might have that would not be pleasing to God.  However,  you can't completely ignore and not spend time with non-Christian friends.  If we lived like that, how would we ever further the kingdom.  So there is a fine line.  You must be alert and guard your heart around people who might 'suck you in' to bad practices.  Ask God to give you the strength needed to stay strong and be the example these friends might need in their lives.  Let Him use you as a life-style witness to them by your actions and loving heart.

It is a hard calling.  One that can get you mocked and teased because you refrain from things they might not see as a problem, but let them notice the difference and wonder what it is.  Hopefully, they will see the light that difference brings to your life and will give you the opportunity to share just what it is. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Thinking on Grace

Last time, I posted on what Jude was telling his letter receivers in vs 4 about abusing the grace given to them by God, by thinking it was a "get out of jail free" card to do whatever they pleased.  Jude goes on to warn them about what has happened to others in the past with these very same thoughts.  People like Sodom and Gomorrah, fallen angels, and the unfaithful of Israel.  Not good things.

So it got me to thinking on grace.  Definitely something not to be taken for granted and there are so many ways that we all do it.  Sure, we might not be Sodom and Gomorrah, or in prison, or thieves, or fill in this blank with a terrible sin, but we all sin.  We all require grace and we all take it for granted. 

Perhaps, personally, we don't do anything quite as 'bad' as what Jude is addressing, but we do it nonetheless.  For example, speeding.  God asks us all to follow the laws set by our government and the speed limit is one of those laws.  However, most of us break it on a daily basis and don't think of it as any big deal, but it is truly sin.  How often to I take His grace for granted when I am driving?  Way too much, and this is just one small example.  Thankfully, I can confess my sins, and God who is faithful and just will forgive my sins and cleanse me from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).  But if I do not identify it as sin and keep on doing it, I am no better than those Jude is addressing.

On the flip side, we often discredit God's grace by not extending it to others and ourselves in a manner worthy of Christ.  This blog from Jen Hatmaker says it much more eloquently than I ever could, so I highly recommend checking it out.  Here are a few snippets just to share:

"More grace.

This just might heal the world, mend relationships, sooth our inner turmoil. It could grease the machine of humanity and keep it running rather than grinding to a halt, stalled out for lack of mercy. It reminds us we are brothers and sisters, not demigods over one another. It is the way Jesus came, and it is precisely what saved our souls."

"We will show grace to ourselves, because how dare we rob our transformed hearts of the mercy Jesus won for us already."

My friends, we need to honor Christ and the sacrifice He made to give us this grace by extending it to ourselves and others more freely.  We are such critics and grumps sometimes it is depressing.  He knew we would continue to screw up and need Him all the time.  It is why He reminded us in 2 Cor 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

So use His amazing grace but don't abuse it.  Don't make grace a tool to fit your life when it suits you and ignored when you are having a bad day.  It is a gift from God (For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.  Eph 2:8).  It is not to be exploited when you want a free ticket and it isn't to be ignored when we really need it ourselves or to extend it to others.

Grace, if used in the way Christ intended, is a fabulous gift to give and receive.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Importance of a Letter

Verse 3 of Jude tells us that Jude was originally planning on writing this letter about salvation to fellow believers, but after hearing news of an infiltration of ungodly people in the church he decided to write about defending the faith itself.

This fact got me thinking, "Why didn't he just write about both?"  Well, he might have eventually, but it was this letter that was inspired by God and chosen by Him to be included in the Bible.  In our day and age it is so easy to fire off a quick 'letter' and have it be received within seconds, if done by email and just a matter of days if done by postal services.  In Jude's day, I am guessing it took weeks and even months for letters to be delivered depending upon the distance they had to travel, so Jude had to carefully consider what topic needed to be addressed.

The importance of this letter is far-reaching.  If you read on, it talks about how many people in the church are claiming to be Christians, but living their lives however, they please.  They think that God's grace allows them to commit innumerable sins and they will just be ignored.  While God's grace does cover any sin and any number of sin, it is far from a "get out of jail free card" to give you an excuse to be able to commit the sin itself.  True forgiveness requires a repentance of the sin, and this is not how the people of the church Jude was addressing were living. 

This book speaks volumes about people who know the story of Christ and believe it to be true, but forget about the relationship with Christ that is required for true salvation.  In true salvation, the believer is so grateful for the sacrifice made, that it causes a life-change in the person who believes.

But it also gives me another thought to how I might continue to live in sin and take God's grace for granted in my own life.  While I may not commit sins easily identified by others I often sin in more "socially acceptable" ways, but to God they are still sin and seen just the same.  It is important that I identify these sins and do my best to repent of them and not go back so as to take the grace He has given me for granted.

Hmmm.  Looks like I'll be spending some time in prayer.  :)

I am looking forward to digging in a little farther to what Jude shares on this matter!

Friday, March 1, 2013

More and More

I finished up 3 John and am moving into Jude.  Yesterday I read up on what Jude is all about, who he is and all that jazz.  I am fully prepared for a "hellfire and brimstone" type of writing from Jude and it excites me.  I think I will thoroughly enjoy what I find in this book.

Starting off in the first few verses today I really enjoyed his wish for the readers of his letter.  Vs. 2 says "May God give you more and more mercy, peace and love.

More and more.  Not just give them to you, not just give you more, but give you more and more.  To me, this shows the importance of these attributes in Christian life.  From reading the overview of Jude, I find that he is all about living out the faith and keeping it strong, and these are the things he wishes for his readers.

Seems to me they might be kind of important.

Mercy:  compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one's power, 2. the disposition to be compassionate or forbearing: an adversary wholly without mercy,  3.  the discretionary power of a judge to pardon someone or to mitigate punishment, 4. an act of kindness, compassion, or favor, 5. something that gives evidence of divine favor; blessing.

We could all use and give a little more mercy.

Peace: a state of mutual harmony between people or groups, especially in personal relations, 2. the normal freedom from civil commotion and violence of a community; public order and security, 3. cessation of or freedom from any strife or dissension.

We could all use and give a little more peace.

Love: a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person. 2. a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.  3. a person toward whom love is felt; beloved person; sweetheart.

We could all use and give a little more love.

So may you have more and more of all these in your life today as well.

(definitions taken from