Monday, 7 January 2019

Have You Gotten Used to the Goodness of God?



His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.  2 Peter 1:3-4
It really has nothing to do with me.

I am so undeserving.

I mean, I know my heart.

I know my willful, stubborn pride.

I know my slothfulness, my quest for ease.

I know my inconsistent attempts to be good.

Yet…

It is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul - It Is Well With My Soul hymn

Despite the corruption that is in the world... in me, I’ve been miraculously rescued, and my soul is nestled securely in my Saviour’s loving arms.

That truth knocks me right out of my senses.

Leaves me speechless, dumbfounded, amazed.

If I were to keep that truth always before me…

If I were to live amazed

I would be so much more grateful, so much more humble and so much more merciful.

My life would be a song.

A sweet, melodious song of praise to my Saviour, one that warmly attracts others into the safety of the nest.

But…

I don’t stay amazed.

Not consistently anyway. Not in a way that shows up in my day-to-day.

I become impatient and critical of others just as undeserving as me, because I fail to marvel at the amazing grace my Lord and Saviour extends to me - the chief of sinners.

Sometimes, I steal God’s thunder… secretly crediting myself… my abilities, my efforts for the fruit I see in my life…  because I stop being in awe that the Spirit of the all-powerful Creator chooses to live inside of me - a vessel He has crafted.

Yes, when my ‘I’m-accustomed-to-it’ attitude mixes with a generous helping of ‘I’m-not-so-bad-after-all’, I become ungrateful, whiny, and self-motivated.

And self-motivation, especially at this time of year, can be hazardous.

So, I’m pausing now to pray.


O Lord God, Who Inhabitest Eternity,

The heavens declare thy glory,

The earth thy riches,

The universe is thy temple,
Thy presence fills immensity,
Yet thou hast of thy pleasure created life, and communicated happiness;
Thou hast made me what I am, and given me what I have;
In thee I live and move and have my being;
Thy providence has set the bounds of my habitation,
and wisely administers all my affairs.
I thank thee for thy riches to me in Jesus,
                for the unclouded revelation of him in thy Word,
                where I behold His Person, character, grace, glory,
                humiliation, sufferings, death, and resurrection;
Give me to feel a need of his continual saviourhood,
                and cry with Job, ‘I am vile’,
                with Peter, ‘I perish’,
                with the publican, ‘Be merciful to me, a sinner’.
Subdue in me the love of sin,
Let me know the need of renovation as well as of forgiveness,
                in order to serve and enjoy thee for ever.
I come to thee in the all-prevailing name of Jesus,
with nothing of my own to plead,
no works, no worthiness, no promises.
I am often straying,
                often knowingly opposing thy authority,
                often abusing thy goodness;
Much of my guilt arises from my religious privileges,
                my low estimation of them,
my failure to use them to my advantage,
But I am not careless of thy favour or regardless of thy glory;
Impress me deeply with a sense of thine omnipresence,
                that thou art about my path, my ways, my lying down, my end.
Amen.

I’m using this profound prayer entitled, ‘God the Source of All Good’ taken from ‘The Valley of Vision – A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions’ as a prompt to encourage my heart’s prayer to live amazed.

I want to remain there… to wonder at the incredibleness of it all… to continually marvel at God!

I want to peer into His word and His world, to see and savor the beauty, the goodness, the love, the mercy, the power of the LORD and to live amazed by who He is, what He has done, and what He is doing.

Then…

prayerfully and through His power…

my life can be a sweet song.


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What about you?

Have you gotten used to the goodness of God?
Or do you live amazed?
How would your life… 
your plans, your relationships, your day-to-day 
be different if you lived amazed? 


Grace to you,
Carlie

Please enjoy this special bonus video - 'No Ocean Big Enough - The Beauty of God in the World He Made - John Piper'.

Also sharing today over at #TellHisStory link up. 




Tuesday, 11 December 2018

When Your Peace Is Being Threatened At Christmas




I know God doesn’t want this for me.

Especially not now.

But as I prepare for Christmas… as I put up the tree, make holiday plans and order presents… as I keep trying to focus on the first Christmas… I can’t help but notice the white elephant in the room.

There he sits.

Big and expensive. And his presence is costing me big time.

I feel the tension… the unrest that springs from my ceaseless efforts to remove him… to dress him up or simply to ignore him.

But there he sits.

Big and expensive. Staring at me. Squatting heavily on any dreams of peace I may have.
   
What is your white elephant? It’s okay, most of us have at least one.

I know, you don’t like to acknowledge it, yet alone talk about it, especially at Christmas.

But bear with me. This just might be the best time to address him once and for all.

So, what is it?

Maybe, it’s the helplessness you feel as you watch a loved one make poor life choices… choices likely to cause harm. Your muscles tense and your stomach knots as you wait for the bomb to go off… all the while praying that Light will shine in their darkness.

Or it could be the worry that escalates each time you glance over at the mounting bills, or the uncertain job future.

Maybe it’s the threat of poor health that is stealing your sense of security.

Whatever it may be, strained relationships, financial woes, health concerns, the fear of living in a world gone bad, you just can’t seem to pull your eyes away from your white elephant.

Sometimes, especially at Christmas, you try to pretend he’s not there. I mean, you’ve tried everything, and he won’t budge, so why not try ignoring him.

Sometimes, you try to dress him up with frivolous activities and skin-deep distractions, hoping that with this disguise he won’t look quite so menacing.
   
Yet, no matter what or how much you try… there your white elephant sits… stealthily encroaching on the peace that could be yours.

But God doesn’t want this for us.

Because He came to bring us peace.

That first Christmas, over 2000 years ago, that was what the angels announced.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2:14

The Messiah’s peace… offered to us for all times… in various kinds of troubles and trials… in every situation.

And that wasn’t the last we heard of this offer of peace. When God came to earth and dwelt among us as His Son, Jesus Christ, He would repeatedly remind us of this peace.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
   
Doesn’t that sound wonderful? When you crouch under the weight of trying to move your white elephant, doesn’t rest sound refreshing?

But, you argue, you don’t know the troubles I see. No, I don’t, but Jesus knows.

I have told you these things, so that in me you will have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Yes, He knows our trouble… the white elephant… the pink or grey elephant… all the elephants… all the trouble we lug around and try to push out of the way.

It’s no doubt about it, we will have trouble in this world, but Jesus says take heart!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds, in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

There it is again – peace. The peace offered by God through the Messiah… the Christ… surpassing all human understanding… existing even in the most trying circumstances and… standing guard over our minds and hearts.

Peace!

Even with the white elephant in the room.

Peace!

Even when you don’t know what to do at Christmas.

Peace!

Let’s revisit that invitation:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29

‘Rest for your souls’… aaaahhhh… sounds a lot like peace to me.

So, my friend, that is my plan this Christmas. To simply come to Jesus. 

To fix my eyes on Him. To relish the peace that He gives.

Because I know, this is what He wants for me.


************************

What about you?

Is your Christmas peace being threatened 
by ‘the white elephant in your room’?
How are you handling that?
Are you straining on your own?
Or are you handing it over to God?
I pray as you fix your eyes on Jesus 
and the peace that He brings 
that your Christmas will overflow 
with peace, joy, hope and love.

Grace to you,
Carlie



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Also sharing this post over at Aprons and Pearls link-up and Trekking Thru Link-up and Let's Have Coffee Link-up.  I so enjoyed my visit with them today.



Thursday, 22 November 2018

Why I'm Thankful For The Labels That Challenge My Worth


Bristled.

No, that’s not quite it.

Chafed.

Hmmmm - not that either.

Ruffled. Maybe that’s more like it.

I love words. They are powerful. But sometimes they can be tricky.

I wish I could find the right words to match the muddled, confused soup that was ‘my feelings’ as I stared at the label on the application.

There it was, typed neatly under the box titled ‘Occupation’: housewife.

For me, as a visual person, words in writing carry an extra punch. Compared to their audible counterparts, they embed themselves a little deeper in my mind.

Housewife.

The soup stirred. Prideful flesh was aroused.

I glanced at my husband. I wondered if he could sense it… could see my discomfort.

I bit my tongue… wrestled with the impulse to qualify this label… to explain what else I was doing… to justify why it was enough.

I was determined to win this latest battle in the long, drawn out war on my worth.

I remained calm, said nothing and pushed my pride back down, but as I left the bank and, in the days following, the hard truth sank in – I have a far way to go yet.

You see there are other labels… labels that make my pride jump right up and pay attention. 
And often, with those labels, I don’t squash him down, smug as he is. I allow him to stand tall and strut his stuff.

Even now, I am resisting the urge to tell you what those other ‘finer sounding’ labels are.

It’s like I said, I have a long way to go.

My sense of worth cannot be grounded in my pride’s reaction. One minute it’s up, and I’m smiling, the next it’s down, and I’m frowning. It’s like I’m on a see-saw, and I am getting giddy from the ride.

Yet, I’m thankful for this roller-coaster, especially for the lows. I’m thankful that labels that challenge my sense of worth cause me to stop, examine my heart, and face the truth.

Would you join me as I dig a little deeper? Perhaps we can do this together.

Stop and examine my heart: 

Why do labels hold such power over me? Why are they so intrinsically linked to my worth… to my usefulness or importance?

Why do some labels cause me to bristle while others cause me to strut?

Whose labels affect me the most? And why?

There are labels that I pin on myself. Some are pleasant, others not so much.

There are the labels that others offer me. These can be weighty. But I get to choose which ones I wear. The choosing is not easy but it's a snap when compared to living out my choices.

And then, there are the labels that God uses to describe me. God – the same One who made me – who knows all about me. Perhaps, I should choose His.

But, whose labels do I really attach to my heart?

Now, it's time for the results of my self-examination. How's yours coming? 

Face the truth:

Labels hold power over me because in my mind they reflect my doing… my doing reflects my performance… my performance reflects my worth in the world’s eyes… okay, to be honest… sometimes, even in my eyes.

And don’t we all long to be worthy? To be significant? Important? Not passed over?

‘If I’m not doing enough, I’m not enough’ - my pride chides me as he wrangles to pick the best labels.

So, we rack up the labels… the prettier sounding the better… the longer the list the sweeter. We write in, erase, check again, to get it right. Labels define us.

In those moments, when I find myself caught once again in a battle for my worth, I’m reminded that the labels I often choose to define my life... to define me... are my labels, others’ labels but not God’s.

‘See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!’ 1 John 3:1a

Child of God

The only label that truly defines me - not based on what I’ve done, what I am doing or what I can do, but wholly on what my God has done to draw me close.

As I meditate on this label given to me by God himself, I’m reminded that it’s all about Him, not me... not me in my weakness, nor me in my might.

I’m reminded to shift my focus to my God, His love, His death in my place, His indwelling presence that guides me.

And I’m reminded to wear this label proudly, confidently, and thankfully because He is worthy.

'Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.' Psalm 145:3

Thankful.

Again, not quite the right word. But it’s a start.

In this long, drawn out war for my worth, I am so thankful for the truth that brings me victory.

**********************

What about you?

Do labels hold more power over you than you would like to admit?

Have you chosen labels for others that affect how you treat them?

God's word is filled with many labels for His children. 
Which one is your favorite?
Which one impacts your life the most?

Child of God… three ‘small’ words… one powerful label.

Let those words sink deep into your heart today… 
ponder them… chew on them… live them out.


Grace to you,

Carlie


Today, I'm thrilled to share this link over at lylidunbar.com for her #FaithonFire link up.


Thursday, 1 November 2018

What If God Listens the Way I Do?


I am a good listener.

At least that’s what my pride told me.


And I believed it for a long time.

Even when it was clearly no longer true.

To be fair, I used to be a good listener.

I had learned the sacrifice well… had honed the skill and enjoyed the rewards.

But then, I got lazy.

I got selfish…

Well, to be honest, I am always selfish, but I allowed my selfishness to take over.

My ‘me-ness’ rose to the surface, refused to be kept down, demanded its time…

And I stopped listening well.

It started off slowly…

Not giving my full attention while listening to my family…

Not taking the time to listen to those within my circle – those in need of sacrificial listening.

But then the disease spread to my walk with God.

I would read His word yet quickly forget the truths found within.

You could tell it in the way I lived.

Not convinced.

Not fully accepting who He said He is, what His intentions are, who He says I am, and how He longs for me to respond.

Instead of being quick to listen, I was often painfully slow.

Even worse, I loitered in acting on His word.

What if God listens the way I do?

What if He becomes too distracted with all the thoughts in His mind to pay full attention to me… to us? 

What if His sovereignty over His creations - this world... this universe kept Him so busy that He had no or very little time for me?

What if I was dying for Him to hear me, but He was unwilling to sacrifice the time… the attention… the love that listening requires?

What if…?

But then the thought crashes in…

Who am I that God should listen to me?
‘Do I, a mere mortal made from a handful of dirt, dare open my mouth again to my Master?’ Genesis 18:27b
I am reminded of my frailty… my unworthiness… my ‘filthy rags’ and I wonder…

How can it be?

How can I… in all my sin and shame… even consider the thought of approaching the Lord of all this earth - the Lord enthroned in all-surpassing holiness - and expect that He will listen to me?

Yet, I am assured that He does listen –

‘The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on Him in truth.’ Psalm 145:18 
‘Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’ Jeremiah 29:12

I don’t even have to speak the words for Him to hear.

Have you ever been there? Carrying a burden so large, desperately wanting to talk, but not being able to find the words - God listens even then.

‘Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.’ Psalm 139:4

And my unworthiness… my unrighteousness doesn’t even block the way, for I am assured that as a child of God, Christ’s righteousness flings open the doors for me.

‘Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.’ Romans 5:1-2a 

‘Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.’ Hebrews 4:16

Did you get that?

Access to God.

Approach with confidence.

Receive mercy.

Find grace.

When I ponder these precious truths, they pierce my soul… bring me to my knees… and infuse me with a renewed desire.

A desire to be still…

‘Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God.’ Job 37:14b
A desire to be slow to speak…

‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ Psalm 46:10

A desire to listen…

‘Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me; for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.’ Psalm 25:4-5

To listen wholeheartedly to the One who incredibly listens to my heart, my thoughts, my words and to savor my time with Him.

And when I listen, I hear His heart.

I hear…

His desire for me to sacrifice my time, my attention, my love, my prideful hunger to be heard… 

His desire for me to reflect His listening heart to those He places in my path...

His desire for me to be a good listener.


What about you?

When last did you consider the amazing truth that God listens to you?

Does this truth motivate you to be a better listener?

Which is your favorite ‘listening’ scripture?

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Monday, 15 October 2018

How I Get Back Up When My Mirror Tears Me Down



Have you ever walked past a store window, caught a glimpse of your reflection and gasped? In silent confusion you wonder, ‘What? When did that happen?’

Ever had one of those moments? When you realize that you don’t look the way you imagined you did.

Well, it happened to me recently, and I’m still recovering from the shock.

No, it’s not what you think. It wasn’t a physical mirror depicting an older, less fit me that startled me. Instead, it was the mirror of my peers.

Someone… not just anyone… but someone close to me used the word ‘irritable’ to describe me. It was a quick, off-the-cuff remark, but I felt it like a punch to the gut. I took it like a big girl, but the ache lingered long.

‘Irritable?’ How come I didn’t see that when I looked in the mirror?

Yea, I know that sometimes I’m a bit grouchy after nine at night, especially when sleep is pulling me under. Everyone close to me knows that – it’s just how I am. My family accepts that, I think.

Or, sometimes I can be a little impatient with negative or judgmental people. I mean, their infectious negativity floods my spirit and drains me.

Do you hear it? The way I try to justify my ‘irritability’? The way that my pride has sneaked in and convinced me that this ‘little’ sin is justifiable and acceptable.

What about you? 
Do you also sometimes feel justified in what you do because of circumstances that happen to you, things others have done to you or even the ‘bad’ genes you’ve inherited? 
Like me, can you too easily explain away the sin in your life? 

It seems my battle with pride never goes away. Just when I think I have it mastered, it raises its ugly head. Here it was masquerading as my mirror, acting like a veil blocking the real mirror of my soul - the word of God.

As a Christian, my desire is to reflect the love of God… to let His light shine through me in this dark world. And God instructs me in His word to not merely hear the word but to do it. As a servant of Christ, that is my joy-filled obligation.

Yet, here I was being told that I really wasn’t doing such a great job... that my desire and my actions didn’t match up well. I long to reflect Christ, but what others are really seeing is the me that stands in the way.

It seems like the ‘me’ in me often takes over and blocks Christ out of the way. And even worse, the ‘me’ feels completely justified in doing so. It’s ‘just the way I am’ I lie to myself.

It’s the age-old battle of the flesh vs the spirit.

I hang my head in shame. Once again, I’ve let God down.  

With my bruised pride, I wonder how to approach Him yet again with the same old failure.
I’m tired of this cycle, and I know now that I’m not strong enough to break it. So, God is teaching me how to love when He bruises my pride.

To be honest, I don’t love it at first, it’s humiliating, embarrassing and downright painful.
I feel like a failure… like I’m really bad at… well, in this case, I’m really bad at being really good for God.

Wait, hang on one minute, is that what it means to be a Christian? That I must be really good in order to please God.

It is then I breathe a sigh of relief. I exhale the lies before they consume me and inhale the grace of God.

And once again, He patiently guides me on a journey from bruised pride to the sweet harvest of a closer walk with Him.

It’s not always an easy journey, okay, it’s never an easy journey, but it is so worth it. Over time, be it minutes or months, God gently leads me from bruised pride to humility, through complete confession and genuine repentance, to a fuller dependence on Him in my daily walk.

It starts with remembering that it’s all about God, not me.

Not my ability, but God’s. Not my light, but His.

It’s all about Him and His grace.

 ‘Do you think the scriptures say without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why scripture says, God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.’ James 4:5-6,10


Once I accept my weakness, I open myself up to accept more grace. 

Did you get that? ‘He gives us more grace’, but sometimes we refuse to receive it. Sometimes, in our pride, we attempt to live a victor’s life by relying on our own ability rather than His grace, and then we beat ourselves up when we can’t keep up. But I can’t do it; I need help. So, I adjust my posture, bow low before Him, admit my sin, and humbly ask for and receive His help.

Then I arm myself with the only weapon of offence proven to be successful in this battle – the sword of the spirit – the word of God.

When I’m tempted to follow my own selfish desires… to be irritable or easily offended… to justify my grumbling or complaining… to give in to the prideful ‘me’ that tries to enslave me...

Or when, I’m cowering in the shadows, feeling ashamed that I’ve failed yet again…

For whichever temptation or lie of the enemy I’m facing, I can fight back with the truth of God’s word.



And that, my friends, is how I get back up when my mirror tears me down. That is the sword I’m choosing to fight with.

Yep, on my own, I fail to reflect Christ. But God has promised that he will complete the good work that He has started in me (Philippians 1:6), and I’m taking Him at His word.

I may not be there yet, but there is hope. God reminds me that I’m saved by grace. Empowered to do His will. I can get back up, receive the grace God continually gives me and share it willingly as I reflect Him to a world of people just like me… people in desperate need of His saving grace.

What about you? 

Which sins keep pulling you back down? 
How are you choosing to battle them?
Take heart, my friend, 
you can get back up 
and fight.