Archive | Grace, Truth, and Love RSS for this section

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

I have often wondered, at various times in my life, if I was made for more than the ways of this world.  As a child I had been sexually abused.  I’ve lived through things that I never would thought I was capable of, and I’m much less afraid than I used to be.  I’ve realized there is a strength within, a reason worth fighting for.  I realized I am fearfully and wonderfully made, by Him, for so much more.

The word ‘fearfully’ means heart-felt interest and respect. The word ‘wonderfully’ means to be unique, and set apart. There is a great love and concern that goes into our uniqueness and being individually created in His image. According to Scripture, we are of great importance!  We all have a purpose.

I’m just an ordinary person with wanting a heart to try and focus on God.  The last couple of years I’ve been desiring to seek His purpose for me so that I may be used for Him. I feel God wants me to grasp the wonder of His love and grace.  To know how real His  involvement in my life is, even when I think He is not near, so that I may do this task that is set before me.

It clearly states in Philippians that God works in us for His pleasure.  The Word of God tells us that we have been given favor from the Lord, it’s our inheritance as a child of God (Psalm 5:12).

I know that I’ve been guilty of not always putting Him first…even before my own family.  At one time, I  placed many on a pedestal above Him; but, no longer.  I now know that I’m indebted to Him, that He has forgiven my debts, and that He has brought me into a new life with Him.  I have become part of His family…the family of God.

My church had a conference this past fall about the family.  Skip Ryan was the speaker. He said that the family becomes a place where we learn the purpose of our lives.  It becomes the first place where we learn of who we are.  He was referring of being a part of God’s family.  The key to all we are and to be understood is within the family.

Of course, we learn a lot from our biological families as well.  I’m thankful to have met a man that I married and began a family with.  I have been blessed in many ways; but, especially with my three  children.  They are all three very unique with many God-given qualities and talents.  They have taught me so much about life, and how very thankful I am for the opportunity to be called, “Mom”.

I’m thankful that I’m a part of the family of God, as well as my own family.  We are joint heirs with Jesus. Admittedly, I’m not always close to either families; but, I’m thankful to be a part of both.

Within our families each of us has been given a unique and individual purpose that cannot fail if we will cast off fear and stop listening to the lies of failure, doom and gloom and all the negativity that the devil has been beating us up with. Regardless of our past and our shortcomings!  Why? Because it is God ordained – that’s why. And besides that, Romans 11:29 tells us: “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” He’s given this to us and He will never take it back.

There is no difference who you are.  Grace is for everyone in the family.

One thing that I’ve learned is that within our families, there is hope!  Jesus is our hope!  Jesus is God’s gift to sinners!  The plans and purposes of God are set in motion for a reason…to give us a future and a hope, so that we can be a blessing to our families, or others.

Despite the complexity of families, we should invest time in her members…not taking for granted how much time God has fashioned us to be individuals that have been created for His purpose.  We are all unique and bring a different gift to the family. God would not go to the trouble of creating us, if He did not have a purpose for the family. We have been fearfully and wonderfully made to be individuals within the family of God to do His purpose.  Praise His wonderful name!

For you formed my inward parts;  you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.  How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!  How vast is the sum of them!” ~ Psalm 139: 13-17

Stop…in the Name of Love!

Domestic Violence is an abuse like no other. This type of abuse affects all involved. If there is violence in the home, the whole family is involved.  In honor of those who have suffered from domestic violence, my plea is stop…in the name of love

There are many people who can’t deal with the reality of their behaviors. They distort the truth to serve their self. There are a few who have no concern for others well-being, and will do whatever it takes to manipulate the situation.

Some people tend to hide their problems very well. They live an emotionally empty life creating situations to serve their own needs. Some want to come across as “good” people, yet behind closed doors they may become hurtful to others. But those on the outside don’t always see what’s going on behind closed doors; thus, causing further problems leading to some confusion.

After a while it becomes hard to distinguish what is real from what’s being distorted.  Those who suffer begin to doubt their reality and question whether or not they are crazy, or whether the other person is really right about what they say. Due to my past sexual abuse, I could also be one to distort reality…especially if I thought I might be abandoned, or become vulnerable.

The truth is…they, as well as myself, are not always right!

Some people don’t exhibit the volatile extreme emotions.  They are calm and quiet for the most post part.  They “seem” unmoved by the feelings of others…even if they really care about others. This also “seems” that they may not be fulfilled by the relationships within their lives. This may leave them with the feeling of being empty: thus, trying to fill their lives with behaviors that are not always acceptable. Others exude extreme emotions; wearing them on their sleeves when they are easily upset.  I fall into the later category.

Most behaviors originate from an extreme emotion triggered by fear, or lack of confidence. I know that with my own fears of abandonment, I can easily hurt the very people I care about.  I have  periods of remorse, deep regret, and shame for my extreme behaviors.  Most people, who hurt others, usually feel some type of remorse…of course there are those who do not seem to show any. Sometimes this period of remorse is called the “Honeymoon” period.

This period often has the feeling that there may be hope, and encouragement.  Then during other periods, there may be extreme agitation, that is often intensified by the lack of self confidence, or fear of not having expectations met.  Sometimes people come across as not being empathetic…especially toward another. The perception is that there is no real problem; thus, there is no need to work on any relationships.

Domestic violence is an often “smoothed over” in families today, and Christian families are not immune to its “flaming darts”. The warning signs can be hidden or disregarded.

In Proverbs 26 it says, “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘I am only joking!’…The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body…Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips and harbors deceit in his heart; when he speaks graciously, believe him not, … A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin.

Many may regret  hanging on, or trying to stay in a relationship, especially when it may be debilitating. The reality is that abuse hurts, no matter who you are, or how old you are. It destroys you from the inside out, and cuts away at how you believe in yourself…your very core.  There is a realization that one may face that there is no escape from the abuse without giving up a huge part of one’s life. Some put up with attacks before retreating to safety. Alcohol/substance abuse can elevate attacks.  There comes a time when too long is…way too long.

When a relationship gets really bad, they can drain us. And while we all want to be faithful within our relationships, we can really get ourselves in a bind by “sticking” with a harmful situation too long. We begin not to have enough strength left to help ourselves…much less our family.  We may become ill, or very irritable from lack of sleep.  Anxiety takes over eventually leading to despair if help is not received. When faced with domestic violence, many seek guidance and solace within their faith.

People have a desire to be faithful within relationships. But it is really important to be realistic about our own strength.  The problem is that leaving is hard. The thought of the ending of a dream as a reality is painful.  Being faithful can be tiring. In fact, one may not have enough strength to leave…if it comes down to it. Repeated “fight and flight” responses to self, or another, is tiring, and might need some extra reserves just to make it through the day. Decisions that are best made for the relationship can be quite painful and draining as well.

For the abused they often feel abandoned by God. Christians often feel compelled to stay in abusive relationships because they don’t understand the scripture where it talks about submissiveness.  Sometimes a church leader may strongly encourage the victim not to give up on the abuser; thus, they feel the need to remain in the relationship for fear of breaking covenant.  One seriously has to look ahead to the message that is trying to be conveyed.

The message is clear.  The victim got into the situation because of desiring to be loved.  Instead of looking for love from people; Love must be looked for in God–the One who loves us unconditionally.  God is love!  Put your trust and love in God.  He will never fail!

…the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God .”  ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Love comforts us!  The Lord sympathizes with us.  He knows what it was like to suffer needlessly at the hands of others.  Because of this, we are allowed to “…approach the 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

Abused people are usually able to find strength in their faith and/or community. If they are comfortable doing so, they may talk to their religious leaders about their situations.  If asked by the victim, spiritual support should be given.  Be encouraging to one another.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  ~ Hebrews 10:24-25

As a religious community, it is important to have some knowledge on domestic violence issues.  Pastors could use the pulpit as a way to educate the congregation of such issues.  It’s important not to offer poor advice for a member’s situation. Sometimes advising to stay with an abuser to keep the family intact at all costs may cause more, or unnecessary, damage to the relationship(s) and sometimes safety problems.  It is good advice from religious community to suggest seeking couples counseling  from a trained professional.

There is so much madness that goes on behind the scenes.  Verbal and emotional abuse can cause much anxiety within the victim and possibly family members.  There are many horror stories of physical and sexual abuse that tags along with the previous mentioned abuses.  For some there is no way out…except by death: either being the victim of someone’s abuse, or suicide to get out.  It’s important to become educated on signs of domestic violence, and what to do.  I pray that the religious community will get involved, and that be one of the first things to do.  Even if only praying, and acting as encouragement, is all the religious community can do…that would be a blessed start and most welcomed.

Stop in the name of Love!  Stop the madness of abuse.  Become educated.   Learn of God’s unconditional love that He has for the brokenhearted.  Learn how He will renew and restore  broken hearts.  He gives strength to the weak, and rest to the weary.  Seek Him and He will open the door to healing.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  ~ 2Corinthians 4:16-18

I Am More Than a Broken Girl. I’ve Survived.

I was sexually abused growing up as a child; BUT, I am more than a broken girl.  I’ve survived.  I’m a child of God; therefore, I’m not who I used to be!

There’s a verse in Proverbs that says, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son,but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”  This text was originally written in Hebrew.  There have been many different translations, and much interpretation; but, in this case discipline was meant to teach or guide, and it was not supposed to be used as a punishment.

I was often “disciplined” by my step father; but, looking back…it was definitely a punishment and not really a “teaching” moment.  His way of disciplining varied from speaking harsh words that I was worthless, to physically hitting me, and he often sexually degraded me.  I never really knew which form of discipline I would be receiving; therefore, I was constantly on edge.

The anxiety that I experienced as a child was often due to the fear of punishment.  My thoughts would be when would my step father come again?  What have I done to deserve this?  Will I ever be good enough to warrant praise?  I thought I must be very bad to be so punished.  I would often feel guilty for upsetting him enough to do such things.  I would associate feelings of guilt with being punished.  Even today, I may apologize for something that I did not do (although I do lots of things that need apologizing for).

Child sexual abuse is the use of sexual behavior in a way to control the behaviors, or actions, of a child.  Sexual abuse acted upon a child can have lasting effects that can carry through to adulthood.  One of the main reasons is that the victim keeps the abuse quiet, and does not tell anyone.  In a child’s mind, if there are no witnesses…who is going to believe them?

Sexual abuse can be quite confusing to a child especially when the one who is doing the abusing is supposed to be doing the loving and protecting.  It’s a harsh reality and confusing when this takes place.

Looking back, I would say that no one really knew I was being abused.  I had bruises, and when others asked me about them…I would just say that I got them playing sports…or I fell down.  I feared being found out which could lead to more potential pain.

My step father had ways to keep me quiet.  He told me I was worthless, that I was tainted, and that no one would want me.  This caused a great fear of  abandonment within me that I still have trouble with today–when I get depressed.  Many feelings have remained with me stuck in the back of my mind.  It is a sick situation–fearing that no one will want me, like me, or that I will have a spouse to take care of me.  It’s a horrible feeling!

My step father said he would beat me up if I told anyone, and since he already hit me…I did not tell anyone.  I seriously did not give out the gory details until my pastor and his wife recommended a book called “The Wounded Heart” by Dan Allender.

It has been three years this month (October) since I began that life changing journey.  I was afraid, even as old as I was, to tell my heinous secrets from my past.  I was living in darkness hoping no one would find out.  The problem was that my secret was beginning to take root inside of me and weeds were beginning to grow.  I was letting the darkness consume me.  The lies I had heard for most of my life were turning me into a sad, broken girl.

I know I have mentioned this before; but my pastor, Tom Gibbs, once told me that, “By giving into the fear of darkness, it will only compound the pain and evil of what has already happened.  By you keeping things hidden it will gain power over you.  Remember, that God is Light and there is no darkness in Him.”

The Urban Dictionary has two definitions for a broken girl.  A broken girl (lower case) is a girl that has tattoos that show or unconventional piercings. The bigger, or more of them, the more broken she is.  A Broken Girl (capital letters) is a term the redwings use to describe a girl who… is not reputable to tell any of your friends about at all and no one would want to know about.

To me, I felt as if I was the broken girl defined.  I had been told I was worthless.  I felt as if I were a disgrace.  I felt misunderstood.  There are days I still feel like this…of course from my own doing.  On occasion I have a little help from others; but, for the most part…it’s just the lies of my past.

Matthew West has an amazing album out.  He took stories from other people’s lives and he wrote songs about them.  His album, and tour, is called “Story of  Your Life”.  He did a great job writing theses songs about various experiences, and tied them to how God loves us.  Some stories were of praises, and some not.   There is one particular song that he wrote about a broken girl, and it was very real to me.  The good news is that he talks about the Good News.  Matthew talks about how God is Love… figuratively and literally in this song. He says that Love sees us differently.  Love sees beauty, and He can’t be taken away from the broken girl.  Matthew’s words struck a chord with me, and here are part of the lyrics of a “Broken Girl”:

Look what he’s done to you
It isn’t fair
Your light was bright and new
But he didn’t care
He took the heart of a little girl
And made it grow up too fast

Now words like “innocence”
Don’t mean a thing
You hear the music play
But you can’t sing
Those pictures in your mind
Keep you locked up inside your past

This is a song for the broken girl
The one pushed aside by the cold, cold world
You are
Hear me when I say
You’re not the worthless they made you feel
There is a Love they can never steal away
And you don’t have to stay the broken girl

Those damaged goods you see
In your reflection
Love sees them differently
Love sees perfection
A beautiful display
Of healing on the way tonight
Tonight

Like Matthew, I want to reiterate that God is Love.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:7

God loves those who are crushed in spirit.  One of my homework assignments when I first met with the Gibbs’ at their home, was to find verses where it said that God loved me.  I found out that I was His Beloved.  I learned lots of things that I had never known.  No one had really taken an interest in me spiritually since I was 16…this was 30 years later.  A lot had happened over those years.  A heart became hardened.  Roots of bitterness were taking over.

I had to make some changes, and quick.   Tom also told me that I must learn to let Jesus love me, and I must love Him in return.  If I don’t do this…it will be impossible for Him to pull my weeds and replace them with flowers.  I have really come far despite my abuse and lack of knowing a lot about the Good News; but, I can cultivate a bigger garden if I let God help me.

I will say that I did question God, in the beginning of my journey, why I had to be naked and exposed?  No child should have to experience this kind of pain alone.  God revealed to me that I was not alone.   He was with me.  Christ suffered with me, and for me. The difference when Christ suffered for me was that I was in the crowd.  I was the one of the ones who shamed Christ.  I pinned him down with my sins.  I was the one who caused His suffering and the exposing of His naked body.  Jesus took my shame.  He did it all for me. The truth is that Christ suffered for me, He showed me grace, and now he gives me hope.

I am more than a broken girl.  I’ve survived.  I have lived through things I never would thought I was capable of, and it was all because of Christ.  His Love has helped me to discover that I’m worth fighting for, and He has given me strength to survive. Christ is healing me, pulling my weeds out to make a beautiful garden.  I am a child of God.  I’m not who I used to be.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. ~ Psalm 147:3

Grace To You…and Me, Too.

I  have a page on Facebook for Grace Desired.  There are many who come and share their feelings or prayer requests on Grace Desired. My intent is not to point this person out.  I feel much the same way at times.  The point is to know that we are His Beloved and saved by His grace.

This was a post I got this morning  from one of my friends of Grace Desired (on Facebook).  The comment was:

       “It was someone who promised ‘Grace’ that abused me worst! …. grace2u! from ‘Grace Early’! Would love to receive grace but I only find condemnation!”

My heart hurts for my friend.  I’m totally empathetic and sympathetic toward how they feel. I totally understand how they feel.  I’m not a counselor; but, this was my response and prayer to my friend  this morning before going to work:

There is no condemnation through Christ…only people condemn. The  Good News is that Christ walked amongst us wearing sandals (as a human); but, He was no ordinary human.  I’m sorry that you feel condemned. I can’t say that others have not made me feel that way as well. Sometimes I, myself, have caused such feelings–even within myself. I’m not saying that you have caused that; but, I know my own behaviors. There are lots of people, including Christians (which I am), who condemn others…or falsely accuse…without knowing the whole story or being empathetic toward other’s pain. We are human! God never promised that bad things would not happen to good people. He said that He would forgive us and give us rest. Our “true”rest will not come until the day of Heaven. I am definitely lifting you up in prayer, as well as many others who visit this page. God is for us…the brokenhearted. I realize that many are against us. I know that feeling all to well…even now as I write; but, the One true Father is for us. God Loves Us! You have to believe that You are His Beloved…because that is true! Anything else…are lies from the deceiver. A lot of Christians, and I’m a Christian, don’t know how to deal with other’s pain. There are a few people who are gifted in dealing with other’s pain. In fact, once the love of Christ takes over you…you have great potential to be one of those people who can care and lift others up to Him. I know you are discouraged; but, have faith. You are a survivor, and this brokenness will also come to pass. AGAIN, we will never be fully rested until the day of Christ, and we go to Heaven. AND, Amen for His grace & mercy, and a chance to be able to rest in Him! Have a blessed day! ♥ Beth

Break Free! Break Free From the Chains!

Many of us understand what bondage feels like.  We feel like chains may be wrapped around multiple times constricting us with each action we make.  I, personally, want to break free from the chains, and to live a life filled with God’s grace.

I realize that many of us have different battlegrounds; but, the thing we have in common is the overwhelming feeling of being held hostage within our own chains. I often wonder how am I ever going to be released from the chains in my life?  These so-called chains that  hold me back.  Most of the time it’s my own idols holding me hostage; but, on occasion–it’s someone else’s idols holding me hostage…and that’s another blog.

Being aware of my own guilty feelings (from my past sexual abuse), I began to look inward to myself for help, instead of outward toward Him.  I have worn many chains since the actual abuses have taken place. I have meticulously layered the chains of guilt, shame, perfectionism, and “pleasing others” around my neck until they have utterly weighed me down.  I felt as if I were suffocating me.  I was suffocating!

There are times, I have claimed freedom in Christ; only to let my past fears, and sometimes present, sneak in and take control–again. I forget that I’ve been saved by His grace.  Instead I seek the wrong kind of hope, and I wait in the dark for help.  I tend to put faith in myself.  I tend to think that I will be able to break free from the chains on my own rather than putting my hope in God to help me break free from the chains.

I fear I am part of a commonality with other struggling Christians. I don’t always know who I am with Christ, nor do I fully understand what it means to be a child of God.  And why not?  In Romans it says that the Spirit Himself bore witness with my spirit to be a child of God.  Ok, then why don’t I sense the feeling of being that child?  Could it be the chains I’m wearing?

Last Sunday my pastor Tom Gibbs said, “We tend to resist being a Christian!”  He said, “We have no excuse for knowing the God that we try so hard to suppress.  We practice the lies of idolatry by suppressing His truth.  Our idolatry is our way of manipulating the world around us.  We are committed to our idols when we feel threatened.  In essence, we practice a lie; thus, suppressing God even more.”

Tom is right!  Instead of looking inward to myself for help in breaking free from the chains; I should be looking to Christ–who has the answer of truth and grace to set me free.

The first step to breaking free from my chains is to resolve my personal and spiritual conflict by genuinely repenting, and then totally submitting myself to God. I should follow the KISS example: Keep It Short & Simple.  I need to stop with my self-serving tendencies, and stop hiding behind my mask.  I tend to want to masquerade that I’m obedient even when I’m not dependent on His Spirit.

I am thankful that we are taught about the kingdom of God; but, we also need to understand the kingdom of darkness.  Satan‘s wickedness lies in Heavenly places.  That’s why there is a need for discernment…to be able to know that some things are just lies.  Lies that chain us down.  Our battle is not against flesh and blood; but, the forces of Satan’s darkness.

We must understand that the battle is for our minds.  The battle is whether or not we will believe the lies or will become transformed…made new with Christ. We must understand that God does not lie!  God is truth and grace.  Satan does lie!  He is wicked and full of darkness.

In the Bible, Paul wrote that he was free from bondage. He expressed that he had confidence that his freedom was real. In Corinthians he said that, “I will not be enslaved by anything.” Paul said this following up to those who had been sanctified (saved by His grace) and justified in Christ (because of His death), but were continuing to be held in bondage by their old idols.

Being a good disciple, like Paul, means being a good counselor as well.  The two are intermingled.  Discipleship counseling is where two or more people meet in the presence of God.  Together, they learn how God’s truth and Word can help break them free from the chains of idolatry; thus, being able to conform to the image of God as one begins to learn to walk by faith.

The other day a particular song came to mind by Wilson Phillips.  The song was “Hold On”, and some of the lyrics are as follows:

“I know this pain
Why do lock yourself up in these chains?
No one can change your life except for you
Don’t ever let anyone step all over you
Just open your heart and your mind, mmm
Is it really fair to feel this way inside?…

You could sustain
Or are you comfortable with the pain?
You’ve got no one to blame for your unhappiness
You got yourself into your own mess
Lettin’ your worries pass you by
Don’t you think it’s worth your time
To change your mind?

I know that there is pain
But you hold on for one more day and
Break free, break from the chains…”

Tom said another thing that really stuck with me.  He said, “We should be humble and faithful disciples of Christ.  It’s a matter of the heart so that we are actively doing what God has called us to do.”  He said, “Our performance vindicates our dependence on God.”

I realize that my support system does not always include Christ.  I had, and have, not cast my anxiety and fears on Christ, and I am anything but dependent upon Him.

My chains have brought me nothing but darkness; but, in my darkness God has helped me to see His Light.  I can’t, nor anybody else, set me free.  Only Christ can set me. I can’t bind up my broken heart; but, God can.  God is my “chain breaker”.

In order for me to break free, I must have a true knowledge that I am a child of God.  Where am I going to learn that?  From His Words in the Bible.  If I really know God, then my behavior will change radically.  My biggest deterrent mentally and spiritually is me not understanding His true freedom.

Tom mentioned about John Newton’s analogy… having a good “spectacle for the scripture”.  I must delve into His words so that I can have a good relationship with Him.  I must focus on Him.  I need to begin to live more by faith and begin renewing my mind.  Knowing God in terms of “heart matters” will be a sign of maturity; thus, it will help me become a step closer to the freedom in Christ without wearing chains.

Living and growing in Christ may mean I will encounter different  and new chains to wear.  But, I must remember that I have been made new.  I have been called to do what He wants me to do, and that is not to be bound  with the chains of fear from my past. Grace is not just about obedience; but learning to be dependent on His Spirit.  This kind of obedience can only happen in and through His grace.

For freedom Christ has set us free; ‘stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery’.”~ Galatians 5:1

This bondage breaking power that Paul talks about is available to me.  I’m not really comfortable with the pain I cause for myself, or others.  I am the one to blame most of the time.  It’s time to make a change, and break free…break free from the chains.

Are You a Question? Be an Exclamation!

This past weekend I went to Waco, Texas to visit my oldest at Baylor University.  We went to visit her church, Antioch.  The Senior Leader, Jimmy Seibert, asked the congregation this crucial and “radical” question, “Do you go around wearing a question mark, or an exclamation?”

Pastor Seibert says too many of us go around wearing a question mark. He says we spend a lot of time wondering… “Who is God?  Who am I?  Where am I going?”

It’s true!  I often wonder these things myself.  I wonder who I am in relation to God.  I wonder who or what does the relationship involve, where is the relationship going to take me, and how will I get what I want?

Guess what?  God has a plan for me.  Instead of worrying about being a broken person, and rather am I worthy of His grace, I need to focus on being transformed from the inside out.

In Psalms it says not to worry because at the end of the day…God is in control! When I doubt myself and I question God, then I am putting something or someone else before Him.  I lack concentration.  In essence, it’s like I become ADD in looking for Him.  [No knock to ADD because I truly have it.]

So who is God?

I loved what Pastor Seibert said, “Who’s the final authority?  Let it be Jesus…because in the end it will be Him anyway.

The whole congregation laughed, but it’s true.  HIS GRACE ALONE SAVED US!

For by grace you have been saved… ~ Ephesians 2:8

Like Saul/Paul, we are blind in our own chaos.  Fear is not spoken from the Lord. We don’t suffer apart from God.  He suffers with us! God wants us to see and understand that concept.  He wants us to know that within our own broken lives we are a treasure.  We are God’s treasure!

You see, God reveals within us our question mark that is so easy for us to wear and often worn; BUT, if we allow Him,  He will change it into an exclamation…an exclamation for Him.

Who am I?

I am His beloved!  I am adopted and loved by God! Yes, we all have family problems.  Some of us have our fair share; but, when we are adopted by God we move from one family into another family.  We move into the family of God.

Sometimes we act like we are not adopted; but, through Jesus we become “joint heirs” to the family of God.  We have a great inheritance!  Christ is the One who has vested great interest in us, and died for us so that we could live.

We are born again and made new in His image.  We are no longer chained to the past…to our family mistakes.  So stop walking around with a limp, and get into the real spirit. Start with walking from a place of victory—walking with Christ Jesus!

Where am I going?

I am free of my past.  My past, heinous secrets were getting me nowhere; but, through Christ, I’m free!  God brings about a conviction within me to confess my very sinful nature, and then be able to “move on” through the love of God. Satan brings about condemnation.  There is no condemnation in Christ who strengthens me—just forgiveness!

Now, I seem to be moving  at a snail’s pace; but, I’ve begun to inch forward since learning this revelation.  His desire for me is to know Him and to glorify Him.  I find it funny that he knows us more than we want to know Him.  He does know the desires of our heart. He makes a point of this.

After beginning to understand some of these questions, I should live  life with a new purpose.  My purpose should be to know Him with all my heart and all my soul.  My desire is to know and understand Him.  Through His grace and love becomes the reality of my faith and hope; thus, learning I have  received His grace despite my past.  I know that I have not received grace on my terms; but, His.  He loved me and showed me grace before I was born.

I should no longer wear a question mark.  I am not my own; but I am free to glorify Him.  He will lead me in the way I should go.  I should follow Him with exclamation.

Don’t be a question mark; but, be an exclamation…an exclamation for Christ!

“…and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.’ ” ~ Romans 15:20-1

Grace Should Arrive Within a Generous Community

Recently I began to think about what a generous community of believers should look like?

I thought that maybe their mission statement might say:

    We, as a community of believers, feel that kindness and love should be shown toward others with special attention being given to mercy, truth, faith and hope. Because we all fall short, there will be times that members will need to be treated, and respected, with special attention. Grace will only arrive from within a generous community from which attention is given to the ‘needy”.  Grace will also arrive when His characteristics flow abundantly within and begin to pour out from the community.  No one should be left behind; thus, making a difference in others.

The RUF Pastor at my church, Mike Novak, said, “Community begins and ends with Jesus. Jesus was so passionate about community that He was willing to be severed from His community of believers so that He could be in community with us.”

Knowing that Christ was the most generous community member, we can begin to acknowledge that because He gave up His own life–we can now live abundantly through His grace which was made sufficient for us!

So why don’t we show grace and encourage each other within the community more often?  Is there a limit to how much one should be encouraged?  Should you only be generous because we are told in the Bible to be generous?  Should generosity and servitude come out of the hearts who have been adopted by Him?  It’s definitely something to ponder.

It’s time that communities get caught up with the freedom of the new testament covenant.  Let Grace Arrive!  Grace does not depend on whether or not one is adequate to show it, or be shown it; but to put someone else forward, or to lift them up.  Being a servant of grace does not always mean thinking about self; but, really thinking about how to encourage someone else.  Maybe rather than treating others like they are a part of the “projects”, lets make them feel as if they are part of the “community”.

Recently, as I was preparing for the worship service, and the “Order of Worship” had a quote from Tim Keller:

     “Christians commonly say they want a relationship with Jesus; that they want to ‘get to know Jesus better.’  You will never be able to do it by yourself.  You must be deeply involved in the church, in the Christian community, with strong relationships of love, and accountability.  Only if you are part of a community of believers seeking to resemble, serve, and love Jesus will you ever get to know Him and grow into His likeness”

Pastor Mike said that a common bond, a common goal, and our Savior is the key to building great communities within the body of Christ.

The community of the church can be a great resource for helping build relationships.  This common act of community allows for sharing, praying, and encouraging each other…essentially making a difference in each other’s lives.  It not only can be a blessing to the one receiving; but, for the one giving.  That’s the way the community should roll!

Maybe within our church communities a little more time could be spent on improving personal relationships…and not just with each other; but with God, Himself. Think about what’s more important…balancing His truth and grace in personal relationships to be more like Him, or deciding to build a personal relationship with yourself, and only for yourself.  I know which one I prefer. I have a passion, and desire, to be more like Him with my growing faith and the help of accountability from my community

Because we don’t live in a perfect world, let’s step back and analyze some potential problems that may arise when commonality is not included in the community.

What if there were some believers in the community who had been sheltered, or may have not “experienced” certain situations?  What if they were not accepting of another’s brokenness?  For the one who is dealing with the pain of brokenness, they may feel as though they are being judged.  They may feel abandoned, and not included.  In most cases, the broken person desires to know that His grace is real, and merely wants to be accepted within the community despite their heinous secret—or past mistakes. Sometimes, not knowing what to do, the community may ignore the warning signs rather than aggressively seeking to help heal the believer that is needing the help; but, these are very rare instances.

Grace and truth is a “must have”, and is needed to be made  known to all believers within the community, so that the healing of the brokenness  may begin.  Pastor Mike talked about how community is built around honesty and His grace.  We all need His grace…all day, every day.  “By loving others with discernment, we can achieve the ultimate loving community.”

Grace is not for the elite; but for everyone!

I feel that we often need help from others to make sense of what is going on within our inner-selves, and to help us break out of patterns of sin and brokenness…to be held in some type of accountability.  Such freedom to discuss our inner-selves with another person creates a bond whose acceptance is not based on performance but on unconditional love.

Having an actual community that will share (or is able to share) their experience(s) of how they believe and experience the hope and love of God’s grace is what is needed for a “close” community. Belonging to a group that understands one’s particular needs, lifting each other up in prayer, and holding each other accountable, is vital to making a difference in each other’s lives…becoming more like the image of Christ.

I desire to bond together with a community of believers, and to have an intimate relationship with Him.  God intends for us to live a life that is authentic, and that life includes Him.  Pastor Mike also said that community is designed around the Gospel.

FYI: Brandon Eggar (another pastor), once told me that, “The Gospel are God’s words that are God breathed.”  I loved that analogy! I envision  His words coming to life, and me feeling alive.

Going back to topic…did God design us to want to be with others in a community? I say, “Yes, He did!  I, personally, have an inner longing, in my heart, to want to belong to such a group.  Pastor Mike also emphasized this same feeling in his sermon the other day.

The Bible says that people are of great significance because of being made in the image of God—which is for His glory.  We have become adopted into God’s family. We must learn that it is not what we’ve done to deserve to be a part of His family; but, what He did for us.  Christ’s death is the reason for our acceptance–by God, and through God. He promises to never abandon us, or let us go!

In searching for our true identities within a community, we want to know if we are of equal value as any other human within the group. Despite our weaknesses, or brokenness, we all desire and need to understand that we are valued as a person.  Sometimes we don’t value ourselves; but if some value is felt by others…we may become strong enough to help build meaningful relationships with others…helping each other…and all for God’s glory.

We are all unique, and each one brings a different gift to the table.  In fact, we all probably want to be a blessing to the community, and have different gifts to offer.  Therefore,  by sharing our gifts and working together, we can become His body, or community, that represents the very image of God.

Pastor Mike says community is like a team sport.  No one should be left behind.  He said, “What one does could affect the fruits of others.  In essence, the community becomes as strong as there weakest link. Helping others should be the focus of the community.”

For people like me, because of the “hidden secrets” within our community, I may think that others do not have problems, and that they have it “all together”.  I found that often times the ones that are struggling–try to become more hidden, or withdraw, from the community because they also fear that their secrets may be “found out”.

There is truth to making individuals feel safe in a community…through restoration.  Sometimes sharing our “secrets” can be a little scary.  But, being safe doesn’t always have to mean to feel safe to fail; it can also mean to feel safe to succeed.  I think most of us want to be encouraged.  The Biblical truth is that it should be okay to feel safe within a community to succeed or fail.  The important thing is to focus on Him, and to remember who is the judge.

Brokenness doesn’t always have to mean weakness either; but, being able to show strength in our weakness by God’s cleansing power, and to know His truth.  That’s where encouragement from the community can be such a blessing.  That’s where the healing can begin. Knowing that the only thing that can wash my sins away is the cleansing blood of The Lamb.

It’s also important to learn the process of helping each other by praying for one another.   “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” ~Matthew 18:20

As I close, I am reminded of the three common designs that Pastor Mike said were needed to build a great community: a common bond, a common goal, and our Savior.  Without the design and foundation of these building blocks, the structure of the community has the potential  to be demolished.  Keep in mind though that renovations can always take place.

Let us encourage one another, be balanced in His truth and grace, and the building of believers will be strong and stand strong…because His love endures forever! If we share our gifts with other believers, then grace should arrive within our generous community.  None will be needy, nor left behind, and it will thrive!

“The community of believers was of one heart and one mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.”  ~ Acts 4:32


 

%d bloggers like this: