Convinced

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.–Romans 8:38-39


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Motivation to Forgive

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom,
priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. 
Amen.
Revelation 1:5-6

If you are looking for motivation to forgive a spouse, a parent, a relative–anyone who’s hurt you deeply–find your place on the scarlet thread of Scripture. See your sins attached there in all their shame and selfishness. Try to fathom the distance His grace has bridged between you and the wrath of God. And with the rush of relief that floods your soul at the sight, realize what you owe to those who deserve forgiveness as little as you do. Follow the thread all the way home to the Father.

Marvel at God’s love and mercy toward you, and ask Him to make His love the source, substance, and measure of your dealings with others.

~Nancy Leigh DeMoss in “The Quiet Place”


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When Feelings Trump Truth and Peace is Far Off

Feelings Wide 1920x1200 Wallpapers

I know I’m prone to this. I feel a certain way, and I just want to nurse the feeling. My heart is full of feelings, nothing more than feelings. Truth has to wedge its way into my deceptive heart as my feelings masquerade as truth.

We can’t stop with how we feel. Our feelings are not to rule over us. The Word of God is to rule and guide our feelings and actions. One of the most important truths for me to hold on to when my feelings vie for control of my heart is that I have One who is able to sympathize with my weaknesses, yet without sin. So, I need to draw near to the throne of GRACE with CONFIDENCE (not in what I can do, but confidence in what Christ can do through me, and in what He has already done for me) that I may receive mercy and find grace to help in my time of need.

Here’s some feelings that frequently invade my heart and how I’m learning to bring my feelings under the banner of truth.

Feeling Inadequate

We are all inadequate, that’s why we need Christ, depending on Him working in us, not on our own efforts. It’s easy to see my weaknesses and to tell myself that because I’m weak, I can’t ______. The truth is, “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corin 12:10). Therefore, I must grab hold of the grace of Christ so that His strength might work powerfully in me to accomplish His purposes in my life. My strength runs out the moment I exert it. But Christ’s strength is always available and always enough for every task and every act of service.

Feeling No Peace

Sometimes, I try to apply God’s Word, but I just don’t get that peace that’s supposed to come when I immerse myself in the Word. What’s missing? Why doesn’t the peace of Christ rule in my heart? Peace often eludes me when:

  1. I’m anxious, worried or fearful and not taking these things to the Lord in prayer. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
  2. I’m blinded by ingratitude. Sometimes peace doesn’t come because I’m too focused on what I don’t have and can’t do, rather than being thankful for what I do have and for what the Lord has already done. Again “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
  3. I have no desire. I can sulk with the best of ’em and throw crazy pity parties! If I want attention, approval or pity from others, I can gather up my pet peeve, stroke it, feed it, and cuddle it to rest in my heart. If I want peace instead, then there’s an important imperative that should not be ignored from Colossians 3:15 “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts”. It’s the little word “let”. This is an act of will. I have to want it. I can allow worry, ingratitude, resentment, and discord to rule in my heart by nursing wounds. Or, I can let the peace of Christ to take rightful rule over my heart, casting its calming shadow of grace over my soul.

Feeling Weary With Works

Too often, I try to apply God’s Word through works rather than rely on the grace of the Lord. I have no strength of my own that is lasting and sufficient. The more I try to earn God’s favor and the favor of others through works, the tighter my rubber band is wound and it’s only a matter of time before it snaps. When I read God’s commands to me–be this, do that, work this way, love them, hate that, I can find myself frazzled and spiraling into a deep dark pit of despair. I KNOW I can’t do those things He commands, be who He wants me to be, love those He calls me to love if it’s left totally up to me. It’s just not in me. I have too much sin blocking my path. Sins of selfishness, entitlement, anger, lying, covetousness, and so on (see Col 3:5-9). But if I’m led by the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit will be evident in my life (Gal 5:18, 22-23).  I know that I can do/endure/handle all things through Him who strengthens me (Phil 4:13).

Feeling Physical, Emotional or Psychological Strain

Spiritual Depression hardback book mp3Here, I’m thinking of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who wrote Spiritual Depression. In it, he proposes some general causes of spiritual depression, which are helpful to think and pray through when I’m struggling spiritually. The 5 causes of spiritual depression that he outlines are excerpted by my husband, Thabiti, in his blog post on Spiritual Depression. They are:

  1. “First and foremost I would not hesitate to put–temperament” (p. 14).
  2. “Let us pass to the second big cause–physical conditions” (p. 18).
  3. “Another frequent cause of spiritual depression is what we may describe as a reaction–a reaction after a blessing, a reaction after some unusual and exceptional experience” (p. 19).
  4. “Then we come to the next cause.  In a sense, and in the last analysis, that is the one and only cause of spiritual depression–it is the devil, the adversary of our souls” (p. 19).
  5. “Indeed I can put it, finally, like this: the ultimate cause of all spiritual depression is unbelief” (p. 20).

For women, I think we can downplay the role of physical conditions on our spiritual health. We can be so busy caring for everyone else’s needs in our family and friendship networks, that we ignore physical signs that may be indicators to our overall spiritual health. Pay attention to changes in menstrual patterns, excessive weight gain/loss, big mood swings, recurring headaches, nagging discomfort or pain, and so on. When our bodies are not well, it really can affect us spiritually. If we take care of ourselves physically, it can have a positive effect on our spiritual lives.

Each of the above causes could be expanded on at length, so I would encourage you to read this book, gain an honest assessment of which areas typify you when you’re struggling spiritually, and seek the Lord’s aid through prayer and accountability with others in how to combat these issues.

Speak the TRUTH to yourself. Don’t be ruled by emotion. Feelings are nothing more than that, just feelings. Lloyd-Jones would say stop listening to yourself and start speaking the truth to yourself. Our God is good and wise and only does what is good for His people. He delights to do good to us (Jeremiah 32:41) and for us and for His glory. Don’t put words in God’s mouth by speaking lies about God, yourself, or those who have hurt you. The truth is, the Lord has called you to be faithful, to adorn the fruit of the Spirit, to be still and know that He is God, to cast all your cares upon Him, to trust Him, to depend upon Him for everything. What He does call you to do, He gives you the grace to do it, as you work by His strength which works powerfully in you (Col 1:29).

We need to get out of our own heads and start to live out of truth, not our feelings or our hearts. Our hearts are deceptive, and can jump ahead in the battle at any given moment. The war is already won. We just have to stand on the winning side. We’re not alone trying to accomplish His work in and for us. His Spirit is working in us, causing us to live and act according to His purpose, pleasure and will. The peace that too often escapes us comes from spiritual rest, not from human effort (Matt 11:28).

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30


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A Miracle is Like the Swing of a Sword

“Let me say that a miracle is no cute thing but more like the swing of a sword.”
–Reuban Land, main character in Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

I read this wonderfully written book recently and was struck by the author’s ability to summarize and foretell pivotal events in the story through profound statements that capture much more than merely guiding the reader along the plot of a good book. Peace Like a River is a story that is woven from start to finish with the miraculous. Here are some of my favorite “miracle quotes” (in bold) from the story, and how they led me into thinking more about the miraculous in my own life and experiences.

I was sitting in church, listening to a message about God’s righteous anger toward sin, hearing for the first time that I was a sinner upon whom God’s anger rested. The Lord struck me with the sword of the Spirit, His Word. It pierced my soul and blood began to flow. Not my own blood, but the blood of Christ was poured out on me, purifying me from my sin. As Reuben so insightfully understood, “A miracle contradicts the will of earth”. I had been following the course of this world (“the will of earth”), gratifying the cravings of my sinful nature (Eph 2:1-3), not realizing that I was among the walking dead on this earth. Suddenly, the eyes of my understanding became crystal clear, so that I knew without a doubt that I was on the losing side. I was a sinner in need of the saving grace of Christ. Without Him, I’d be eternally lost, without God and without hope in the world.

Then the miraculous happened–Christ saved me! His blood freed me from my sin. I repented of my bold rebellion and turned to face Christ as my Savior and Lord. It was a miracle that catapulted me from mindlessly serving as the enemy’s minion to joyful service as a warrior in the army of God. “No miracle happens without a witness. Someone to declare, Here’s what I saw. Here’s how it went. Make of it what you will.” (Reuben’s sister Swede). Now, armed with the appropriate defenses–the helmet of salvation, belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of peace, and the shield of faith–I stand ready to yield my weapon, the sword of God’s Word, for the salvation of others and for attacking the plots and schemes of the enemy against my own soul. Now I get to be a witness. I get to tell others what I saw God do in my own life. How He saved me when I didn’t even know I was lost. And the same gospel that the Lord used to save me, I have the privilege of proclaiming to others, and hoping to witness the same miracle performed in the heart and life of another.

“People fear miracles because they fear being changed–though ignoring them will change you also” (Swede).

Just recently, a new friend asked me to share my assessment of him as a person. Based on prior conversations we’d had, and on my experiences with others who struggle with the sacrifices that Christ demands of them in following Him–“Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15); “deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt 16:24); “Be holy” (1 Pet 1:15-16); “Do not love the world” (1 John 2:15)–how would I answer such a bold yet vulnerable question? Basically, I responded by saying, “I don’t know you very well, but based on conversations we’ve had, and what I’ve observed, you seem to be a very nice guy. You have a big heart and you have a desire to know and follow God, and that’s great! But you also seem to be afraid of what you may have to give up if God saved you and you became a Christian.”

As soon as I said those words, tears welled up in this young man’s eyes, each teardrop adding up the cost of following Christ. He walked away sorrowful because he was afraid of being changed. But fear of being changed doesn’t stop the process, so I’m praying that even now the Lord would be changing his heart so that he would no longer fear the miracle of salvation, but the Sword would swing his way and he would embrace it.


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My True Identity

I’m just starting a study of Isaiah, and have been enjoying the devotional, Isaiah by the Day. It’s a wonderful daily devotional that walks through the book of Isaiah. I’m reading it along with the author’s commentary Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary, both by Alec Motyer. I love his writing style, precision, and his passion for the book of Isaiah.
Today, he opened up Isaiah 1:4 for me in a convicting way. The stark contrast between who the people were as redeemed people of God, and how they had shamefully become corrupt evildoers is sad.
“Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him.”
Motyer says these nouns of privilege (underlined) define God’s people: they are a unique nation, redeemed people, brood (or seed) of Abraham, children of God. However, they had lost their identity and shamefully become sinful, guilt-ridden, evildoers, acting corruptly.
As I meditated on this verse and read the corresponding devotional thought for the day, I was challenged to consider my own life in light of this passage. Do I consistently live according to my true identity and new nature in Christ, or according to my sinful nature? Praise God that my sinful nature is not my primary identity anymore. My sinful nature has been crucified (Rom 8:9; Gal 2:20, 5:24; 2 Pet  1:3-5), my spirit is renewed and my new self is created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:24).
Lord, help me to live according to my true identity in you, so that I may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called me out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Pet 2:9).