Amazing Grace

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:16-17

“Upon His grace I’ll daily ponder…”


The Trust to Act

          Sometimes knowing God’s will is hard. Other times He makes it clear as day. However, even then, following isn’t always easy. Even when I’m convinced I know God’s will, I have trouble carrying it out. Instead of trusting and having courage, I doubt and question and hesitate. When things don’t go as planned, I get scared that I didn’t really know His will in the first place. I question everything I was initially so sure of. I start to think things aren’t working out because I’m disobeying God. I worry that I acted too quickly, didn’t pray enough, or ignored what God was telling me.
          When God first reveals His will to me,I get really excited and am ready and willing to jump right in. Then, as that initial excitement starts to wear off and things start to get a lot more difficult than I expected, doubt starts to creep in. I doubt that I’m following God’s plan and sometimes even whether God has a plan at all. I forget following God doesn’t always mean things will be easy. That Jesus promised we would have trouble and trials in this world if we choose to follow Him.
          When Nehemiah was given the opportunity from God to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall, he doesn’t hesitate or doubt. He acts. Even though he is scared (Nehemiah 2:2), he asks the king to provide him with safe travel back to Jerusalem. Even when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite were “displeased greatly” by his action, he trusts that rebuilding the wall is God’s will and that He will protect him (Nehemiah 2:10). He easily could have been deterred by the obstacles. He could have decided that it was too hard or that if it really was God’s will it would be so much easier, but he didn’t.
          Instead, because God put it on his heart, Nehemiah went to Jerusalem and rebuilt the wall (Nehemiah 2:12).When God revealed his will to Nehemiah, he didn’t know how God would accomplish the task. Despite all of the unknowns and the fear he must have felt, he moved forward. He trusted God had everything under control and didn’t doubt God had a plan.
          Truthfully, if I were Nehemiah, there’s a good chance the wall would never have been rebuilt. I probably would have caved to fear and doubt. I see it happen time and time again in my life. I discern God’s will, I briefly act, things get tough and I have doubts, I lose faith and trust in God, and then I give up. I hope to someday be more like to be more like Nehemiah. I want God to be able to rely on me to rebuild the wall. I don’t want to doubt anymore.
          I pray every day that God will give me the courage and strength to trust like Nehemiah did. I know God has big things in store for me and that with those things will come many more times of hardship. When those times come, I pray I would respond as Nehemiah replied to Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite:
          “Then I replied to them, ‘The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build…” Nehemiah 2:20

Take heart, I have ovecome the world

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.
2 Corinthians 1:8-9

Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
   and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
   and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
   the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Isaiah 43:1-3

There have been many times in my life I have felt burdened beyond my strength. When I look back at those experiences, I now see they happened to make me turn to God and rely solely on Him. However, in the midst of a trial, when I feel like I can’t go on, it’s hard to remember there is a greater purpose for the difficulty I face. I become so focus on my own lack of strength, my own inability to go on, and my own despair I am unable to see God’s glory and sovereignty in the midst of the trial. Instead of turning to Him, I become completely focused on myself.

Having gone through many trials in my life, I know the best thing I can do is to humbly turn to God. From both my experiences and from the Word, I know trials come to force me to do just that. In hindsight, it’s easy to see and understand this, but when trials come and I become focused on myself instead of on God, it’s difficult to remember. Fortunately for me, even when trials result in pride instead of reliance on God, He is always with me. He does not allow the river to overwhelm me or the fire to burn or consume me.

God is always by my side. He is always my Lord and Savior. Despite my pride, he never turns away. When I finally realize focusing on myself does not work and that I need to rely on Him to get through the trial, He is there waiting for me. He is always waits patiently no matter how prideful and self-focused I become.  I never make it through trials on my own. Getting discouraged, focusing on myself, and all the other natural, prideful responses I have to difficulties never helps. On my own, the situation would be hopeless, but thankfully Christ has already overcome the world. I can’t overcome trials, fight discouragement, or remain humble in my own strength, but God can and He does.

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.
But take heart, because I have overcome the world.
John 16:33

Tune my heart to sing Thy grace

Come Thou Fount

Come thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise

Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
I’ll praise the Mount I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love

Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by Thy help I come
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home

Jesus, sought me when a stranger
Wandering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood

Ode to grace, how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be
And let Thy goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above

Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above

The Grace of Jesus is on them

Right after I picked grace as my word for 2014, I listened to a sermon on 1 Corinthians 1:4-9. The sermon started with an overview of the letter. The pastor listed 10 issues present in the Corinthian church that Paul addresses. If you don’t know much about the Corinthians, I encourage you to learn more, but for right now all you need to know is the church was full of division and sin. It was pretty much a complete mess.

The pastor then talked about 1 Corinthians 1:4. “I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.”

He asked, given how messed up the church in Corinth was, how could Paul say he always thanks God for them? Answering the question is pretty simple, since answer is right in the verse. “Because of the grace given you in Christ Jesus.” Paul thanks God for them because of God’s grace.

Hearing that was eye opening. I realized how little I understand God’s grace and it convicted me about how I view and treat others. I knew that I don’t extend grace to others as I should, but hearing this verse explained in that way further emphasized to how infrequently I extend grace to others.

I’m so thankful for these insights and I’m looking forward to all God will teach me this year about grace. I’m also praying I that this verse will impact my life in the coming weeks and I will be able to show others grace as God has shown me grace.

True Wisdom

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  James 1:5

To gain wisdom from God all we have to do is ask. All we have to do is ask? When I first read this verse I was so discouraged, because many times I’ve cried out to God asking for wisdom with seemingly no answer. I didn’t understand why, if God gives wisdom to those who ask for it, I hadn’t received the wisdom I so desperately want. After further examining the context of this verse, I was hit with the harsh truth that I wasn’t really asking for wisdom in the first place.

I cry out for wisdom, but what I really want is knowledge for my own selfish gain. I don’t desire to know God more fully, so I can fall deeper in love with Him. I don’t want to know how to preserver through trials, so the testing of my faith can make me mature and complete. Instead, I want to know what I’m supposed to do with my life. I want to know where I’m going to be in ten years. And, while God does want us to ask Him for those types of things too, I’m usually not asking for the right reasons. I don’t want this knowledge to bring more glory to God. What I really want is for God to show me the future so my life will be easier.

When I ask God to reveal these things to me, I think I’m asking for wisdom. But, the knowledge I seek is earthly and perishable. Like the grass and the flowers, it will wither and fall (1 Peter 1:24). It’s not lasting, eternal knowledge, but I still seek it above all else. I put it above God and the wisdom He grants. I make it an idol that I bow down to and worship. God offers me wisdom to persevere through trials making me mature and complete, lacking nothing, and I still choose to ask for selfish knowledge instead.

In order to really desire the wisdom James is talking about in this verse, I have to take my eyes of earthly things and put them on God. Like Paul said in Colossians 3, I have to set my mind on the things above. It’s not always easy, most of the time it is actually really hard. Earthy things are easy to focus on because they are right here. I can see them and feel them and experience them now. I can see how having knowledge about my future would make my life  easier right now, here on earth.

But God knows that the immediate gain I would experience from the knowledge I seek is not really what I ultimately need. He can see the whole picture of eternity and knows that having wisdom to persevere is really what will benefit me. It is what will make me mature and complete.

I need to trust that God knows best and fix my eyes on the things that He says are important. I need to set aside the selfish desires I have, so I am able to experience every blessing God has for my life. I don’t think this will ever be easy, but I know with God I can do it because I have died and my life is now hidden in Christ (Colossians 3:3)

One Word 365 – GRACE

I’ve been hesitant to commit to a New Year’s resolution this year. When I set goals, I like them to be challenging but also realistically accomplishable. I’ve never picked working out or eating healthy as a new years resolution, because I know there’s no way they’d last past January.

This year I’ve had a hard time coming up with a goal for the year that fits these requirements. Then, today, I read a blog post about One Word 365. The idea of One Word 365 is that you pick one word to focus on everyday, all year. Instead of a resolution, you commit to intentionally focusing on one word all year.

I’ve decided to give it a try. The word I picked for 2014 is grace.

I didn’t need much time to deliberate about my word. It was the first one that came to mind. God’s grace amazes me, but I often have a hard embracing the grace he offers and I also struggle to extend it to others. I’m praying this year I will not only understand grace better, but also that it will transform my life. I’m not sure exactly what this will look like, but I’ll be blogging about my journey throughout the year, so stay tuned.

Study Break #2

 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him…  work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord Colossians 3:17,23

Another verse I’m trying to cling to as things get busy and it’s hard to remember why I’m doing this. Ultimately, it’s all for the Lord.

On a completely different note, if you need a quick break here are a few fun thing  I’ve found this week.

1. Fabian Oefner: Psychedelic science If you like either science or art, you’ll love this TED talk by Fabian Oefner. His art is both beautiful and thought provoking.

2. A Cat’s Guide To Taking Care Of Your Human If you own a cat or know anything about them, this video is hilarious. It’s a great 2 minute study break!

3. Carol of the Bells – Pentatonix Want to get into the Christmas spirit? Pentatonix is amazing! If you love them after this video, you can find their whole Christmas album on Spotify.

4. Grace for Your Unmerry Moments Because , if you’re like me, you probably need to be reminded of God’s grace right now.

5. HILARIOUS kid’s notes Need a quick laugh? Kids are SO funny!

Study Break

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

I’m hoping and praying to make it through this finals week with both peace and thankfulness.

Also, if you are looking for study break (or work break, life break, etc.), I recently listened to an excellent sermon on 1 Corinthians 4:6-21. It’s not actually related to finals or school in any way, but there is a great part on thanksgiving that was an encouraging reminder in the midst of a stressful time.