Being Confident of This

Grace for the work-in-progress woman

How Sanctification Gives Us Hope ~ So Great a Salvation Series

It’s likely you’ve heard the admonition to “preach the gospel to yourself.” But do you have a practical, systematic way for doing that? What do you say when you preach the gospel to yourself?

The gospel message about Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection has the ability to enrich us and make us wealthy in mind and spirit, word and deed (see Colossians 3:16). Yet if we have little grasp on how to effectively let it, we miss out on the power it holds.

Preaching the gospel to ourselves means allowing our thinking, emotions, and responses to daily be shaped by the truth of the gospel.

In this series, we hope to give you practical help in preaching the gospel to yourself. We’ve pulled key gospel concepts and compiled them into a list of words, such as justification, redemption, and sanctification. Don’t let the big words scare you because we’ve explained them!

We’ve also summarized each of these powerful truths in a useable way.

We hope this series will deepen your grasp on the gospel and give you verbiage for what to say when you preach the gospel to yourself.

So-Great-a-Salvation, preaching-the-gospel-to-yourself, gospel series, sanctification, justification, reconciliation, adoption

How to use this series:

To begin, read my post below. Then visit each of the links for more gospel words. Take notes while you visit! You may want to bookmark this page because you’ll probably want to come back here often.

Gospel Words:

Justification by Arabah

Sanctification by Jen

Redemption by Rebekah

Reconciliation by Kathy

Regeneration by Marci

Atonement by Leah

Adoption by Kerry

Consecration by Kimberly

Sanctification

In the Old Testament, there is little mention of the word sanctification. In fact, the NIV doesn’t use that particular word at all, while the NASB mentions of sanctification refer to only a single Hebrew word “qadash” (kaw-dash’). Qadash mostly described objects which were “set apart” for use by God. These were not ordinary objects meant for everyday use, but special items such as those used in the tabernacle by the priests (ceremonial items, the ark of the covenant, etc.). Thus, qadash refers to the uncommon, those things or people (mainly priests) set apart strictly for the Lord.

In the New Testament, we see a different sort of sanctification. Two Greek words are used by both the NIV and NASB: hagiazo (hag-ee-ad’-zo),  the verb form which means to make holy or to sanctify, and hagiasmos  (hag-ee-as-mos’), the noun form which means sanctification or holiness.  Both words also relate to hagios (hag’-ee-os), the adjective form used to describe us as Christians.

In essence, to sanctify means to make holy.  However, the New Testament version of making holy describes a process, the process by which the common (mankind) is set apart and made uncommon!

Sanctification can be broken down into 3 P-words:

  1. Position – In Christ, we are considered sanctified before the Lord. We are already perfect, already uncommon, already complete because of Christ’s blood covering over us. When the Father looks at us, He sees not the work that still needs to be done; instead, He sees only the blood of his perfect Son. The work of positional sanctification takes place the moment we accept God’s free gift of forgiveness through His Son’s death on the cross in payment for our sins. So, for those of us who are in Christ, positional sanctification is in the past – it’s a work already accomplished.
  2. Progress – Although we are positionally perfect in Christ, realistically we know that sin keeps us from perfection. Thus, progressive sanctification refers to the process of growing in Christ-likeness. It is the present and continuing form of sanctification, that work in progress that I speak of so often here.  As we grow in Christ-likeness, His image reflected in us becomes more and more clear!
  3. Perfection – There is also a future component to sanctification. One day, when life on this earth ends for us, we will be made complete in Christ.  At that point in time, the work in progress will be finished!  Sin will mar us no more. We will bear the Father’s image perfectly, and the view God has of us on behalf of His Son will match our true character! Just imagine – no more struggling to do right, no more guilt, no more frustration with self!

How-Sanctification-Gives-Us-Hope, sanctification, set-apart, identity in Christ, preach-the-gospel-to-yourself-series, gospel words,

How does sanctification apply to everyday life? 

Romans 12:1-2 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

While we know our position in Christ is secure, we recognize the need for continuing change, for progress.  We know we must be sensitive to the Holy Spirit so that we allow the Lord to mold us into His image.  Therefore, sanctification is a combination of our willingness to follow Christ in obedience and His powerful work in our lives to free us from sin.  According to the verses above from Romans, we offer our bodies and minds; God transforms them. The evidence of the sanctification process in us? The fruit of the Spirit. 🙂

This quote from J. I. Packer defines it well.

“God’s method of sanctification is neither activism (self-reliant activity) nor apathy (God-reliant passivity), but God-dependent effort (2 Cor. 7:1; Phil. 3:10-14; Heb. 12:14).”

The worst thing we can possibly do as Christians is to relegate our Redeemer to the work of salvation, yet bar Him from the work of sanctification. If we trust Christ for eternity, but not for the day to day, then we limit His power. We fail to find freedom and the abundant life He has planned for us.

My sisters, the power of Christ in us is real. His promise to make us into new creations is not just for some distant future when we become complete in Him, but it’s for today! Right now! Moment by moment.

Our Savior came to free us from sin, not just from the guilt of sin, but from sin itself.  This is the goal of sanctification – freeing us to become whom He meant us to be from the very beginning – His image bearers.

Perfect.

Holy.

Set-apart.

Uncommon.

So, we can claim the promise of my life verse, Phil. 1:6, which perfectly sums up the 3 P-words of sanctification. (Key verse to memorize!)

“[B]eing confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (emphasis mine)

He began the work (position); He carries it on (progress); He promises completion (perfection).

I’ve been reminded of this truth often this winter. There comes a time in the Midwest when the landscape becomes a palette of brownish gray dead things.  The grass is dead. The trees are dead. And unless there is fresh snow, the roads become ugly gray muck. At some point, it seems as if spring will never come.

But as I looked out our window the other day, I noticed a tree that was budding.  Even beneath the snow, you could see the slight redness of the buds. Although the tree looked dead, important work was taking place beneath the surface of what I first saw.

Growth.

And in several weeks, we will see the fully glory of that work when all of nature bursts forth in colorful re-birth.

Spring. New Life. Hope.

As I contemplated these things, the Lord reminded me of how often this scenario plays out in my own spiritual landscape.  At times, it seems my progress is stunted – there is too much “deadness” about me, too much sin.  I see only gray and become easily overwhelmed and discouraged.

But beneath the surface, He is doing important work in me. I may not see all of the fruits of sanctification yet, but they will come! And when they do, they will be glorious to behold!

So, the next time you feel overwhelmed by your own sin, stuck in a rut, doomed to failure – preach the gospel truth of sanctification to yourself.

“I am God’s work in progress. As such, I aim not for perfection but for imperfect progress (growth and transformation), only by the power of Christ in me. In the meantime, I trust His promise to carry that work to completion.”

This, my sisters in Christ, this is the hope of sanctification.

Jen 🙂

Sharing with: Grace and Truth, Wholehearted Wednesdays, The Homemaking Party

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Because ~ We’ve Been Falsely Accused

Today I was falsely accused.

And it stung.

It’s happened before but this wound pierced especially deep because I knew.  I knew I was innocent.

I knew the accusations had more to do with the other person’s heart condition than any imagined offense on my part.  In fact, I knew I had been gracious, kind, and patient in spite of the circumstances.

To do right…and be falsely accused.

Have you been there before, my sisters?  I’m certain you have because even when no one else is accusing us, our Enemy is!  That’s even one of his names, the accuser.

So often we find ourselves in need of a defender because we’ve been falsely accused, and we’re just hoping someone will stand in our defense.

Sometimes we look to friends or family members. Sometimes we look to brothers and sisters in Christ.

But only One can faithfully defend us.

I’m learning more and more to hear the Defender’s voice. I’m waiting more patiently for Him to fight on my behalf.  I can trust Him to go to battle for me rather than feeling the need to defend myself because

He has chosen me.

He has redeemed me.

He has declared, “No more condemnation” over me.

He says the same about you, too, my sisters. You, His beloved ones.

So, today I’m clinging to this promise:

 

falsely accused, Satan, Enemy, Defender, Defense, Jesus

 

Yes, we’ve been falsely accused, but praise the Lord, we have a Defender!

His name is Jesus.

He speaks Truth over us.

The Enemy shudders at His name.

And nothing,

nothing can separate us from His love!

Jen 🙂

I’m joining in with my Five Minute Friday sisters again this week (albeit a little late).  We gather together at Kate’s blog and write on a one-word prompt for five frenzied minutes – no planning, no over-thinking, no editing.  It’s fun and frightening all at the same time.  This week’s word is “because.” Come join us!

And if you enjoyed what is written above, you’ll certainly enjoy this perspective from Jennifer Dukes Lee.

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Verses That Pack a Punch (and #TheLoft)

Verses that Pack a Punch, spiritual battle, encouragement, Satan, scripture 

Two weeks ago, I shared about my personal weight issues here on the blog because the Lord just wouldn’t leave me alone about it. 🙂  I was afraid to open up that part of myself, but I trust that He knows best. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and even resulted in a speaking engagement for me.

Needless to say, I was elated!  It felt like a major spiritual victory to walk in obedience and see such immediate fruit.

Of course, as soon as I began to rejoice in the work the Lord was doing (in spite of me!), the murmuring voice began.

You’re not a speaker.  Who are you to think you have something to say?

You just ate donuts last night, and here all these people are praising you for keeping up the good fight. You’re a fraud.

You’re not worthy.

You’re not worthy.

You’re not worthy.

I felt the arrows of the Enemy, sisters, and I even let a few of them pierce me before I remembered who that voice belonged to.  Even once I recognized the slippery snake, I struggled to ignore his murmurs.  And the more I resisted, the louder he became.

I found myself in the midst of an unexpected battle and I felt unprepared. I had not put on the full armor of God that morning.  My belt of truth was quickly slipping as the arrows came in quick succession.

I cried out for mercy!

Our Father was quick to answer with truth from His word. He reminded me of my pre-approved status. He reminded me that I am a work-in-progress, not yet complete, but fully loved, fully accepted.

My sisters,  when you experience a victory in some area of your life, don’t be surprised to find the Enemy lurking just around the corner.  He loves to set a trap for us when we are the most joyful, the most productive, the most faithful, the most determined.  He delights in seeing us fall from the greatest heights to the lowest depths.

We must be prepared for the spiritual battle,my sisters, for it IS coming.  The Word aptly describes Satan as a prowling lion seeking for someone to devour.

One way to be prepared is to put on the armor of God, specifically the sword of the Spirit.  So, this week at #TheLoft, we’re sharing our favorite fighting verses!

When facing temptation and discouraged by sin:

Romans 7  and 8 – Anytime you feel stuck in sin or discouraged in your walk, read these two chapters. They are too lengthy to post in entirety here, but these verses from chapter 7 sum up the transition between the two well:

22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

When disappointed in our short-comings:

Eph. 1:6

  “…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Rom. 8:1

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

2 Cor. 5:17

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

When feeling unloved or unlovable:

Romans 8:38-39

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.” 

Zeph. 3:17

   “The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.”

When experiencing trials:

Psalm 34:17-18

 “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
    he delivers them from all their troubles.
 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

When you feel you have nothing left to give:

2 Cor. 12:9-10

 “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.(emphasis mine)

For when I am weak, then I am strong, even when you don’t feel it.

For when I am weak, then I am strong, keep saying it until you believe it.

For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Keep fighting the good fight!

Jen 🙂

For more scripture that packs a punch, visit the link-up at the bottom!

The Loft is open, come on up!

 

The Loft: A weekly Hangout and Link Up for Christian bloggers
Graphic by Kerry Messer

 

 

 

#TheLoft

 

The Loft is the place for conversation, community, networking, and Christian growth.

Each week we provide a topic to start the conversation.

 

PLEASE NOTE: We want to foster community and transparent conversation with one another, just like we’d do if we were meeting in real life. So we ask that your link stick to the weekly topic and that you mention The Loft in your post. Thank you so much!


Monday night, at 9pm Eastern, the linky goes live and all week you can link up your post on that week’s topic.

We’ll have fun topics, serious topics, practical, soul-ful, holiday, and so, so much more…we can’t wait to get started! This is not only a great way to connect with others, it’s also a fun and easy way to establish a writing habit. If you aren’t a blogger, you are welcome to join in by leaving your comments in the comment section.

So grab your coffee mug and come on up! Hang out for a bit. We betcha you’ll be glad you did.

 

To Participate:

 

1. Be creative. Feel free to use words, photos, video, audio, your family pet, whatever, to communicate on the weekly topic. But please stick to the weekly topic 🙂

2. Listen twice as much as you talk. If you leave one link, visit two. Trust us on this one~wink.

3. Be a community. Include #TheLoft graphic and/or link back in your post so we can find each other. Also, share the great stuff you find when you visit around…we’ll be doing the same.

 

The Loft Link Up

 

When you link up at The Loft, your link will appear on 5 blogs! We’d love for you to visit The Loft co-hosts and know who we are:

Leah
Kathy
Arabah
Jen
Rebekah

 

 

Now it’s time to link up!

 

This Week’s Topic: “Fighter Verses” (What are some of your favorite, well worn scriptures? Which ones do you find yourself going back to again and again? Tell us what spiritual warfare looks like for you and how you use God’s Word to be victorious. We look forward to learning from each other!)

Next Week’s Topic: “Potluck” (Periodically, we’ll have a “potluck.” This is a blogging version of bring-your-own-dish. So pick a post and link up any post you want to share with our community!)

 

Add Your Link Here:

 

 

Also sharing with:

A Little R & R, Cornerstone Confessions, Messy Marriage, Whole Hearted Home, Jennifer Dukes Lee, My Freshly Brewed Life

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That New Girl: Finding Confidence

Each Thursday for the next few weeks, we are talking about breaking free from insecurity, comparison, and shame. We are sharing our raw and messy real life stories. But also, more importantly, we are sharing the truths that set us free. We have bathed this series in prayer and ask now that the Father knit our hearts together and strengthen us to slay this giant called “insecurity” in our hearts.

Verdict on Value

 

Sometimes I wish I could go back to my second-grade self, that girl who was mostly tomboy, confident leader-of-the-pack. She could be friends with whomever she wanted, even boys. She wore dresses, but she also climbed trees. She lived free.

She never considered what the scales said about her value.  She never wished to be more like her blonde-headed friend.  She had a little girl crush on a classmate of hers, but never spent her days waiting for him to notice, or worrying what others might think.

She was relatively innocent, that girl God created on purpose and with a plan.

But that girl moved from state to state nearly every year after third grade until she finally moved overseas.  Each new school left its mark, some beauty spots and some ugly scars, and she found herself wearing labels like “new girl” and “missionary kid.” For a while, she learned to hide her true self away in favor of a girl others would accept. She lost her identity, her self-confidence.

I’ve spent much of my adult life learning to force that girl out into the light, trying to help her find the woman she was created to be.  In the process, I’ve searched for her value in family and friendships, marriage and parenthood, status in college and sometimes status at church, often without realizing I was doing so.

On occasion, I’ve even tried to manufacture that girl’s value on my own by living the good girl life, raising the good kids, serving at the good church, creating good things, and so many more undesired, unnecessary sacrifices that we’re all guilty of performing.

But I fail so often, don’t you? And once again, the Father has to remind me that the confidence I’m searching for really can’t be found in others or in self.

If I want to be completely free of others’ expectations and my own perfectionism, to live confident, I must look only to my Maker.  He alone knows the “real” me, the girl he “knit together” in the womb.  The girl He calls “fearfully and wonderfully made.”  The girl He values at the price of a one and only Son. The girl I was born to be.

that girl, new creation, identity in Christ, finding confidence,

He alone knows the attention to detail that often leads to the pit of perfectionism can also be a gift of organization and precision.  He alone knows the smiling face often hides a fragile heart, but a heart that easily lends itself to sympathy for others.  He alone knows that tendency to boss comes from the ability to lead and that often critical voice reveals undaunted optimism.

And so many other flaws that I find so obvious in myself, He has ultimately meant for my good.

You see, we don’t serve a God who creates mistakes, sisters.  And even though sin and Satan have corrupted us, I’m convinced He truly purposed those “flaws” for good.

So how do we overcome the lies we’ve listened to for so long to reclaim our true selves, the free girls we were created to be?

We look to Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith!  He shows us our true value: the blood of the Lamb.  We trust in Philippians 1:6 which claims He began a work in us that He promises to carry until completion.

Sin temporarily hijacks our child-of-God identity, the world teaches us that we will never be enough, and the pride and insecurity of self often confirms the lies. But the truth, sisters, the amazing truth is that we don’t have to be enough because He is already everything for us. It’s this Christ-confidence that sets us free!

no condemnation, confidence in Christ, identity in Christ, position in Christ

With Christ’s help a better version of that true-to-self, second-grade girl is surfacing. I catch glimpses of her from time to time, the new-in-Christ girl. She speaks up even when the voices inside tell her to avoid the risk. She combats those lies with the truth of the Word. She claims victory in imperfect progress.

She is Christ-confident.

She’s learning little by little to tune out the world, the Enemy, and even her own perfectionist thoughts and focus instead on the Maker who continually makes her new.

Because she was born to live free.

And so were you, my sisters.

So were you!

Jen 🙂

 

 

Be sure to catch all of the posts in our Verdict on Value series (every Thursday):

March 27th – Kathy from Free to Fly (Approval)

April 3rd – Interview with Jennifer Dukes Lee (and a chance to win her new book, Love Idol!)

April 10th – Kerry from Plenty Place (Reputation)

April 17th – Arabah from Arabah Joy (Shame ~with a free printable)

April 24th – Jen from Being Confident of This (Confidence)

May 1st – Leah from The Point (Insecurity)

May 8th – Wrap up at Arabah Joy’s place

 

Sharing with: My Freshly Brewed Life, Missional Women, Christian Mommy Blogger,

Essential Thing DevotionsWomen of Worship, Mom’s the Word, Cornerstone Confessions,

Time Warp Wife, Rich Faith Rising, Messy Marriage, Jennifer Dukes Lee, Wholehearted Home

 

You may also find me at any of these lovely places.

 

 

 

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Answer the Door!

Image

Rev. 3:20

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock;

if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him

and will dine with him, and he with Me.”

He’s knocking today.  Will you answer?

Jen 🙂

I’m trying something new today over at The Sunday Community.

I may also be linking up at any of these lovely blogs.

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When Church Becomes Worship

Church

It’s almost here:  Sunday, a day when brothers and sisters in Christ from around the world gather together to worship the one true God.  And this Sunday, I will be able to go to church!  Isn’t that exciting! I’m ready, ready for worship, for fellowship, even for conviction to sting my heart during worship.

I’m ready for serving, for listening, for both giving and receiving.  I’m ready for hugs and how-are-yous and happy-to-see-you-todays.  I’m so ready that I would love to skip right over Saturday straight to Sunday!

I wish I could say I felt this way each and every Sunday, but the truth is that I don’t.  Many Sundays, I would rather not attend church.  I would rather not serve or worship or fellowship.  I usually go anyways; it’s kind of hard not to when you’re the pastor’s wife. 🙂  But on those Sundays when I grudgingly rise up from bed and grudgingly head out the door to church, I’m the loser, the one who misses out.

There is nothing different about those Sundays except for my own attitude.  I take worship for granted and fail to see it for the privilege that it is.  Thus, I miss out on the blessing church attendance could be.

It’s funny, really, how an illness or injury or absence of any kind can help you to appreciate those things in life that sometimes feel like burdens rather than the blessings that they truly are.  Like family.  Like motherhood.  Like worship.  Like serving the Lord.  We who are in Christ, especially here in America, are blessed with so many privileges that we fail to see as such!

When does church attendance become a burden?  When do we forget the blessing of knowing God, of being chosen?  When does spiritual life become less razzle-dazzle and more ho-hum?

It happens when we forget who we are and who He is.  Because when I remember what an unworthy sinner I am, how flawed, how small, how unlikely to be chosen, I know my real place.

And when I remember who He is,

the King of Kings,

Creator of the heavens and earth,

Blessed Redeemer,

Constant Provider,

a Refuge of Comfort,

Faithful Friend,

Lover of my soul,

then I leap at the chance to give Him the praise He is due!

I’m reminded, too, that I live in America, the land of the free, while so many of my brothers and sisters in Christ around the world do not share in that privilege to fellowship and worship without fear!  In fact, nearly a third of the world does not even know the truth of a Savior who willingly bled and died for the sake of our redemption from sin and slavery.

And with that perspective, the opportunity to worship with fellow believers becomes a blessing and not a burden, a delight rather than a duty.  That’s when church becomes worship.

church 2

I wish we who are in Christ could feel this way about a chance to worship Him in church every Sunday! How powerful would that be?  Even if our church isn’t perfect (and which one is??), even if our relationships aren’t perfect (yes, those, too), even if we aren’t perfect (and no one is, no, not one), our God is perfect.  Does He not deserve our adoration and obedience?

Hebrews 10

19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus,

20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh,

21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God,

22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;

24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,

25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Where will you be this Sunday?  I plan to be praising my Lord at church because

He

is

worthy.

Jen 🙂

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Broken Yet Not Destroyed

It’s time for Five Minute Fridays with Lisa-Jo Baker at http://www.lisajobaker.com, when we write for five minutes (more or less) on a one-word prompt that she gives us.  No planning, no editing, no stress; just words.

 

This week’s word: Broken

He didn’t have a chance really.

A divorce early on, a father who left.

A mother forced to work way too much, and siblings who despised him.

Innocence stolen.

He was broken almost from the beginning.

She didn’t have a chance really.

Used and abused by those who are supposed to nurture.

Sold at a price way too cheap for a soul.

Years of love poured out, yet not strong enough to overcome.

She was broken almost from the beginning.

They didn’t have a chance really.

Two broken souls finding solace in one another’s embrace.

Trying to do what’s right for all the wrong reasons.

Saying “I do’s” with no foundation to build on.

A marriage broken almost from the beginning.

It didn’t have a chance really.

Knit together in its mother’s womb.

Ensconced in warm liquid.

A single choice made.

Its life broken even before the beginning.

Broken is everywhere.

Need is everywhere.

Despair is everywhere.

Pain is everywhere.

Grief is everywhere.

Evil is everywhere.

But what they don’t yet understand: God is everywhere.

And what they need to hear: they,

they are broken, but not destroyed.

Because He,

He gave them a chance.

Born in a stable, despised and rejected.

Trading Kingly rights for human weakness,

He became the need,

He became the despair,

He became the pain,

He became the grief,

He became the evil.

His body broken and poured out.

By His wounds they are healed.

Image

Go tell the Broken,

That they may receive Life.

*Disclaimer: I’ve received so many lovely comments from visitors about the ability to write this in just five minutes. However, this week’s post took more than five minutes total.  The first half literally poured out, but I struggled with the ending.  It was just so dark and so hopeless that I felt overwhelmed by burden for the people I thought of as I typed out the words.  So, I took a break to talk to the Lord and came back to it after He reminded me that He was broken, too, and for that reason alone, the darkness isn’t the end of the story!  I broke the five minute friday time-limit rules, but I kept them in spirit. Yes, there is grace for five-minute-friday writers, too. 🙂

If you’ve never tried your hand at a Five Minute Friday, why not start now?  This week we’re linking up at Lisa-Jo’s facebook page because yesterday her blog was Broken. 😉  https://www.facebook.com/lisajobaker

Jen 🙂

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It Was Ugly (A Five Minute Friday)

Five Minute Friday: Beautiful

It was ugly. There was a bee sting and disobedient children followed by a sudden realization that all was not well. Disappointment, frustration, harsh words, and fear all balled up into one, a wound ripped open in the midst of a beautiful day. It was the kind of deep wound that ruins any thought of fun or enjoyment. And the children were watching, and I felt stuck.

I didn’t want to go to the beach anymore. I didn’t want to spend another second within a five foot radius of him. I wanted to admit defeat, to go home and sob in my bed, alone. I wanted to rage against him and flail my fists and ask, “How could you??”

But the children were there, conspicuously quiet in their seats, and everyone was waiting for me. We could either go to the beach and hope for redemption or we could suffer in silence for hours on the drive home. I didn’t want to go, but I couldn’t leave either. A rock and a hard place. And the children were waiting in the backseats.
It was Ugly, how an argument threatened to ruin a beautiful day, how to recover when you feel stuck,  hope for redemption of a bad day

Silent tears fell, and an inward scream of, “It’s not fair!”  But it wasn’t fair for them, the innocents in the backseat, either.  And I knew he was sorry.  And I knew I should be sorry, too.

A war wages within, and I feel helpless to call a truce. Then a prayer, a pleading for mercy and forgiveness, a desperate cry for joy and peace rather than chaos.  Slowly, the tears dry up as peace floods my being.  He’s with us, our Comforter and Redeemer.  I’m ready now.

The walk to the beach is long, sandy dunes, and four year olds floundering in flip flops, and heavy bags filled with towels and clothing.  And I’m tempted to go back to the struggle, but I don’t.  Instead I focus on the prize, the joy that awaits on the other end, the fun I know we’ll have if we can just get there without falling to pieces.

The sun and the sand, the waves and the seagull calls, the laughter of children happy to be at peace, happy to run and dig and splash – they were all worth it, that sacrifice of giving in when I had the “right” to fight, that obedience to trust that He could bring joy in the midst of pain. He is powerful when we are helpless.

sandcastle

I pray that we won’t remember the ugly, that 15 minutes that threatened to ruin it all. I pray we’ll remember  instead the wild beauty of the dunes, the slippery feel of the clay on the lake bottom, the giant sandcastle that was bigger than any we’d ever built before, the laughter of buckets of water raining over unsuspecting heads, the rocks we collected, the look between just the two of us as we recognize our many blessings.

It was ugly.

And then it was beautiful.

Jen 🙂

Today I’m linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker for Five Minute Friday – where we write for five minutes on a word-prompt she gives us.  Stop by and check it out!

Also linking up at:

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When the Grass Looks Greener

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‘Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked

or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.

But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf

does not wither’ [Psalm 1:1-3].

Last year we moved to a new town and a new (to us) home with more space and, Praise the Lord, a beautifully large backyard.  As a mama of four, with three of those being boys, I’m so grateful for the space for them to romp, to adventure, and to discover! One of the best features of our backyard (besides the lovely climbing trees) is the fact that it has a fence, a thing any mom of young children can appreciate.  Sure, it’s a rickety picket fence with flaking, brown paint that has seen better days, but it successfully (thus far…) contains our younger children.

I’m certain they could climb over the fence if they really wanted to, but they know it’s a boundary not to cross.  We’ve made it clear that the child who chooses to breach this barrier without permission will face serious consequences.  So, the physical barrier of our rickety fence serves as a constant reminder to stay inside where it is “safe.” Because they obey, I don’t have to worry about them chasing a ball into the street or wandering away when my attention is occupied elsewhere, and that gives me much peace.

Our aged brown fence keeps us all safe in other ways, too.  Strangers are unable to easily access the yard, especially since there is no gate at the front.  Stray dogs or animals cannot enter, either, if the back gates are closed.

But as much as I love our fence, it can only protect my children if they obey me by staying inside its confines.  The fence is no longer useful should they decide to venture outside of it!  And I’ve seen him, my youngest son, four years old, eyeing the gate from time to time.  He’s the sneaky one, too.  The child who is beside you one minute and vanished into thin air the next.  His disobedience is not overt, out-loud, hey-look-what-I’m-doing; rather, his disobedience is often silent, hidden, why-is-it-so-quiet-in-here? 🙂

Evidently our four-year-old is tempted by the “greener grass” on the other side of our fence.  He wonders what it would be like, that world outside of the safe boundary that his loving parents have set for him, not to keep him from something good or prevent him from having fun, but to protect him from harm from others or even from himself.

What would happen should he choose to leave the security and protection of our fenced backyard?  Perhaps nothing.  The first time he leaves, he might not experience any consequences at all.  In fact, we may not even catch him doing it.  Having experienced no negative consequences, he might decide to slip out unnoticed again….and again… and yet again… until one time, he happens to find himself suddenly facing grave danger, like Peter Rabbit who disobeyed his mother and found himself face to face with the dreaded gardener and his giant shovel.

And just as suddenly as the bunny faces that danger, he understands the reason behind the boundary, the one he crossed without permission, the one meant to protect him, not to ruin his fun.  But it’s too late. The damage is done and now he must deal with the consequences, whatever they might be.  He must run for his life and hope that he can be saved.

How often are we like that curious four-year-old, that disobedient bunny?  We fail to understand the reasoning behind the boundaries God sets up for us.  We fail to trust in the wisdom of our Father God, the One who created us, the One who knows all and therefore, knows what is best for us.

Isn’t that what happened in Eden?  God gave Adam and Eve a panoramic paradise to live in, a perfect relationship to enjoy, and a life of ease with all of their needs provided for.  And he gave them one rule. One.

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In the elementary age Sunday school class I teach, we’re learning about this rule.  But before we learned about the rule, the boundary, we learned about the Person who gave the rule.  We learned about how as the Creator of mankind, He had and still has the right to make decisions for mankind because we belong to Him.

We learned that as an All-knowing and perfectly loving Creator, He alone knows what is best for us.  We learned that His love was so great for His creation that He, the Creator of the Universe, the Most High, fashioned a beautiful world for us out of nothing, formed us in his own image, breathed life into us, and continued in relationship with us by walking and talking with us in the garden.

But then He gave us this rule, and like a curious child, we were faced with a choice.  Taste the forbidden fruit or avoid it like the plague?  Obey the God who planned out perfect paradise for us, or choose our own way?

I asked my Sunday school pupils why they thought God would even give Adam and Eve a rule about this particular fruit.  Why the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? Why not some other tree?  At first, they had no answer.

I then asked them why their parents give them rules or boundaries, such as: Don’t touch the stove! They quickly grasped that loving parents set rules in place to protect their children for two reasons: 1)because they know what is and isn’t safe and 2)because they love their children enough to want to protect them.  And then they understood.  They understood that God wasn’t trying to ruin Adam and Eve’s fun; He wasn’t trying to keep them from something good. After all, He did spend six days creating that perfect world solely for their pleasure! These young pupils saw that God must have a reason for setting a boundary around that particular fruit.

 

O taste and see that the Lord is good;

How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

Psalm 34:8

You see, God knew what would happen if Adam and Even ate the fruit.  First of all, they would be demonstrating a desire to go their own way rather than depending on Him.  Second of all, once they experienced the knowledge of good and evil, they would no longer be innocent, no longer perfect.  The scripture records that before they disobeyed, Adam and Eve walked around naked and felt no shame.

Can you imagine?  Feeling no shame? Ever?  We’d be like toddlers running wildly naked after a bath, carefree and full of joy and exuberance.  Total freedom and wild abandonment.  We’d dance and sing and laugh.  That, my friends, is what God had planned for us.  That was His original desire for us: to live a free and abundant life of pleasure in a world of paradise!

But we chose our own way.  Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and the whole world changed, even plant life and childbirth and the physical world changed.  They left the fence to venture out on their own and the consequences were immediate and disastrous: separation from God relationally (immediate), separation from the Tree of Life (leading ultimately to physical death), and after death a permanent separation from our Creator (lake of fire).

Imagine the sorrow of a Father God sending his beloved children out of the garden, knowing that for the time being, they would suffer and struggle, knowing also that one day, His only Son would pay a terrible price for their single indiscretion. One rule; one choice.  Imagine the sorrow of leaving that beautiful paradise, that haven of perfect joy and peace. Imagine the weight of knowing evil for the first time; life would no longer be carefree.

Even today, we often choose to leave the protection of boundaries that He sets forth for us in His Word .He provides boundaries about what we do with our bodies, what we put into our minds, and how we relate to others.  And when we leave for the “greener grass,” instead of becoming free, we become ironically enslaved.

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Like the four-year-old investigator, we might not see the danger lurking at first.  We might not suffer any harm, or so we think.  But each time we leave those boundaries that our loving Father set about us to protect us, we take a bigger risk.  And one time, we’ll have gone too far. We’ll be face to face with danger, with the Serpent, with Satan.  With His lies, he ensnares.  He promises freedom, but delivers slavery.

My sisters in Christ, why oh why do we choose to leave the protection of the fence?  The grass on the other side isn’t really any greener; in fact, it’s a hollow deception, a mirage. What lies on the other side of that lovingly placed boundary is

t…h…i…c…k  mud,

s

i

n

k

i

n

g

sand,

 miry clay.

That movie that we really shouldn’t watch or the book we really shouldn’t read doesn’t free us.  That person who is so attractive, but off-limits, isn’t good for us. That friend who entices us to leave the fence isn’t really an uplifting friend. That substance we so desire provides relief that is only temporary at best, not forever paradise. That choice to willingly disobey only brings us danger and heartache and burdens, so many burdens. And each time we venture out, we risk more. We risk a reputation, a relationship, a marriage, a child, a ministry, sometimes even our very lives.

The truth is, the only green grass we’ll find in life, the only abundant paradise, is right within our Father’s fence.  His boundaries exist for us, not against us; for our benefit, not our detriment;  for our protection, not our suffocation; and only because…

He.

Loves.

Us.

Like a parent looking after a beloved child, He gently guides us away from evil in this world, if we allow Him.

So, the next time you think you see a prime piece of green pasture just over the boundary, remember Who built the fence and why He built it.  Remember that what He most desires for you is paradise.  If you choose to stay inside the protection of the fence, the only thing you’re missing out on is the Serpent’s deceit and the slavery that follows.  Choose freedom.  Choose abundance.  Choose life.

like a tree

What verses help you stay inside of the fence?  Please share with the rest of us in the comments!

Only because of Christ,
Jen 🙂

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Be a Transformer

Have you ever put off saying (or posting) something because you feared the repercussions, how it might be received?  If so, then this post is for you.  Even as I wrote it, and re-wrote it, I felt that same fear because being bold in my witness does not come naturally to me, rather it usually results from conviction of the Holy Spirit.  Thus, I have put off posting this message for too long now, and God has  convicted me that I’m not trusting in the Him, the God “who goes before me.” I have spent hours crafting the message so that it will hopefully ring true without causing a permanent loss of hearing. 🙂

So I hope that when you read it, you will consider my heart (even though some of you might hardly know me).  My heart beats for God’s people and for His truth, it yearns for us all to strive toward Christ-likeness not for the sake of personal pride or satisfaction with self, but for the sake of His glory, that His name and His Truth should be known around the world!  My heart aches for the lost, those who are searching for His Truth without even knowing it.  You can blame my parents for this since I spent a great deal of my growing up years as a missionary kid. But that’s another story for another time.   Today I want to ask you some tough questions in relation to the following verse:

do not conform

Recent conversations on Facebook and other media outlets have opened my eyes to a developing trend in Christianity today.  Being a Bible-believing, truth-defending, Christ-follower is no longer popular even in many Christian circles!

Somewhere along the line, some of us Christ-followers have become so conformed to this world that we are afraid and/or unwilling to take a stand on issues that the Bible clearly addresses.  I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve found myself in this camp before, keeping quiet because it’s just easier.  Some believers even go so far as to throw their total support behind worldly ideology, political correctness, tolerance  – whatever you want to call it – and then condemn their fellow believers for being “judgmental,” “close-minded,” or “intolerant.”

While criticism from the world is to be expected, criticism from fellow believers often surprises us!  We are not accustomed to being labeled (or  dare I say “judged”?) by those who should be our support.  How warped is it that Satan has convinced some of us that simply standing on God’s Truth is being judgmental, and is therefore wrong?

Allow me to clarify: the Bible DOES speak strongly against judging others and becoming self-righteous. We are all familiar with the words of Luke 6:41-42.

speck or plank

Only God can see, and therefore judge, the motives of the heart.  Therefore, we should not pre-occupy ourselves with the sin of others; rather we should be too busy dealing with our own sin.  However, God also calls us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and to be bold in our witness as transformers.

Unfortunately, well-publicized, so-called “Christians” have recently taken a stand for their so-called “truth” in ways that ARE harsh and hateful, tarnishing our witness.  Furthermore, we have Christian brothers and sisters actively ridiculing others on forums such as Twitter and Facebook, adding to the world’s negative perception of us Christ-followers. While I fully support upholding God’s Truth, when we haughtily shove our beliefs in someone’s face with a sarcastic turn of phrase, a witty cartoon, or a picture that belittles others, we end up conforming to the world and looking just like it!  How can we then be salt or light to a world that is in dire need of God’s truth?

I believe Satan has seized hold of this shame over others’ behavior and used it to confuse believers (as well as the world!) and convince many of us that upholding God’s truth is wrong in and of itself, when the reality is that the fault lies in the method of delivery. We have only to study Christ’s example to see how he gently revealed truth to people, often with a single phrase or sentence, and always while caring for their needs, whether physical or spiritual.  He did not skirt sin issues, neither did he humiliate the lost.

We must follow Christ’s example in our efforts to live as transformers.  When the Bible speaks clearly on issues of right and wrong, we are called to uphold God’s Truth with – and this is the key – LOVE and RESPECT.

prepared to give an answer

The key lies in our delivery – a delivery which requires a balance between Truth and Grace, not the absence of either or both.  A total-grace perspective can lead to conformity, while a total-truth perspective can lead to self-righteous bullying .  Is it wrong to bully others into sharing our beliefs?  Yes!  Is it also wrong to be silent on issues that the Bible clearly addresses?  Yes!  Why then have we allowed the world, the Great Deceiver, and even fellow Christians to tell us that it is un-Christian-like to be a Christian? Ironic, isn’t it? 🙂

My purpose is this: consider carefully how your life and your actions or statements appear to others (especially in regards to social media).  Do they see a difference?  Are you being transformed by Christ, or are you choosing to conform to the world?  There is no middle ground!

power of risen savior

I know it is risky voicing the unpopular Biblical perspective on many current issues, but then Christ wasn’t all that popular with the worldly and falsely religious leaders of his day, either.  You may lose friends.  You may lose popularity.  You may even be judged by the very people who accuse you of “ being too judgmental!” Have the courage that Paul had when he wrote in Philippians 3:7-11:

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Amen??

If at the moment you find that you’ve been conforming (and haven’t we ALL at some point or another??), remember that God’s grace is immediate and His power to provoke change in us is immeasurable.  On the other hand, if you are already actively trying to live out a transformed life, take heart. You are not alone!

I encourage you to look to God’s Word and the Word alone to form your opinions, and allow the Holy Spirit to transform your thinking.

Questions to ask  before posting or sharing a “truth” statement via social media:

  1. Is your audience one you love and one who loves you in return?  In other words, will your message be received in the manner in which it was intended?
  2. Is your message one of God’s truth rather than man’s truth?  In other words, do you have contextual biblical support  for your message?
  3. Is God leading you to share this truth at this particular time in this particular fashion?  In other words, has the prompting come from Him or do you just love your soap box? 🙂
  4. Have you achieved a balance between truth and grace?  In other words, how is your method of delivery – gentle or smug?

overcome evil for good

Telling the truth in grace and love is such a delicate balance to achieve, but as Christ’s image-bearers, we must work toward that balance!  We have amazing technology and a unique opportunity to show the world what Christ-like love truly is, so let’s allow Christ’s love to shine through us without diminishing the light of His message.  Don’t conform.  Be a transformer.

Because of His love,

Jen 🙂

You might also enjoy this post:

http://www.godspotting.net/2013/06/god-is-not-republican.html

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