the end result

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12).

As battles come and go in this life it is easy to fall apart and be overwhelmed by all that surrounds us.  The cacophony of voices telling us to stop or that we will fail so why continue, can block out the one quiet voice telling us to keep moving.

When we chose to believe there is more than our circumstances tell us, we choose to hope. Out of this hope comes a sense of joy, of possibility for more. This joy helps us dig deeper into our patience.

Patience is one of those “vegetable virtues.” The kind that are good for you, but still hard to swallow. When we are being afflicted by trials and tests we will find that we are actually stretching and growing our patience and endurance. Anyone who has trained for a sport event understands this experience. Training and building muscles means strain, struggle, and the decision to not give up. It’s the decision to endure for a better person.

Faithfulness to me brings to mind a rugby player in the midst of the game. Bloody, dirty, sweaty, tired, but never giving up. Still fighting to support his or her team members until the final whistle is blown.

When we engage in our faith we will find the end result is a stronger believer. We have battled through the trials and are still standing. We have believed God is bigger than what we faced and found it to be true.

 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (Romans 5:1-5).

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what difference does it make?

During my Faith journey I have been challenged by people about why I have chosen to live my life as a Christian.

Why do you want to live like that?

You don’t get to do anything?

I bet you hate… (such and such) or (so and so) for doing (whatever).

I couldn’t live like that.

Or — how stupid are you to believe in that?

I haven’t always had great responses to the comments, some I have chosen to leave unanswered. But, here is my reality- my Faith in Christ is my bedrock, my comfort, my hope, and my blessing.

Jesus is the difference in my life between death and life, hopelessness and hope, shame and forgiveness, fear and freedom. Believing in a God who loved me enough to send His Son to die for me, this gives me such a sense of peace. Not foolish peace, but deep, rich peace.

The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus matters because it changed the world. He offered what no one else did, a new life, a new hope. No hoops to go through, no tasks to accomplish, no sense of worrying if I was “good enough” to get in to Heaven. Instead, I am free to let go of my past, knowing that Jesus paid that debt.

Through Christ I experience the comfort that comes after deepest pains. Only through Christ will we fully understand Love, Grace, and Mercy.

First John chapter 5 describes it best:

 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.  This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,  for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

 This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.  For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

So what difference does believing Christ make in a person’s life?  It can be an eternal difference.

Being a believer includes serving people, great and small, in secret and in public. It’s the difference between a spouse holding a grudge and choosing to forgive angry words. It’s giving of ourselves, in the same ways that Jesus gave of Himself. For others, in humility, not for glory, honor, attention, and fame. For the sake of the lost, the broken, the hurting, and the lonely.

He gave and so I give. That’s the difference. It’s everything to me.

 

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absolute knowledge

One of the things about my Faith journey I love is the Truth I stand on every day. I don’t have to worry that my salvation will be lost if I make a mistake, fail, or don’t complete something . there are no steps to complete, no tasks to fulfill. I am a Child of God and that will not be taken away. Scripture is clear, 2 Timothy 2:13 says, if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself. Hebrews 13:5 saysbecause God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

I can stand sure in my salvation because it is IT is sure. Jesus’ death and resurrection and my acceptance of Him into my life is what makes it sure. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (John 19:30). The phrase “It is finished” was the same language given to bills of sale that were paid in full. Jesus declared “Once for all” that His death would pay our debts.

This Faith I claim is one that stands strong, no matter the storm because the One I believe in is real, alive, and on the Throne of Heaven. I can face the struggles, embrace the triumphs, and reach out in Faith when I am weak because I have absolute knowledge that My Savior will be there for me. He loves me.

Best Beloved, He loves you, too.

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth (Job 19:25).

 

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paid

Recently, a radio station I listen to took a call from a woman who was trying to contact her utility company. The woman was surprised to get the radio personalities, not the bill paying system she was trying to contact.

During the conversation the woman disclosed that her utilities were about to be turned off due to her delinquent bill. The radio personalities decided to pool their resources and pay the woman’s past due amount. When they called her back and gave her the news that her bill had been paid in full she began to sing out praises to God for His goodness. She thanked the radio personalities and told them she wanted to hang up the phone so she could keep praising God.

The joy she felt bubbled over fully and you could feel how light she felt with the burden of debt gone from her shoulders and spirit. You could fairly hear her dancing around her kitchen at the news.

When we embrace the Grace offered by Christ through His death and resurrection we too, can feel the lightness of being, the joy bubbling over and the freedom that comes from putting that burden down. We are no longer bent over by the weight and shame.  We can stand tall, dance freely and sing our praises to the God who paid our debt in full.

I remember clearly that moment I accepted Christ’s gift of Grace. I could not stand still, I wanted to run, I started to sing and praise God with words that tumbled over one another so quickly I could hardly register what I was saying.

What about you?  Can you recall the day you heard God tell you your debt was paid in full? Do you remember the joy you felt? The Freedom?

If you haven’t experienced that kind of joy what is stopping you?  If you have questions contact 1-800-NEED-HIM or message me.

Blessings fellow sojourner! 

(for a fun song about that kind of freedom check out the Newsboys song “I Am Free” — it covers the emotions so completely.)

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not wanted

I have watched people on my news-feed tear apart others for months.  Shredding their character, their perspectives, and views because they are different. I have watched people who were once so tightly knit together be torn apart by hurtful attacks and cruel words.

Friendships of over twenty-years have been destroyed because one person no longer chose to respect the voice of the other. I have watched people I respect strive to speak with a balanced word and still end up on the business end of a skewer because their views differed from someone else.

This world we live in has hate and love, heartbreak and joy. It has hope and a sense of hopelessness. It has advantages and disadvantages, the privileged and the underprivileged. We cannot have the one without the other on this side of Heaven.

What saddens my heart, what I cannot come to terms with, is the mentality of “buffet-style” living we all seem to embrace. We like this, but not that. We like him, but not her. We shop here, but not there. We buy this, but won’t by that. Sure, that is our choice– a freedom we have… but why do we vilify those who do the opposite of us?

Are we so narcissistic that we only want to see what looks like us?

There are people I love fiercely and deeply whose values and priorities are different than mine. Should I hate them, spew anger and slander about them because they are different?

The Faith I claim, the Jesus I say I follow, isn’t about exclusion.  Jesus went to the worst sinners, hung with the down-and-outers, the people who were different, who didn’t fit. Why? Because they mattered- to God and to Jesus. They should matter to me, too.

Buffet-style living just ends up picking apart something that would have been a beautiful feast for so many, if we would just choose to include instead of exclude.

Please hear me– I am not pointing fingers at particular people, I am pointing fingers at ideas that are not the Truth of Scripture. The Truth of Heaven. Jesus was clear in His mission, For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). 

When we attack people for being different we miss out on the mission. We, as believers, are God’s Search and Rescue Team.  If we are constantly pushing away the ones who are different, we end up chasing away the very people we are created to find.

Heaven is available to all. When we put up a KEEP OUT sign, we are missing the point entirely.

*For further reading, check out Luke 15, Luke 19:1-10, John 4, John 8:1-11.

 

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standing weak

I had a chat with a wonderful woman yesterday. As I shared what I was learning through my counseling, she asked if the counselor had ever commented on how strong I was. I cut her off mid-sentence. “No,” I said, “And I don’t want her to, either. My attitude toward strength is what has been part of my trouble.”

I have long believed that my world would fall apart if I didn’t try to hold it all together. If I admitted I couldn’t do something, handle something, put up with something, I would be called a failure.  Somehow, I saw myself as the glue for the world.

What a lie.

No where in Scripture does it say, “Gretchen, you have to carry the weight of it all on your shoulders.” It does say,  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

By admitting that I am tired, that I need help, that I cannot do this life on my own willpower, I am actually allowing the strength of God to come into my situation.  Paul said it best, 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” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10- bold mine).

I can stand in my weakness because my God is the strength that holds me up. I don’t have to have it all together. God holds it all together– He has my life, my future, my family, my situation all in His hands.

I will stand weak, for in Him I am strong.

 

 

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relentless

Lost. Broken. In the darkness. Without Hope. Without Life. Without direction. This was my life. We all like to act like our lives are wonderful, ordered, successful, but we are just lying– to ourselves and to others.

We run away from our sorrows only to find that they have followed us. We break the hearts of those we love when we run. We have affairs- with our jobs, our technology, we walk away from our marriages- our children. We are a terrible mess without a single chance for change.

And then, like the hero in a classic western story- Jesus comes into our hiding place.  He has been pursuing us, following our trails as we run away. Never giving up on us, never turning away from the ugliness we carry in our hearts. We cower in the alleyways and the dark rooms, believing the lies we aren’t worth anything. Believing we are no better than the dirt under our feet, on our faces, and in our hearts.

But the mighty Hero of Heaven comes to seek us out. He finds us, He washes us clean, He helps us stand up straight. He clothes us in righteousness, we no longer wear filthy rags.  For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,  in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13).

The mighty Relentless Love of Heaven tenaciously pursued me. Relentless Love tenaciously pursues you. We are not without Hope. We are not without Love. We are not without a chance of New Life. Jesus is our Hope, our Love, our New Life. We just need to seek Him– He is already seeking us.

People are praying for you. I am praying for you. Just turn around. Jesus is there. Embrace Him as He embraces you.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:9-12).

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glasses

When I was a young girl I found myself squinting at the blackboard from the back row. It wasn’t until fourth grade that I finally received glasses.  I could see clearly for the first time.

I have since “graduated” to contacts, but each night when I take them out to clean them, I am unable to see much of anything. Sure I see shapes, but nothing has clarity, nothing is as it really looks.

Recently author and speaker, Christine Caine, spoke at my home church.  She challenged that when we look at others and objectify them, categorize them, or dismiss them we are not using our eyes the way God designed them to be used. We are looking inward, when God designed our eyes to look outward.

“We are so obsessed with looking at ourselves, that we don’t see a lost and a broken world. We are so obsessed at looking at how things are going to impact us and effect us personally that we don’t see.”

Our eyes were meant to see people as who they are- created in the image of God, precious in His sight, and worth seeing as the treasures He declares us to be.

We as the Church, have been called to see the lost and hurting, not to ignore them.  If we ignore them the enemy will be all to happy to see them and continue to attack them one way or another.

May we put on the glasses, ask Jesus to help us see, to reach those who are lost. It’s time for them to be found.

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building princes

A friend and I began discussing the different princes portrayed in animated movies we watched as young children. I chuckled at the characters and the various traits each contained.  Some were gentle, some were strong, most were brave, all were handsome. It simply came down to a buffet style of princes– just pick the one you most identify with and he would be yours.

Ok, I am not a princess-kind-of-girl, to be honest, I’d rather be climbing trees and mountains than wearing a dress. But there is something about the allure of being protected, rescued, and defended that appeals to me.

Over the years, I created a prince of sorts in my mind– nothing I would admit to, but he still managed to fall short of what I really wanted- or needed. Then I met Jesus. He came gently into my heart, He was strong enough to carry my burdens and worries, He faced the very depths of Hell for me. The very King of Heaven who truly loved me more than any mortal man could or would, came into my life and we will be together throughout all eternity.

Because of God’s great love for me (Lamentations 3:22)–and for you–He sent His only Son to die for me. To take all my fears, all my sins, all my failures, all my anger, all my shame, all of who I was and bear it on the Cross. So that three days later, I could claim that amazing resurrection truth–that I am a Child of God.

I could still wish for a prince to come in on a white steed to a stirring soundtrack, who would carry me off into the sunset, but he will never be all that Jesus is to me.

 

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TGIF

This week has been a struggle for me. Waking up to the alarm made me yearn for Saturday. Fridays for many, signal that it is time to exhale, to relax, to let go of the stress and struggle brought on by the daily schedules Monday through Friday. We all know the mantra, Thank God it’s Friday.We say it, we post it, we call it out to each other as we leave our job at the end of the day.

What if we looked at our salvation the same way? What if we said, TGIF, but instead we meant Thank God it’s Forever. We don’t have to worry that we will lose it, have it revoked, or wonder if we ever really have it?

As my anxiety is slowly unraveled through counseling, I find myself learning more and more about the fears, many of them irrational, that have plagued me in my life. The fear of graduating high school which kept me up at night for weeks– even though I was a “B” student. The fear of never finding a good job, never getting married.  Never hearing from God.  Never following through with a task given to me.

One thing I have never feared is the loss of my salvation. When I accepted Christ that summer of 1990 I felt released from the trying, the failing, the merit-badge winning. I no longer needed to try to win God’s love or His mercy, it was just given to me.

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). The verse doesn’t say God would only love me if I followed a ten-step plan, or became a missionary to some far away country. It says He loved the world- which includes me- and He gave Jesus in place to give me eternal life.

I don’t have to renew my membership each year. I don’t have to worry that I will lose out on something because I didn’t upgrade my position.  I am a child of God — ever since that day– and I will be forever.

So, today TGIF doesn’t mean, Thank God It’s Friday, for me, it will always mean–

Thank God It’s Forever!

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