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Grace to be Content Part 1: Prayer

Happy Monday! I’ve been missing for the past few months, I know. But with some nudging and suggestions from a friend (thanks Beth, I needed it!), I’m back. And I’m starting a short series to reflect on what the Lord has done for me in this past year.

Over the last year or so, God has been teaching me a lot about being content. And by His grace and patience, He gives me contentment every day. I don’t remember the last time I smiled as much as I have this year. There was a period in my life where smiling was rare, or forced, and the thoughts running through my head where not quite as sunny as they now are.  After facing anxiety, depression, and my self-absorbed mentality that caused most of it, the Lord brought peace, and He taught me how to be content. As I’ve said before I’ll say again: He saves me daily from myself.

So, why a series?

Well, there are a few things that contribute to my new-found content heart. And the first that I want to mention is prayer. But first, a verse to get started.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:11,13

This verse often gets taken out of context. How often have you or someone you know used this to say that Jesus was gonna help you win that game that was so important to you, or that He was going to make you super successful at everything you do because He will give you strength to make a lot of money or win that audition? I’ve heard it, so I know we use it that way. And while Jesus very well can give you the strength or ability to do all those things, I don’t think that’s what these verses are saying. In fact, these verses seem to be saying something radically different. They are saying that whether things don’t go the way we want or do go the way we plan, whether we lose completely or win magnificently, we can find contentment in every situation. We can survive any circumstance we might possibly find ourselves in through Christ. Through Him we can survive tough times, and through Him we can survive abundance. The outcome is not what is being stressed here, it’s the attitude despite the outcome.

Which brings me to the next point: I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Paul is talking about the Lord obviously, and since that’s the case, prayer is pretty important to this topic.

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:5-7

My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to Your word!

When I told of my ways, You answered me; Teach me Your statutes!

Psalm 119:25-26

When we give our thoughts to the Lord, be they worried, depressed, discontent, or perfectly happy, He takes care of it. He gives us peace.

Let me also stress the importance of stillness, because this goes hand in hand with prayer. We can pray, but sometimes we need to be still and not try to explain or figure it out. We just are still and remind ourselves of our God and His infinite goodness.

Oh Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.

Psalm 131:1-2

When we are quiet, the Lord can give us contentment. When we stop fighting Him and telling Him that our way is best. When we present our problems and our joys to Him. He makes our lives full. He is our delight. How do we get there? Pray and be still.

You cannot be content in any area of your life until you are content in the Lord. Once that happens, once you find your contentment and your fullness rests in Him, then He will make you content in whatever situation you find yourself in. Even in moments like now, when I feel anxious, He is my source of contentment. I have a constant need to fix things around me, and to avoid breaking them to start with. But in those moments we need to remember that the Lord gives us grace. And that is something to rest in.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have this down perfectly. I’m not writing to give you my magic formula that gave me complete and perfect contentment. Instead, I’m simply trying to share how the process of being content has come about in my life. Believe me, it’s a process. There are still days I forget to seek my comfort, strength, and contentment in Him. But that’s what reminders like this are for!

The first step of the process is communication with God. Seek Him. Know Him. Everything else starts to take a backseat, and we can realize that it may suck right now, but in the beginning and in the end there is God. There is Christ who made a way for us to look forward to something so much better. You will find your contentment in His grace.

give grace,

Linds

 

 

 

 

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Psalm 84

The Lord gives me exactly what I need when I need it. I don’t always think so, and when I can’t sleep because of anxiety or stress, or when I get choked up by fear, I forget that. Then my friends ask, “Have you prayed about it?” or “Have you been reading the Bible?” *facepalm* (Side note- find yourself some friends who will ask you this).

I forget how much I love God’s words. I forget just how important they are. They are the way He gives me what I need, which is usually a reminder of just how much He matters, and just how much I am in love with Him.

But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

Psalm 73:28

I don’t always feel that way though. I know what it’s like to not have time, or to not want to even though I know I should be reading Scripture or praying about something. Heck, that was me this past week! But then I do read it, because I reach the point where nothing matters anymore and I get all Eeyore-ish, or because I tell myself I have to, or because one of my wonderful friends reminds me that I should. And many times, I fall in love again. Sometimes I don’t, because to be completely honest the Bible can be tough. Open up to Leviticus or Numbers and some of those chapters are a bit wordy and not much seems to be going on.

But here’s the thing- like I said in the beginning, God gives me (and you) what we need when we need it, and when we ask. 

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”

Matthew 7:7-8, 11

So to recap- God gives us what we need, and more. He gives us blessing upon blessing. And His Word is beautiful.

The reason I say all this is because I believe it, and because I know firsthand that it matters. I’m a complete fanatic about the Bible. Because I love it. Because He saves me every day, and gives me grace to live everyday, and loves us so passionately that I don’t understand it sometimes. One of my biggest hopes is for everyone who reads this to fall more in love with Scripture than I am.

It matters because it tells us who God is. It matters because it tells us what is important.

When I struggle with stress, God speaks rest. When I struggle with fear, God speaks love. When it’s anxiety, He speaks peace. When it’s depression, He speaks purpose. When it is joy, He makes it complete. In everything we face, feel, think, or struggle with, He gives us truth and grace to deal with it.

Recently my anxiety got the better of me, and then I read this:

How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise!

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.

O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed!

For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!

Psalm 84

I start to panic, and become overwhelmed with trying to control every situation. BUT GOD speaks peace and reminds me that He is what matters and the rest is detail.

May our hearts and souls long for the courts of the Lord. Sometimes I get this out-of-place feeling, and I just want to be home. Our citizenship is in heaven, not earth, after all. But God has given us grace in this time as well, and when we long for home, where He is, we can turn to His Word, which will give us strength, wisdom, and what we need to press on.

One last thing about the Bible: sometimes we need to read something to just keep us going. But there are more times when we need to read it to understand, to study, to know the truth. I’ve already written about the importance of knowing truth, and you can find that post here still, but I just wanted to throw that out there again. Sometimes reading the Bible takes a good deal of thinking and studying to understand it at all. But it is worth it, and putting in time to understand makes me, and hopefully you, love it and our Creator more.

give grace,

Linds

“Rightly Handling the Word of Truth”

This is the message that we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.

If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

1 John 1:5, 10

Questions like “What is the origin of evil?” are things that the great theologians of the past, present, and most likely future have spun in circles trying to answer. And I’m not going to answer that now, although I could spin in a couple of circles to argue my opinion myself. Instead I want to point out how we should go about thinking about questions like this one. Or how we should not go about it.

To just attempt to answer certain biblical questions, we need to start with truth. As Christians we believe the Bible to be true, right? So, in searching the truth about anything, we must absolutely start with the truths we already know. There are just some things, or actually a lot of things, that the Bible makes crystal clear. When it comes to Scripture, there is no room for questioning what it means in things such as:

  • God’s goodness (1 John 1:5, Psalm 136:1, Psalm 107:1, Mark 10:18)
  • His character (Isaiah 30:18- Justice, 1 John 4:8- Love, Revelation 4:8- Holy)
    • Obviously these are not the only characteristics, they are merely sufficient examples.
  • Salvation by faith alone through grace alone (Romans 4:22-25, Ephesians 2:4-9, Acts 16:31)
  • Christ’s death and resurrection (Matthew 28:5-6, 1 Corinthians 15:3-5)

And these are just some of the core things that the Bible teaches us without a doubt. There are many more that would take me days to list and hours for you to read.

When there is a doctrinal or theological question that we are trying to answer, as believers we need to start with the Scripture that we know. If we come up with an answer or opinion that in any way contradicts what we already know about who God is and the truth in the Bible, we need to stop and look harder. Because if there is a contradiction in the truth, it isn’t truth anymore. There may be difficult things to understand, but there cannot be a contradiction. We cannot say that God is fully good without darkness in Him, and then claim that He is responsible for orchestrating evil. It does not line up.

Our answers or interpretations must match the truth in the Bible. We do not mold the Bible to fit our opinion, fact, logic, or human understanding. We apply logic, fact, and wisdom to the passages using truth we already know. If you find a contradiction, figure out why, don’t just shrug and move on.

So with this said, I will again emphasize this: never, EVER attribute something to God that would be considered despicable even to a fallen human being. If we can take that attribute, apply it to a person, and say that it is sin or evil, then it cannot be attributed to God, because, as we’ve established, God is holy, pure, just, loving, and GOOD.

Hm, I suppose I did sort of get a little into an argument about the origin of evil… Just didn’t mean to. I’m not saying I know it, I’m just trying to talk about how we should reason, not necessarily all the details of what we should conclude.

Frankly, if something is not explicitly clear to us, we need to give it the backseat to those things that are. If we know that God is good, other things need to line up with that. If we know God is holy, the rest needs to line up with that. We must not put a perfect God on our level in His attributes. He is perfect, we are not. This is not like Greek mythology, in which gods act like people, have petty arguments, are imperfect, sometimes downright evil, but have more power. That is not our God. Our God is holy- set apart. He is perfect.

We sing “He’s a good, good Father,” and “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty,” but do we really mean it? Do our thoughts, arguments, and doctrines match those words? Do we turn to the solid truths of the Bible before getting into arguments about doctrinal details? Know the truth. And then use it to learn. Don’t just chuck it to the sidelines while going off on a tangent.

While I do not agree with him on all points, Augustine said it well when he said:

I now tried to discover other truths, as I had already come to realize that incorruptible is better than corruptible, so that You must be incorruptible, whatever might be Your nature. For no soul ever has been able to conceive or ever will be able to conceive anything better than You, the supreme and perfect Good… But seeing the superiority of the incorruptible, I should have looked for You in that truth… For there is no way in which corruption can affect our God… for He is God, and what He wills is good, and Himself is Goodness, whereas to be corrupted is not good.

(Confessions, Book Seven, IV)

In this Augustine got to the heart of truth-seeking: the character of God. If something we are attributing to God goes against his incorruptible and good character, then the attribute cannot be true. We know God is good, so to say that He is evil is illogical, and a contradiction.

This is how we should go about our study of the Word and God. We need to know the clear truths of the character of God, and when we do the rest will fall into place, as long as we continue to focus on the important truths that are outlined for us.

Trying to figure out the “origin of evil” is not a bad thing, nor is trying to figure out every prophecy in the book of Revelation. But we need to be founded on the core truths of who God is, who Jesus is, and who we are in Him, and then we will be able to “rightly divide the Word of truth.”

If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him;

if we endure, we will also reign with Him;

if we deny Him, He also will deny us;

if we are faithless, He remains faithful-

for He cannot deny Himself.

Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

1 Timothy 2:13-15

Let us not get into quarrels about words, but let us rightly handle Scripture.

Let us give grace in every circumstance, whether we agree or not, but let us be firm also in our foundation. When it comes to the truth, we must be immovable. Give grace, but stand strong and know the truth.

give grace,

Linds

Victory through Grace

Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.

But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

1 Cor. 9:26-27

This verse has been one of my daily reminders this year. After one of my church’s pastors preached on this for New Years, I wrote it down and stuck it on my wall. So for all sorts of things, I can remind myself of the why to it all.

Perhaps you are like me, and you need to know WHY you are doing something for it to get done. Like today, I was trying to do math conversions for microbiology. Things like figuring out dilutions, and finding the original sample concentration of CFUs- fun stuff. But the thing is, my brain doesn’t run on equations. For every equation, I need to know why. Why does it work that way? Why am I even doing this? Once I know why, the rest becomes simpler. Or at least bearable.

Every day, situations present themselves that require me to remember why. In school, I have to remember that my why for being successful is to become a nurse like I know I’ve been called to. In working out, my why is to be healthier to accomplish more. And because it will be worth my time in the end. And in resisting temptation, my why is in order to finish the race strong, to not be disqualified in the end of the prize, to be closer to my God. 1 Cor. 9:26-27 is pretty much the ultimate why to everything we are called to as Christians, both generally and individually.

Each day has it’s temptations, it’s failures, it’s struggles. Believe me, I know. But when I start to think why it may be worth it, these verses answer every question.

This passage is like a promise to me. It brings about the concept of possibility. Failure happens, but victory and finishing the race is possible. We run to receive an imperishable prize. We are not aimlessly fighting, we are not aimlessly running. We do not do this to achieve a cheap earthly prize like gold or silver, but to receive the imperishable. We run to remain qualified. Not of eternal life, but for the prize and blessing of the gospel. Paul writes these verses after explaining the sacrifice he makes for the sake of the gospel and his witness.

I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

1 Cor. 9:23

It is the blessings of the gospel that we run for. Obedience results in blessings over and over throughout the Bible. Works can never be enough to receive salvation, but our works are not in vain. When we obey, we receive the blessings of the gospel. When we disobey or fail, just as an athlete gets back up after a bad day of training, we get back up and find victory in the grace of a new day. Which thankfully is one of the blessings of the gospel- grace to mess up.

So what happens when we don’t obey? When we don’t run to obtain the prize? Well, sin hurts. Fear hurts too. It hurts our relationship with God, and sin can physically harm us. We miss out on the blessings that can be obtained through obedience. The natural consequences of our sin catch up with us. Note again that consequences don’t always refer to eternal consequences. The only requirement for eternal life is to believe or trust in Jesus Christ as Savior. But there are physical consequences to our sin. So when we don’t walk in victory through grace, when we don’t act on the why for each moment, we don’t obtain those same blessings.

Finally, I want to reemphasize the promise that our efforts are not in vain. We do not fight the air, we are actually fighting. So keep going, even when it feels like you are swinging at air. Do you know how dissatisfying air punching is? Try it, then hit a punching bag. When I did that, these verses made a lot more sense.

I encourage you to read the whole passage in 1 Corinthians. Remind yourself each day that it is not in vain, and victory is possible through Christ.

Thanks for reading!

give grace,

Linds

 

Little Random Thoughts

I know it’s late, but this is me sitting at my desk taking a break from studying so that there will be a post up before Monday is over. Admittedly it is last minute, hectic, and half-thought out. Ok, maybe not even half-thought out. I don’t know what to say or how to say it, so I’m simply going to bullet-point my thoughts to form a semi-cohesive blurb.

  • Learn to love even the worst aspects of what you do, or else daily life becomes miserable.
  • Inflammation causes a ridiculous amount of problems.
  • Singing always helps. It is a good idea all the time.
  • When in doubt, coffee.
  • pH and K levels are very particular. Don’t mess those up.
  • Colorful pens make life much more enjoyable.
  • So do new friends. And old friends.
  • Stress causes a wealth of health issues. Nursing school = gain stress while learning about how bad stress is.
  • God is still good.

Ok, maybe this was not worth reading, but thank you for taking the time to read it anyway.

I’ll leave with one short, last thing.

Remember on your most hectic, last-minute, exam filled days that God’s grace is still present. So walk in it.

Longer post to come next week.

give grace,

Linds

The Mercy of Broken

A couple of years ago I heard something scary. I learned that I was about to be broken. Sounds a little stupid, a little dramatic, but it’s true. And I brushed it off, saying it wasn’t a sure thing, but then… yep, there I was, broken and a mess. There’s a lot more detail, but it isn’t important.

So, as I felt better, I accepted that the brokenness was good. I didn’t know why, but I knew it was good. I became more mature, and in the end I learned how to have a little more faith. But I still didn’t understand why, I just knew that if it was what God allowed to happen, it was ok.

And then I learned something. First off, I knew I dug that hole for myself. I was a stubborn, obnoxious human. So God did not cause my brokenness, I did. This is truth. We cause our problems. I knew that, I just want to make that clear so no one mistakes my next comment. God simply used my brokenness. My mistakes, my pain, my denial was all redeemed. I pulled, and pulled, and pulled, BUT GOD used that. So know this truth- God is NOT the author of evil or brokenness. He is the Healer, the Light, the Love, and the Life. He does not orchestrate evil or sin. We push, we pull, because in His sovereignty He chose to give us choice. He could change it, but He gives us the option to choose Him in love. Why? Because as my father would say, “He does not want robots.” Never accuse our good God of evil.

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

1 John 4:8

“For everything created by God is good

1 Timothy 4:4

“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.”

Psalm 136:1

Point being through all this, God is not to blame for our wrongs. I am fully responsible for my mistakes and brokenness. BUT GOD does not leave me or you there. He uses our mistakes and our brokenness just like he used Joseph’s brokenness, David’s brokenness, Paul’s brokenness, and Peter’s brokenness, just to name a few.

“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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 12: 9-10

This brings me to the next point- I am content. In fact, I can smile and rejoice for the brokenness that taught me a little more about how faithful our God is. He is truly good, and ever faithful to us. Trusting Him gets a little bit easier each time I realize just how patient He has been, and how much He saves me. Not just once, from eternal death, but daily from myself.

My brokenness was a mercy. It sounds backwards, because I said and say again- He saves me daily from myself. But sometimes He allows me to make a mess, to go my way, and to wreck things a little, because I am just that stubborn. This too is His mercy. He shows me through this just how faithful He is. When we are faithless, He truly remains faithful. He shows His mercy in many ways, and at this point, I can honestly say that I am thankful for being broken. Being broken made me realize that I don’t got this. I don’t have it as together as I thought, and I need to work on a lot of things. There are things that used to matter that now don’t. I have a long road to maturity, BUT GOD is bringing me closer to Him a little bit every day, even through my brokenness. So yes, even when I feel like I’m having the worst day ever, God saves me.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved…”

Ephesians 2:4-5

So in our brokenness and weakness, God’s mercy and grace is revealed. His power is revealed. Y’all, I can not stop smiling this week. A year ago this week I could barely bring myself to fake a smile. Now I cannot stop. I hope this encourages you today. God takes our hurt and mess ups to bring about the best. Trust Him. He is truly good. His grace is enough.

give grace,

Linds

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Look Down

I will lift my eyes to the Maker of the mountains I can’t climb, 

I will lift my eyes to the Calmer of the oceans raging wild

I will lift my eyes to the Healer of the hurt I hold inside

I will lift my eyes, lift my eyes to You. 

“I will lift my eyes” by Bebo Norman

I love this song. It is one of the songs that I can listen to on any given day and still need to hear it again. My faith is not nearly strong enough, and I need this constant reminder to lift my eyes.

Faith is such an amazing concept. It’s a simple word, and it gets thrown around so much that sometimes I wonder if we cease to wonder at this way in which God’s grace shines. Lately I’ve been going through the gospels (currently I’m in Mark), and it seems like every chapter has something to do with faith. “Is this really a surprise?”, you may ask me. No, it really isn’t. But I am a forgetful, worry-wart, type-A kind of person, so I need to remind myself of this daily. If faith is something that you just have in abundance, and you don’t need that reminder because you look at the Rockies and they just fall and everyone around you panics thinking it’s an earthquake, well then, that’s awesome! But as simple as the concept of faith is for me, I struggle with living in faith.

Recently I’ve been taking a dance class, and I have discovered that as much as I love it and the steps are easy, the most difficult part is me not being in control. I have to trust the guy I’m dancing with not to run me into a wall, or a mirror, or another person. I also have no idea what he’s going to do next, like, is he gonna spin me? No? Too late, I’m spinning anyway. And in the middle of all this, I just need to look up, look at whoever I’m dancing with, and not worry about what’s happening next, but trust. Oh, the depths of my trust and control issues! They cut deep.

I like to draw spiritual and emotional connections through school. I know.

Lately the theme of my life seems to be focused on faith and trust. God keeps bringing it up with me, in dance, in songs, in Scripture. So I want to spread that to you and encourage you to walk in faith every day. I will make myself sick when I don’t understand something, or when I’m scared, or worried, or just not trusting. It goes round my head for days nonstop. I can’t get it out. Not alone. If you are like me at all, I understand that it drives a person a little crazy. It drives us crazy because we are trying to take on a role that is not our own. We cannot possibly know what comes next, much less how to control it if we did.

When we find we are out of control, faith gives us the final step to that trust process. The first step is to stop trying to be in control of every detail. The second is to have faith that God will take care of it. To have faith that no matter what, God keeps His promises. He never fails. And we will see more things and greater things be accomplished through our faith than through our control. When you’re dancing with someone, you can accomplish harder things, more fun things, and just overall look a lot better when you get your role right. We are not the lead in our relationship with the Lord, He is.

I’m sorry if I’m being a bit repetitive in my posts, but this is my life right now. Constant reminders to let go and allow my faith to be bigger.

Ask for faith. Seek it, and know how far it can go. Faith in the Bible led to great things. Not to mention the greatest thing of all- eternal life. If we have faith that one day we will enter into an eternity after death with God, than it doesn’t matter as much that we be in control. Just the thought of God’s promise to us when we have faith in His Son is enough to give us faith for every little, temporary situation we encounter here.

His grace abounds to us, and we know that we can access that grace through our faith. Trust Him.

If this is you too, I encourage you to read Hebrews 11.

I will lift my eyes to the mountains;

From where shall my help come?

My help comes from the LORD,

Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to slip;

He who keeps you will not slumber.

Psalm 121:1-3

give grace,

Linds