Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Taste of Heaven

Just 2 days ago, the kids and I came back home from visiting my parents down in Florida. Since 2008 I've been going to visit them every year and have formed some really great friendships with many people from their church. This year I got to visit Lifebridge again and be part of their community group. One evening, as I was listening to people in the group laugh, cry, talk, confess, pray, etc.. it made me wish to be part of that community. My heart ached to be part of such a close-knit group of people who just loved Jesus and who's lives were centered around the Gospel. I could see it in the way they came together, willing to put aside their busy schedules, to serve Jesus. I saw the excitement in their faces when they talked about sharing the Gospel with people! No they weren't sinless or perfect, each had their own idols that they struggled with, and they even had 'heated' discussions! But they were transparent with one another. There was accountability, being challenged in the faith, fellowship, friendship, a definite sense of family and it made me wish I could be there all the time. I know there is no perfect church here on earth but this fellowship was a definite taste of what I sense heaven to be like when all brothers and sisters in the Lord come together to worship our King. One day, I pray, Lord willing, I can be part of a "family" like this one...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"Making My Election Sure"

"For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ....Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 1:5-8, 10-11).

"An idol is something that we look to for things that only God can give. Idolatry functions widely inside religious communities when doctrinal truth is elevated to the position of a false god. This occurs when people rely on the rightness of their doctrine for their standing with God rather than on God himself and his grace. It is a subtle but deadly mistake. The sign that you have fallen into this form of self-justification is that you become what the book of Proverbs calls a “scoffer”. Scoffers always show contempt and disdain for opponents rather than graciousness. This is a sign that they do not see themselves as sinners saved by grace. Instead, their trust in the rightness of their views makes them feel superior." ~Tim Keller 

Last night I was complaining again about the 'modern' churches of today to my husband. I admit, it was coming across very prideful and nasty and Jim told me. Today I came across the above quote and realized that I was making my "doctrine" an idol. I knew I was wrong and repented of my sin. That night I went to sleep and had a dream about driving in a car and the Lord was speaking to me. I can't remember the whole dream but I remember God saying, "Brenda, are you making sure of your salvation? Do you love Me or just love my gifts?" That's all I remembered from the dream but then I realized I read that verse in 2 Peter 1 just a few days ago. It was like God was reminding me again through His Word, in my dream. I woke up realizing that I've been prideful again, was worshipping the idol of self and because of my idol, was condemning fellow believers because 'all they care about is being moral!' I forget, that I'm by no means, better then anyone else! I need to check my walk with Jesus and not worry about 'fixing' others. Also, God tells me to love my fellow brothers and sisters because if I don't, then I hate Him. It may be harsh but its the truth. So then, is condemning the brethren loving them? No its not. This morning I got on my knees and said, "Lord, I have come to the realization that I am making 'doctrine' an idol.  I also have loved being prideful and pointing fingers at certain believers. You tell me that You hate idols and Your Word says to love ALL people. But Lord I can't love people in my own strength! I need You to give me that love for those fellow believers that get under my skin. And please violently dash those 'idols' that have taken Your place! Please help me!"
I know that only God can dash those idols. I know that I can only love my 'brothers and sisters' and others with God's love. In my flesh I can't do it! But that is why I need to be close to my Shepherd daily and I need to remember, to constantly, believe in the Gospel. Then with God's help I can destroy the idol of self and with God's love (and it may take time) I can say, "I love my brother's and sisters in Christ. Not in a 'have-to-because-its-the-Christian-thing-to-do' way but with God's love! Thank you Jesus for reminding me!!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"In the Desert with Jesus"

This is a prayer I wrote in my journal tonight:

"I feel so alone on this journey. I feel like Moses in the desert and people just don't understand--and I guess they cannot understand. I feel like I'm constantly battling in my spirit and I just can't rest... I can't stop. Constant tears, constant wrestling--my mind is always racing. Some think I'm miserable and ask, "What's the problem Brenda? You always look sad.. there is no joy!" Maybe they are partly right in the joy part. I try to explain but its of no use. They just don't understand the journey I'm on. In the past, I really thought I was like Moses in the desert. For 40 years he was in the desert alone with You. I would tell people that I think the Lord is trying to get me to a place where I can say, "You Lord are truly enough." And at that time I thought I was in that desert place, but looking back and seeing what I'm going through now, I don't think I truly was. But now I am...(I feel it and its so lonely and painful... its so hard!) But its also good. Because Lord You are trying to get me to that place of totally, pure reliance on You. In the past I had other people to fall back on but this time its different. This time its truly just You and me."

After this prayer I opened my Bible and the pages fell to Luke 14:33- "In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple." In this sense, 'giving up everything' for me is giving up reliance on people and giving up trying to force people to understand the journey I'm on--that control. I'm truly beginning to understand what God is doing..I may think its lonely but actually, with Jesus, it really isn't.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

"I'm Going to Do What I Want!"

This morning while eating breakfast with my kids my oldest says to me, "I don't have to obey adults--I obey Jesus." I proceeded to tell her that Jesus has put parents, teachers, grandparents and other authority figures over us to obey so when we obey them we are obeying Jesus. She then said, "Oh okay, so then when I grow up to be an adult I can do whatever I want." I shared with her that that's called 'rebellion' and it happened in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve.
Then a thought came to mind: I do the very same thing....
For example, after reading 1 Peter 2:1- "Therefore rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind," a minute later I find myself getting angry, then prideful and I start to slander and attack others. Didn't Jesus say to get rid of all those things??
"But wait Lord, isn't it okay to get angry about wrong theology? Isn't it okay to...?" (fill in the blanks). But deep down if I was truthful, I would realize that my anger is not righteous--it is prideful. I would know that I'm slandering people not theology. I'm making excuses for my sin and saying, "I'm going to do what I want to do God!" just like my child. I'm no different..I'm just as rebellious. And so under the Spirit's conviction I fall down at Jesus' feet and repent.

Monday, May 9, 2011

"Standing Before Jesus"

I have to admit.. I don't know where to start. This is my very first time writing a blog and I'm not sure how it will turn out. But God is showing and teaching me so many neat things that I wanted to share my "Journey with Jesus" with you. I hope you will be encouraged as we go through this journey together!
"Abraham stood yet before the Lord." (Genesis 18:22) Such a simple verse yet so profound... 'The man whose faith has been deeply tested and who has come off victorious, is the man to whom supreme tests must come.' ~Selected. 
This verse really jumped out at me.. I guess it was perfect timing for what I am going through lately. I'll start from the beginning. About a month ago I ordered a book called, "What is Reformed Theology?" by Sproul. As I read the book, much of the Scripture that I had read and underlined in my Bible, concerning my 'total depravity', 'my redemption' and 'the call of God', in the past, were starting to come together.  I was coming to realize that my views on how I came to know Jesus, were changing. The more I read and studied the Word of God, the more I was being convinced then ever, that my redemption had absolutely nothing to do with me or my 'decision.' It's like a light bulb has gone on and I'm finding myself more and more humbled the more I read and study. I did nothing to gain God's love or approval. The God of the Universe who did not have to redeem mankind (and He would still be just), chose for 'His good pleasure' to adopt me as His child! I can't put it into words.. it just humbles me immensely.
But even on this journey, I admit, it has been a very lonely one. I have already gotten into not-the-nicest-discussions with friends, had one person I know stop talking to me, and even in my spirit have been wrestling tirelessly, talking and crying out to Jesus: "Lord! I feel so alone on this journey.. can I please have a loved one on the same journey with me?!" And then that verse. "Abraham stood before the Lord." (Genesis 18:22). It was just Abraham and one else. It's like God is saying to me, "Brenda, do you trust Me? Even if no one else is walking this journey with you, can you walk with just Me? Let me handle other people. You can't change their minds or control them. Walk with Me." And so with tears I repent and say, "Jesus, I want to trust You but I can't do it in my own strength. Can You please help me?" And He says, "Yes, my child.. I will."