What a spot on blog!!
What a spot on blog!!
As believers, our back-story, in many cases, becomes the cornerstone of our testimony. Our back story begins with who we were before Christ- lost, blinded, desperate, needy, and dying. Added to that is the defining and life changing moment in time when we experienced merciful and gracious intervention. The day the Healer of our souls opened our eyes and heart to our desperate need of a Savior. Our back story is the moment He allowed us to see we stood wanton and condemned before the awful and awesome Holy God of Eternity. Our back story was when Glory intervened among depraved humanity, revealing. condemning, ransoming, delivering, and Saving us so we could be who we were created, called, and destined to become.
Unlike fictional work, our back-story is unique in that it is ongoing and will never be complete until Christ returns. At the end of every day, we have actively lived and experienced countless moments that bare witness of a faithful and glorious God actively at work among us. Our back story builds and swells ever moment of our lives, paving the way for the next.
Lamentation 3:19-27 says:
19I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
What an eloquent summary of the back-story of every believer!
At night, when my head hits the pillow, I can and must reflect upon the back-story of the day. It is during these quiet periods of reflection that I am able to see quite possibly what my physical eyes missed during the chaotic moments of the day. For, every second I drew a breath, He was miraculously and glorious present in my life.
Every moment of Divine intervention, grace, strength, joy, sorrow, suffering, and Victory, yet another row of “faith” bricks are laid. Each day’s faith bricks building upon the last, and not one line of my story takes place without His presence. He is there holding my life, my back-story, and my life story together. Within the Divine mortar that affirms, confirms, and establishes my life, the King and glorious Creator of the universe takes pleasure in weaving His presence and glory into my meager story, making it His own!
This amazing Montage of the Divine intertwined among raw, needy humanity shines more brilliant than the most beautiful of sunsets. Daily, and faithfully He builds, what human eyes can not fathom. Day by day He builds what makes the unseen heart soar and rise above circumstance and sorrow. Brick upon brick, story upon story, faithfulness that binds, grace that transforms, lives consumed by the glory of His love.
And from among the ash and the chaos of life His glorious church is built. The many become one. A mysterious and unified body. A million voices crying out in perfect, haunting harmony. Each back story confirming and testifying with the next. A unanimous, faithful, consistent symphony, building upon the every note that swells from hearts overflowing with Divine Grace. No one story rising above another’s, for every story proclaims equally and gloriously the Sovereign Reign of a Holy God. And as our voices join with those “Graced” in the past, we beckon and testify to those who struggle tomorrow that He Is, He Was and He will forever be. Those who “know” and have experienced, call out to those yet suffering among the ashes of sorrow, pain, heartache and failure. To these we cry “Lift up your head, He lives, He breathes, and He is here among you. He sits with you among the ashes, He understands your fear, He feels your pain, and He has an answer to the questions you falter to ask” Our back-story becomes the hiding place for those so broken, battered, and weary they can’t see him though their pain.
He loved me enough to expose the hidden sins of my heart. He cared about the things others couldn’t see, seizing the opportunity sin meant to use for my destruction and instead used it as an opportunity to lavish upon me His glorious grace. When I was wounded by the sinful hearts of others, He whispered I am here, I am in control, and it is your heart I will make new. Though I did not understand it then, I see now that He smote me, not to destroy, but to restore. He broke me beyond what man could repair and then He repaired my spirit, soul, and heart in a way only the God of the Universe could. He replaced ashes with Beauty, sorrow for Joy, turmoil with Peace, Anger with Gentleness. Though I was blind, now I see, and what was dead, He brought back to life. Oh look at my life and you will see Him there. Oh to be able to adequately convey what He has put to death in my heart and life. If only you could see the ugliness and depravity His Spirit works diligently and skillfully to cut away. He has gloriously replaced a hopeless future, with His glorious Hope!
This is my back-story and this is His glory!
I stumbled across an emotional feel-good video today while scrolling through morning Facebook updates : ) In this particular clip, friends and complete strangers join forces to create the “Perfect day of work” for a “deserving” woman. Their targeted beneficiary was a young, hard working waitress, who had overcome much adversity and hardship. Chelsea’s day began with a thousand dollar tip, which she initially tried to refuse. Next up were tickets to Hawaii, and then an offer for employment in a field of work she loved. The “perfect day of work” ended with a brand new car and a visit from her best friend.
I am not ashamed to confess that as the gifts rolled in a smile grew across my face and I might have shed a few tears. It was a cool story! Every co-worker and friend that was interviewed repeated the same message “If any body deserves this, it’s Chelsea.” This young woman had faced adversity, and not only did she overcome it, she spent her free time channeling all her energy and resources towards helping others like herself. Even more amazing was the fact that she did so on the salary of an overworked and underpaid waitress.
Weary and straining under the emotional and physical stresses of life, unexpected and unsolicited intervention flooded in and swept her up and into a real life, happily ever after fairytale. I don’t think there is a single person who has watched or read about a story like this who hasn’t had the thought,” I wish something like that would happen to me.” To receive needed resources and even a few luxuries would be such an encouragement, not to mention the mental boost of having my life, work, and talents affirmed by those I know, love, and work with.
Then it struck me, I have my own story, but it is so much better than all the “pay it forward” stories flying around on Facebook and Youtube.
While Chelsea’s friends professed her deservedness of the perfectly planned gifts that poured in, I couldn’t help but think of how differently my life story has played out.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith,
wehave peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace
in which we now stand.
And weboast in the hope of the glory of God.
3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings,
because we know that suffering produces perseverance;
4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.
5 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.
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless,
Christ died for the ungodly.
7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person,
though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.
8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners,
Christ died for us.
What a list! Did you catch all of them? Justified, peace, access, grace, standing, hope, glory, perseverance, character, more hope, no shame, God’s love . All of this abundant goodness with one slight difference, I deserved nothing!
I closed facebook and turned off my phone and sat back to replay the video of another life that has been blessed. This record wasn’t documented on the internet, it was etched deeply and lovingly upon the innermost parts of my heart and mind.
My story is both appalling and beautiful. I was the source of all that was ghastly, tainted, and spoiled. One day my eyes were opened and I was reminded, I was not the author of my life story, nor the lead role. So often I have the cameras on the wrong person! Life is not in fact about me and what I deserved and have earned but rather about Him and all He has given. Still a sinner, still powerless, still undeserving, grace came down!
Within that tiny five letter word, infinite and unfathomable gifts reside and flow. They are not temporal and will never be taken away. They will never spoil, rust or corrupt. With every tick of the clock grace flows. My perfect day will not end when camera crews go home and the internet is switched off. My life story will not fade and be replaced when a new and more sensational story comes along. My perfect day will not temporarily remove me from the harsh reality of life the and sorrows and struggles each day can bring. My perfect day involves a person who gives what I need so I can be sustained as He carries me through them. My perfect day is not orchestrated by well meaning friends with limited resources and a company that will use me as an advertisement gimmick in order to make money. The vast and mysterious heavens are the footstool of the author of my story. His power and resources have no end. His motivation is Pure, Holy, and Righteous. All He gives is only for my good and what He chooses to bestow never comes with sorrow or regret. His gifts don’t merely enable me to cope and survive until my circumstances change. His gifts transform, renew, and empower my heart, mind, will, and emotions to overcome regardless of my surroundings and circumstances.
Today, my heart cries out “I deserved none of this” and He replies “THIS is my joy.” I am overwhelmed by the grace that has flooded, floods, and has yet to flood into my life. A grace, that if measured, could not be contained. My “perfect day” began long before the first beat of my heart and the labored heaving of my tiny premature lungs. Chosen before the foundations of the world, I have been wooed, hedged, and shepherded through endless “perfect days.”
This is my life story:
I deserved nothing yet He has given everything!
Will you take a moment to replay and praise Him for your “Perfect day?”
A Concern and Challenge For “Recovering Grace”
As the firestorm around Bill Gothard and the IBLP erupts, I find I feel many mixed emotions. I wasn’t one of the “victims.” I was not preyed upon or abused by any member of leadership, and while many decisions my family made were misguided and in error, my parents were godly, loving and sensible people. My life was greatly impacted by sincere, godly, loving leaders at ALERT and Excel. I learned and grew much during involvement with ATI. I forged lifelong friendships and memories I will always look back upon with fondness.
As I stepped away from the IBLP ministry, I did so in phases. Ignorance and blindness was eventually replaced by anger and shock. I was not the “perfect Christian” they led me to believe I could become by following prescribed “Biblical” rules and laws. I dressed the part, listened to the right music, courted, avoided things on the “naughty” list, yet I never had true freedom or peace. Not only was I odious to myself, I was odious to the rest of the world.
In just the past 3 years the Lord has begun the process of ripping away the spiritual blindness, calluses, and more importantly the hypocrisy that kept me in a prison of frustration, guilt, fear, and anxiety. After leaving IBLP, the Lord took me through some gut wrenching trials. The problem was, when they came I had no true Biblical truth or foundation to stand upon. Years of rules, and “Prosperity gospel” laden false teaching smothered any attempt to make sense out of what I was going through and why.
Then came GRACE! The realization that I could not add a measure more of God’s love, mercy or power to my life by “works,” rocked my world. Even greater than this was the truth I could not compel Him to withdraw ANY measure of His love and mercy in my life by sin, failures, or weakness. I had it “ALL” already! It wasn’t about me anymore, it was all about HIM.
No more list to check off! No more putrid hypocrisy to paint me white and clean on the outside, when in fact I was struggling and broken inside. I was covered and bathed in the “Amazing Grace” of God. He loved me in spite of who I was or what I had done and this love would never change or waiver.
How liberating it is to be driven in my heart by a passion for Him, because “He loved me first.”
How meaningful time in the word becomes, when a true desire to seek and know Him is the motivation rather than fear that if I don’t the hammer will drop and judgment will come.
The law opens our eyes for a need of a Savior. It revels and bears testimony that man’s heart is truly deceitful and desperately wicked. The law exposes our need for redemption, but there is no power or freedom found in that law. The law condemns! If you stop with the law, your life becomes a knotted and gnarled ball of guilt, pride, shame, arrogance, hopelessness, and frustration.
Then comes Grace! Freedom from chains we forged in an attempt to measure up, add to, and earn His favor.
Love and His grace cover a multitude of sins and brings freedom, but there is more. With eyes opened to the truth of His grace and Mercy, my life is lived out as an act of love to Him. I live each day striving to “be Holy as He is Holy” not in order to earn something, but because I am so overcome by His love for me I want to do everything to please Him and nothing to grieve Him. I desire each day to show Him that within my limited knowledge, I understand what He has done for me, Given me, rescued me from!
So as articles fly across the internet and facebook feeds, here is my concern and challenge to Recovering Grace.
Your website “Recovering Grace” advertises a powerful and much needed ministry to thousands of people around the world, including those who have never darkened the doorway of IBLP or ATI. You have shed light on abuses and scandals that have resulted in damage untold and left countless victims reeling, angry, hurting, and questioning the Gospel, salvation, and even God himself.
There was a time I stopped visiting your site because I did not find “Grace” that could help me as I worked through my struggles and questions. Many times, all I found were painful stories and narratives/responses filled with unbelievable pain, anger, hate, and animosity. These accounts left me disgusted, angry, and so frustrated, but very few offered a glimmer of hope, peace and an active and living example of grace that heals.
I am not saying the anger, animosity, frustration is wrong, I am just saying, now that the firestorm has hit and exposure has been accomplished, so much more is needed than stories exposing the ministry, its leaders, and grotesque false teaching.
This site will receive so much traffic by the hurting, abused, seekers, God haters, and those simply curious about the newest religious scandal to hit the news waves.
While all the abused and wounded need to be able to tell their story and begin the process of healing, I encourage those at Recovering Grace to be wise and discerning as they wade through the thousands of e-mails, stories, claims, comments and offerings from those of us negatively and even positively impacted by the IBLP ministry.
Fill your web site with GRACE. Fill it with the amazing stories of healing, recovery, and the truth of God’s word. Let it ooze with hope for those who need it more than anything else in. Let your site be a miraculous testimony of of “Beauty from Ashes.” May what satan intended for evil, be a used for good and a demonstration of God’s grace and strength.
Offer links, books, and other sound resources that can provide Biblical counsel and truth that can enlighten, expose, heal and strengthen.
My prayers go out to all who are hurting and seeking peace, hope, and grace. It is there for you! Don’t give up!
Sunday evening I was treated to a small taste of heaven on earth. I sat quietly in my chair surrounded by the family I cherish. We were related by blood, but not the physical liquid that courses through artery and vein. We were bound by something so much more precious, priceless, and powerful than gene and chromosome.
We were a family united and gathered together because we had been adopted into the family of God. We were covered with the precious blood of the Lamb that was Slain. We had been saved by the blood of the Son of God, the Creator of the universe. Our eyes had been opened to the awful reality of sin and the just condemnation we deserved because of it. We had been wooed, pursued, and graciously delivered from an eternal separation from the presence of God and a physical anguish that would never end.
One by one voices called out. Most were simple three or four word phrases, but hidden deep within each syllable was a personal testimony, a unique story. Each tongue that proclaimed the Glory of the Lord, bore witness that there was a God, and that He delighted in intervening in the affairs of man. Perhaps for a brief moment in time the heavens paused, and the galaxies took a breath as man took a turn singing the very song they had been singing since the day their creator flung flung them far into the expanses of the skies. One by one, voices were raised, declaring the glory of God, giving testimony to His Majestic Holiness.
A brother would call out, sharing a moment of Divine intervention and all around the auditorium heads would nod in knowing affirmation. Smiles crept to our mouths because while our experiences might be different, the God he spoke about was excitedly familiar.
“He is slow to anger!” someone announced and immediately my heart leaped within my chest. I wanted stand up and cry out Yes and Amen, I know and have experienced this God!!! “He abounds with mercy!” Oh glory I mouthed silently. I have met the God who has filled my days with mercy!
He pursues us with relentless love quips another. I choke back a sob as I think back to my teen years when I questioned and chided him in a foolish attempt to provoke His wrath” He did not strike me dead like I deserved, instead he patiently hounded me with His grace. He loved me when I walked astray, hedged my path from destruction and wooed me to Himself.
Sunday evening was a treat, a small glimpse of that moment in time when we will meet and see with our eyes, the God we have experienced here on earth. On that day we are told that every knee will bow and every tongue confess the truth, “That Jesus is Lord.”
And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
On that day my voice might possibly join with the birds of the air, the trees of the field, and the fish of the sea in proclaiming His glory and might. On that day my heart will leap as never before, when I finally gaze upon the one who drew me out of the pit and set my feet on dry ground. I will see the God who chose me, the Savior who died for me, and the Spirit who sealed me. I will meet the Father who adopted the unlovely and destitute. I will fall before the Son of God who bore my sins on the cross. I will stand, not in abject fear, but delight as the Spirit bears witness that I am indeed a daughter of Christ!
I will not only proclaim he is Holy, Just, Righteous, Loving, faithful, True and Merciful, I will fully know and understand this. I will taste and see in a way I can not fathom that “He is good” and I will cry out “Most blessed am I because he chose to seek and save me!”
Have you joined the heavens in declaring the goodness of God? Is your life a living testimony of a faith rooted and grounded in the reality that the very God of the Universe delights in you? Do the rocks around you groan to declare what you have failed to proclaim. Do you exude the hope and exuberance of a prisoner set free? Will you join me today, raise your voice, and delight in a little taste of heaven on earth?
“Give the Grace: Dazzling your kids with the Love of Jesus.”
Thank you to all who stopped by “Give them Grace” and entered the drawing! If you did not win, please don’t let that stop you from reading this life changing book! If you are having a hard time getting a copy please drop me a line and I will help you out!
Sarah Markley over at The Best Days of My Life posted a wonderful story about how we are called to respond to our children For the Times We Don’t Have Any Idea What We Are Doing. If you are a parent, this is a must read blog.
From her story and insight I would swear she was a fly on my wall just last week. I have a wonderful daughter who is approaching the teen years, and as emotions and hormones clash with immaturity, the resulting product has been some rather significant altercations between the two of us. Last week, I called my husband in desperation, frustration, and fear and exclaimed “I don’t know what else to do with her.”
The very questions I was asking last week, Sarah addressed in her blog. As parents, how do we deal with a child who still sees life “darkly” and through the veil of inexperience and immaturity? How do we get them to make wise decisions, weighing the consequences of their choices versus the effect it will have in their life long-term? I appreciated Sarah’s challenge to respond in the following way “When we don’t know what to do, forgive. When we don’t know how to move forward, love. When we don’t know how to fix it, seek to reconcile and redeem.”
The Lord is amazing and He also led me to a book titled Give Them Grace: Dazzling your kids with the love of Jesus. This book was recommended to me by over half a dozen godly, veteran parents. My book arrived yesterday, and I dung into it today and my spirit was encouraged. I was blown away by the wisdom and truth found in just the “foreword.”
“It may come as a surprise to you, but God wants much more for your children (obedient life, polite, no vulgar language, no addiction to porn, good job, great marriage, not caught up in really bad stuff) and you should too. God wants them to get the gospel. And this means that parents are responsible to teach them about the drastic, uncontrollable nature of amazing grace.”
“The irony of gospel-based sanctification is that those who end up obeying more are those who increasingly realize that their standing with God is not based on their obedience but in Christ’s.
“The law of God shows us what God commands, which of course, is good but the law of God does not posses the power to enable us to do what it says….the law guides but it does not give. The law shows us what a sanctified life looks like but it does not have sanctifying power…The power to obey, in other words, comes from being moved and motivated by the completed work of Jesus. So while the law directs, only the gospel can drive us.”
If that wasn’t a bucket load of truth to feast on, I don’t know what is!!! In a world where 60%-88% of young adults are walking away from the church, and God, the call to Dazzle Our Kids With the Love of Jesus, isn’t just a quaint suggestion, it is our calling and duty.
I would like to present what I think is one of the most important giveaways I have ever offered. I will be giving away 2 copies of this book. You can receive multiple entries by sharing this blog via any social media outlets you frequent (I have FB, Twitter, Digg, and a few others listed below) and by visiting Sarah’s blog and reading her sage advice on this topic. Just return once and in the comment field let me know what ways you shared.
As a parent, my children’s lives and spiritual health are a great burden to me. I would lay down my life for them if I could, but “no man can give a ransom for the life of another, for it is precious in the sight of God” and His alone to save. We would jump in front to take a bullet in the chest to save their lives, but so often neglect the gritty, day-in-and-day-out duties and sacrifices needed to protect them from the spiritual bullets satan is hurling at them. Often it is because we are lazy, selfish, or spiritually not where we should be either. Would you join me and take up the challenge to “Dazzle your kids?”
Drawing will be held Friday, July 13th, so stay tuned
Beth Moore at Living Proof Ministries is hosting her women’s summer Bible study. I signed up at Women’s Bible Cafe to join over 600 women who will participate in this study via online and community small groups. We are studying the book of Nehemiah and using Kelly Minter’s book Nehemiah: A heart that can break.
There is still time to join over 600 dear, like-minded, passionate “Siestas” in Christ. You can follow along personally, join a virtual small group (what I am doing), or hook up with a group in your area. Check out any of the above links for information.
Brokenness isn’t an activity your normal human being would sign up to experience. Everything about the word screams run, but when we are straining to “see the unseen”, and to live for the “Eternal” versus the temporal, brokenness should become our hearts desire and aim.
Over the next few weeks I will post thoughts and insights gleaned from this study. My heart has all ready been blessed as I have joined in prayer with women I have never met, yet feel great love and compassion for. What a powerful image six-hundred women, on their faces before the Lord, crying out for brokenness, evokes!
To ask the Lord to break my heart with the things that break His, is a daring prayer. It is not a self-seeking desire to suffer for the purpose of winning the praise and accolades of man, nor is it an attempt to obtain righteousness through works. The desire to have a heart, broken by God, is a desire to see and feel as He sees and feels. It is a prayer to have myself moved out-of-the-way so I can see and be moved by the pain, suffering, need, and hopelessness of man. A heart, broken by the Spirit of the Living God, is to posses a heart that mourns over the destruction that sin is wreaking in the hearts of fallen man.
Today, as we studied the prayer and heart of Nehemiah found in chapter 1:1-5, A verse kept coming to mind:
15 As for me,
I will behold thy face in righteousness:
I shall be satisfied,
when I awake, with thy likeness.
I believe this desire should be the heart and sum of all we strive to do and be as children of God. A broken and contrite heart He will not turn away! Would you be daring enough to embrace the cry, “Lord break my heart?” Can you utter with me. in Your brokenness, let me become Your likeness, and in Your likeness there let me dwell satisfied?
And whosoever shall fall on this stone
shall be broken:
but on whomsoever it shall fall,
it will grind him to powder.
The world will crush and break us ruthlessly, our Heavenly Father breaks us with love, compassion and a divine, God glorifying purpose.
Lord God Almighty, posses and reign my heart and life. Make is soft so that it weeps when you weep, delights when you
delight, and breaks at what breaks yours. O Father, I shall be satisfied only when I awake with your likeness, when there is less of me for the world to see. Amen
Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.
“and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
He demands that truth resides in our inward parts because He is the Truth, and the center of our life is where He delights to dwell. For the lost, afflicted, weak and needy, no other word contains greater meaning, power, hope, or reward? Jesus Christ the Way, Truth, and Life purifies the sin afflicted heart and unshackles the weary and groaning prisoner. Once given free reign within the heart of man, the liberating power of truth ignites the irrepressible worship of the redeemed.
Truth may be intangible and unseen, but it’s fruit and the effect of its presence upon the heart and life of mankind is not. I praise the Lord, because we have seen the truth, and felt its imprint seared eternally upon our hearts, life, and marriage. My prayer for you today has been that you would be empowered by the truth that brought you liberty, and that you would cherish the truth that transformed your life. I pray that you would cling tightly to it, be guided by it, and live your life according to it. May you weigh every thought, impulse, and decision with the light of Truth. May He guide your heart and mind today and as you seek truth may you find the sweet presence of He who is Truth!
In scripture we find numerous paradox’s. We are admonished to “see the unseen” and we strive to do so because we know that one day the physical realm we live in will pass away. The paradox of living for the unseen and eternal versus the physical and temporal is a hard concept to grasp and implement in our lives, but it is a discipline we endeavor to master because it has significant and eternal ramifications.
With this in mind, this verse has always intrigued me. John 4:24 states that God is a spirit and therefore must be worshiped in spirit and truth but in Psalm 34, David encourages us to taste and experience that God, a Spirit, is good. Our relationship with Christ affords the amazing opportunity to meld the spiritual with the physical.
God the Father sent His Spirit to dwell in the souls of redeemed man and because the Spirit of the Living God dwells within me, I can abide and walk in the spirit. It is truly amazing to be able to experience “The Truth” dividing asunder the cords that once imprisoned me, and to see His Spirit at work in my life.
My prayer today has been that together,we would walk in the power of the Spirit. My prayer is that as a couple, unified by the Spirit, we would experience and taste the very real and present goodness of God as He works in our lives to draw us to Himself.