Grace in the Dark - Post #18

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Continuing in Chapter #2!

When a similar hurtful incident occurs later in our adolescence or adulthood, we may succumb to the reactions, emotions, or thoughts we initially made room for in our youth. When hurts, large or small, take place in our formative years, the enemy can create havoc in our souls – lies about ourselves and about God are his weapons of choice.

Take for example a parent’s divorce. Let’s say a dad or mom walks out the door and life is never the same it once was for the family. One sibling may say, “Good riddance!” and move on, seemingly unscathed by the trauma. The next sibling may believe that it is all their fault that the family split has happened. Sibling number three, may seethe in anger at the unfairness of it all. How the individual interprets the situation or allows the enemy to whisper into their ear can set up a lifetime of hurt whenever similar losses take place in the child’s future– i.e. the break-up of a girlfriend, the loss of a job, or a wayward child. A person may act out in their lives what they falsely believed to be true at the time of the first incident.

The child who believes the break-up of her family was her fault may find the wounds of the past resurfacing when, let’s say, a dear friend cancels a lunch date. Feelings of sadness beyond what might be considered normal arise or possibly they question themselves, “Did I do something wrong?” Tormenting thoughts of self-analyzation may happen as she turns over in her mind where she may have erred causing the friend to break the date. This unhealthy inward focus then spirals into dark places in her mind and heart that may take hours or days to recover from. Sound familiar?

Sibling number three from our example may struggle in adulthood with pornographic images. This temptation seems particularly hard to overcome when he experiences a boatload of blue feelings or disappointment. Self-pity may arise. Pornography, or any harmful indulgence, may be a self-medicating balm that feels deserved because, gosh darn, life is hard and unfair and I deserve some relief!

In their book, It’s Momplicated, about mother and daughter relationships, authors, Debbie Alsdorf and Joan Edwards Kay, relate their own dance with lies about themselves that they carried well into adulthood:

I wish this weren’t my story (Debbie writes). These kinds of life-shaping wounds go deep. My mother left her imprint on me, and it shaped me. And though it wasn’t all bad, I have spent years understanding the impact and unraveling the pain…I sought counseling in my fifties and was surprised to learn that a current situation was triggering feelings of rejection that had developed in my early relationship with my mother…It has been theorized that each of us holds three to five core lies about ourselves or God…[i]


[i] Debbie Alsdorf, Joan Edwards Kay, It’s Momplicated (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 2018) 6, 154,158

Grace in the Dark - Post #17

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Hi Everyone!! Here Goes… We will just a few more weeks to finish Chapter #2. Suggestions? Comments?

Paul, the Apostle warns us to “not give place to the devil.”[i] This doesn’t mean our enemy can take possession of our lives, but we can allow him to oppress us or set up a stronghold in an area of our soul. The Greek word topos Paul uses here, translated as the English word place in his statement, is a noun defined as “a place, location, any portion or space marked off, a condition or station being held.” Figuratively the word is used as “an opportunity, a power, or occasion for acting.” Paul is telling us that we can give the devil an opportunity to have territory or topography in the way we think and feel.

 

For instance, if we experience a hurtful circumstance, especially in early childhood, and continually think about it, relive it, and in essence give place to it for any length of time in our thoughts and emotions, we may find ourselves unable to get past the hurt. We may interpret, or allow the enemy to interpret for us, the hurtful situation in the form of a lie about what really happened at the time of the incident.

 

Lies, unfortunately, are simply easier for us to believe. Choosing the truth about a situation almost always requires faith on our part. Jesus made a big deal about lies vs. truth, bondage vs. freedom, in John 8. In our early childhood, even if we were in the best of Christian homes, we seldom have the ability to process a hurtful circumstance correctly. These wounds may be rehearsed over and over again in our young hearts and minds with the possibility that we may believe the devil’s lies. These lies might concern our worth and abilities, or cause us to have insecurities, fears, or struggles in areas of faith that reach into our adulthood.

 

Remember, our adversary doesn’t play fair. When we dabble with his lies in our thoughts and emotions for any length of time, they can become like truth to us. This enables an unspoken agreement with them to be made that we may not even be aware is taking place. It is similar to when Paul wrote the Corinthian church not to be yoked with an unbeliever. He states, “what agreement does the temple of God (us!) have with idols.”[ii] Yet, we may create these agreements or unions with darkness anytime we choose a lie over God’s truth. We have opened the door for our adversary to ensnare us.

 

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,”

(2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

 

When a similar hurtful incident occurs later in our adolescence or adulthood, we may succumb to the reactions, emotions, or thoughts we initially made room for in our youth. When hurts, large or small, take place in our formative years, the enemy can create havoc in our souls – lies about ourselves and about God are his weapons of choice.

 

Take for example a parent’s divorce. Let’s say a dad or mom walks out the door and life is never the same it once was for the family. One sibling may say, “Good riddance!” and move on, seemingly unscathed by the trauma. The next sibling may believe that it is all their fault that the family split has happened. Sibling number three, may seethe in anger at the unfairness of it all. How the individual interprets the situation or allows the enemy to whisper into their ear can set up a lifetime of hurt whenever similar losses take place in the child’s future– i.e. the break-up of a girlfriend, the loss of a job, or a wayward child. A person may act out in their lives what they falsely believed to be true at the time of the first incident.

 

The child who believes the break-up of her family was her fault may find the wounds of the past resurfacing when, let’s say, a dear friend cancels a lunch date. Feelings of sadness beyond what might be considered normal arise or possibly they question themselves, “Did I do something wrong?” Tormenting thoughts of self-analyzation may happen as she turns over in her mind where she may have erred causing the friend to break the date. This self-analyzation then spirals into dark places in her mind and heart that may take hours or days to recover from. Sound familiar?

 

Sibling number three from our example may struggle in adulthood with pornographic images. This temptation seems particularly hard to overcome when he experiences a boatload of blue feelings or disappointment. Self-pity may arise. Pornography, or any harmful indulgence, may be a self-medicating balm that feels deserved because, gosh darn, life is hard and unfair and I deserve some relief!

 

In their book, It’s Momplicated, about mother and daughter relationships, authors, Debbie Alsdorf and Joan Edwards Kay, relate their own dance with lies about themselves that they carried well into adulthood:

 

I wish this weren’t my story (Debbie writes). These kinds of life-shaping wounds go deep. My mother left her imprint on me, and it shaped me. And though it wasn’t all bad, I have spent years understanding the impact and unraveling the pain…I sought counseling in my fifties and was surprised to learn that a current situation was triggering feelings of rejection that had developed in my early relationship with my mother…It has been theorized that each of us holds three to five core lies about ourselves or God…[iii]

 


[i] Ephesians 4:26-27

[ii] 2 Corinthians 6:16

[iii] Debbie Alsdorf, Joan Edwards Kay, It’s Momplicated (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 2018) 6, 154,158

Grace in the Dark - Post #16

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Bless y’all for hanging with me through Chapter 2 - Christianity 101 of why we a Spirit-filled believer can struggle so much…let’s continue…John Eldredge’s quote at the end is SO powerful…

How did we become such messed-up beings?

First, we inherited a whole boatload of issues from Adam’s debacle. I mean really.

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned...Romans 5:12

Adam’s sin and brokenness became our sin and brokenness, let alone all the sin and brokenness we come up with on our own. Next mix in the evil that the devil plagues us with in our thoughts and hearts:

...in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. Ephesians 2:2-3 

Until the Lord takes each of us home to heaven, we are subjected the schemes and ploys of our adversary. Although he is a finite being, he through his demonic minions takes delight in our vulnerability and weaknesses – most especially when we are most susceptible – our early childhood. The traumas, hurts, and wounds suffered in our youth, compounded with our fractured inheritance from Adam – can cause a place in our souls for the enemy to set up shop.

As author/teacher John Eldredge writes:

You see, we don’t really develop our core convictions so much as they develop within us, when we are young. Down deep, in the inmost parts they form, down in the deep water, like the shifting of the continental plates. Certainly, we’d reject the more disabling beliefs if we could; but they form when we are vulnerable, without our really knowing it, like a handprint in wet cement, and over time the cement hardens and there you have it…Now what we’ve come to believe about those ultimate issues was handed to us early on, in most cases by our families.

Grace in the Dark - Post #14

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Here we go! As we move on in Chapter 2 — explaining how our hurts, hang-ups and struggles can be directly related to our souls. Praise God! His heart toward us is to restore our hearts and minds! Let’s continue…

Still, we get so messed up.

 

Our spirit within is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but our soul and body are still up for grabs by the one who still holds the world in his sway until the return of Lord Jesus. (1 John 5:19)

 

What’s a believer to do? Personally, I was so confused for years that I – a Spirit-filled, charismatic believer – could have such struggle with my habits, behaviors, and reactions.

 

Why was I so easily hurt and offended by people? Why did I react the way I did when certain situations would arise? Why couldn’t I stop living with an eating disorder? I mean really – why couldn’t I just stop binging and purging? Why was my thought-life filled, non-stop with thoughts I didn’t want and scenarios of fantasy – where I was always the beautiful heroine, by the way – that seemed to be increasing and increasing without abatement? Why...was it so hard to follow Jesus when I loved Him so much? You too?

 

Well, we are in good company:

 

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells;

for to will is present with me,

but how to perform what is good I do not find.

For the good that I will to do, I do not do;

but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.

Romans 7:18-19

 

Paul, the apostle, had the same struggles we do now. He knew the work of sin and death was still a part of his life. No, not within his Holy Spirit filled spirit, but in the arena of his soul. We think New Testament believers had a leg-up on us but they didn’t. They were hot-messes just like we are now!

 

What is this complex area of our being where our own selfish desires, habits, and struggles seem to rule along with the deep-seeded places of addiction or reactions that seem to come from the pit of hell itself?

 

The Bible clearly tells us that our soul is the county-seat of our heart and emotions; what we feel – our joys and sorrows, the effervescence of happiness and the lows of discouragement. Our soul encompasses our heart’s hurts and wounds, desires and longings, and our sense of pride or worthlessness and everything in between.

Post #13 - Grace in the Dark

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Hi Everyone! We are still in Chapter #2 which discusses why we can be such broken human beings even though we are a child of the King! So keep reading Chapter 2 in next week’s post…Bless you! Love, Sue

But God. Those famous two words that start so many Bible accounts. But God.

But God intervened. Grace happened. God Himself taking the form of a man to save Adam and Eve and all of their descendants, crashed the enemy’s lines as a wee baby. The Greatest Rescue Mission ever.

Old Testament prophets.

A virgin girl.

A star in the sky.

A manger in Bethlehem.

Jesus came to fallen earth to rescue His children and restore their relationship with the Father. Jesus, fully God became fully man, but divested of His royal prerogatives as God. Although He was – and is  - coequal, co-divine, co-existent, and co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit – He came to walk the planet in like flesh and blood as His wayward children. Jesus did only what His Father told Him to do (John) and lived utterly dependent upon the Holy Spirit (verse). He was tempted like we are, and yet with not one failing or sin to His name Hebrews 4:15. He defeated the ruler of the earth with His sacrificial work on the cross (Hebrews) in our place, both satisfying the wrath of God and the penalty of death that was upon us Hebrews 9:12. He shred to pieces the indictment of sin against us and publicly disarmed the enemy’s demon hordes.

 

And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh,

He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. Colossians 2:13-15

And for those who receive His work on the cross and resurrection, Lord Jesus gives them the right to be the very children of God John 1:12. In the moment of belief and receiving Christ as Lord, the chasm between God and the individual is mended Ephesians 2: 14-18 and the once dead spirit of man and woman is raised from the dead by the Spirit of the Living God who indwells and seals them for eternity 2 Corinthians 1:22. Eternal CPR as they are born again of the Spirit, just as He said (John 3) Authority is reinstated, intimate fellowship with God restored, and eternal life secured for every believer by faith Luke 10:17-20, John 3:16.

Still, we get so messed up.

(To be continued next week! Thanks for hanging with me…)

Post #12 - Grace in the Dark

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Eeek! To understand His grace in the midst of our hangups, hurts, and behaviors, we need to see WHY we can struggle so much. This post is from Chapter #2 of the new book. Please read prior and future “Grace” posts for what took place in Eden that still affects us today. Here goes:

What happened to their souls? In that fateful, fleeting instant of momentary enjoyment of the forbidden fruit – their souls were eternally separated from the One who had formed them. The One for whom they were created to be the object of His uncontainable, untamable love. All that gone in an instant. A great divide – an impassable chasm – between the Godhead and man and woman.

What happened to the dominion the Lord God had originally given to Adam and Eve? And what about their authority to maintain and rule the planet with all of its natural God-created wonders: the ability to name and categorize plants and animals and to study and receive from the earth’s bounty? Well, all of these were lost as well in that treacherous bite. And worst of all, this dominion – this authority – it did not default back to the Creator. No-siree. It was handed hook, line, and sinker to the devil himself. Goodness and fulfillment gave way to evil and dissatisfaction. Light and truth bowed to darkness and falsehood. Love and justice lay down before hate and tyranny. There was a new kid on the planet and he didn’t play fair.

No, the devil still never plays fair. He had man and woman where he wanted them. Their spirit was rendered dead (Eph 2 ) due to their trespass and sin against the Father. Their body began to decay and become susceptible to sickness, weakness, and death (2 Cor). And their soul – the beautiful creation of God where He housed Adam’s and Eve’s human heart, mind, intellect, decision-making abilities, and their unique, one-of-a-kind, no-two-alike personality – was now separated from God forever; its treasures to be mined for the adversary’s purposes.

 

But God. Those famous two words that start so many Bible accounts. But God.

 

But God intervened. Grace happened. God Himself taking the form of a man to save Adam and Eve and all of their descendants, crashed the enemy’s lines as a wee baby. The Greatest Rescue Mission ever.

 

Old Testament prophets.

A virgin girl.

A star in the sky.

A manger in Bethlehem.

Post #11 - Grace in the Dark

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Hi Everyone! This post begins Chapter #2 - Why We Struggle? (Can anyone come up with a better title?). If you are just joining me here on my website…PLEASE take a look at the previous posts - preferably Post #1 - to see what this new book will be all about! This Chapter will discuss why we, as Spirit-filled Christians, can struggle so much in our strongholds, behaviors, addictions, and reactions. Chapter Two starts below:


We are complex beings. I mean, really – we are.

Next, drop our complexity into the mix of a fallen, broken, evil world currently being manipulated by an ungodly, uncaring and diabolical tyrant John 5:19, well, you have a recipe for all kinds of struggle. All kinds of darkness.

It was never meant to be this way – this hard. Our Heavenly Father created man and woman with intimate care in His very own image. The Father designed, the Son was His spoken word of creation, and Holy Spirit breathed life. As a wedding present, the Father gave the perfect couple authority over God’s creation on earth Gen. 1:26. Everything was perfect, bountiful, flourishing and ever, oh so good.

But we know the story, the fallen angel, Lucifer, was on the prowl in the form of a serpent. He did what he does best and only knows to do – deceive. And he did just that. He ensnared the woman with a lie and she introduced the scheming snake to her husband. Together, the man and the woman partook of the one and only thing their loving Father had told them not to, and they ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Oh what take place at that first bite of disobedience and rebellion.

Up until that time, Adam and Eve had been free. Free, free, free.

Free to enjoy. To live in wonder. To live in perfect shalom – the Hebrew word for completeness, wholeness, peace, health, welfare, safety, fullness and prosperity. Free to love the Father in perfect communion and live in His caress, the Son’s fellowship, and the Spirit’s power, wisdom, and insight. Nevertheless, in that first bite all was lost. Literally. Though their earthly body did not drop dead on the spot, it began its journey of decay until it would eventually and unavoidably return to the dust it came from. What did die in that instant was their precious spirits. The unseen place within in them where they communed with the Almighty without hindrance. No barriers, no walls, no sin.

And their souls? In that fateful, fleeting instant of momentary enjoyment from the forbidden fruit – their souls were eternally separated from the One who had formed them. The One for whom they were created to be the object of His uncontainable, untamable love. All that gone in an instant. A great divide – an impassable chasm – between the Godhead and man and woman.


Have a Glorious Easter, Everyone!

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It doesn’t get better than this…

"But the angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.

He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you."

Matthew 28:5-7

Grace in the Dark - Post #10

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...Until...I began to know Him.

Until I began to know Him for myself, in the quiet of being alone with Him and not leaving until I experienced His real and present presence and heard a word from His Word speaking directly to my life.

Grace is difficult to receive and apply until we come to the end of our ropes and just sit and let our Heavenly Father do all the work. Until we cease the laundry list of prayers and shut up – to put it bluntly and let Him whisper truth into our hearts. Until the Bible is less a homework manual – whoever liked homework? –  and more a love-letter. It’s the last thing we want to do and it seems counter-intuitive, but we must give up our efforts to live the Christian life and cease from our labor and let the Holy Spirit – the great Paraklete* – live it through us instead. We need to stop falling from grace and start living in it.

O foolish Galatians!

Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth,

before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?

This only I want to learn from you:

Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law,

or by the hearing of faith?

Are you so foolish?

Having begun in the Spirit,

are you now being made perfect by the flesh?

Galatians 3:1-3 NKJV

You may still be struggling in the dark but now realize that you are not alone in the struggle. Jesus is right there with you in the pit of that gloom and His grace is more than enough to inch you up out of the slimy walls that once looked so daunting. What a relief.

In Christ Jesus there is grace in the dark. Not paltry, flimsy, or fleeting grace but substantial, riches-of-heaven’s-glory grace, favor, acceptance, and her sister mercy – pity, action to help, clemency – for each of us in the midst of life’s personal struggles. The only part we play is to move from the sandy shore of hearing about God’s grace and mercy and run headlong into a running dive into its enveloping waves.

{This is the end of Chapter #1, First Draft. Thank you soooo much for joining me on this journey as we head into Chapter #2, next week! The Reasons why we struggle….}

Grace in the Dark - Post #9

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Until I began to know Him for myself, in the quiet of being alone with Him and not leaving until I experienced His real and present presence and heard a word from His Word speaking directly to my life.

Grace is difficult to receive and apply until we come to the end of our ropes and just sit and let our Heavenly Father do all the work. Until we cease the laundry list of prayers and shut up – to put it bluntly and let Him whisper truth into our hearts. Until the Bible is less a homework manual – whoever liked homework? –  and more a love-letter. It’s the last thing we want to do and it seems counter-intuitive, but we must give up our efforts to live the Christian life and cease from our labor and let the Holy Spirit – the great Paraklete* – live it through us instead. We need to stop falling from grace and start living in it.

O foolish Galatians!

Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth,

before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?

 

This only I want to learn from you:

Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law,

or by the hearing of faith?

 

Are you so foolish?

Having begun in the Spirit,

are you now being made perfect by the flesh?

Galatians 3:1-3 NKJV

You may still be struggling in the dark but now realize that you are not alone in the struggle. Jesus is right there with you in the pit of that gloom and His grace is more than enough to inch you up out of the slimy walls that once looked so daunting. What a relief.

Now, for what grace isn’t.  

Make no mistake about it, grace does not equal lawlessness, or an unabated attitude of the heart of  - I am gonna do what I am gonna do!

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Romans 6:1-2

Grace is not license to willfully – without conscience – cast restraint to the wind and indulge in every harmful or sinful whim that tempts or trespasses our thoughts. Rather, to revel in God’s grace states, “I am a sinner, I need freedom in this area of my life but instead of hiding in the dark of my struggle I am now willing to expose it to Jesus’ touch, His Word, and His healing – I can’t lick this behavior without Him or His grace to empower me even when it seems I am at my worst.

{To be continued in next post with examples…}

Grace in the Dark - Post #8

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Like every aspect of our relationship with Jesus, our opening and appropriating His lavish gifts are a step of faith and receiving His grace and favor are no different. To come full circle, our faith to really take hold of His grace for every area of our lives, most especially our deepest, darkest struggles, takes place when we have developed a relationship of trust with Him. We come to trust His Word concerning grace for these areas because we have grown in our trust of Him personally.

As with any deep human relationship, the more we know someone, their character, their reliability, the sound of their voice, their care for us, and the enjoyment of their presence, the easier it is for us to trust them. The more we trust someone, the more we feel safe in our hearts to open ourselves up to really know them and for them to know us. And as trust grows the more able we are to receive what they say is true. It is the same with the Lord Jesus.

But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man's offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.Romans 5:15

Often, this is where we seem to falter by not believing the power of God’s grace, by not taking the much-needed time alone with Him to really know Him. Knowing Him intimately, one-on-one for ourselves: His felt presence in the Holy Spirit and experiencing the power of His Word for our own lives.

Nobody can do our faith-walk for us. Not nobody!

However, intimacy – a close heart-walk – with Lord Jesus in the midst of our struggles can seem like a vicious circle. I need to know Him up close and personal to be set free my issues, but it is the guilt of my issues that keeps me from truly coming to Him and pouring out my heart.

For years I lived under a guilt-laden-trip of checking off my Christian to-do list with my prayer times and reading the Bible daily. Make no mistake here – I loved Lord Jesus, I was serving Him. Yet the love affair of my youthful salvation gave way to the deception that the rest of my Christian walk was up to me. I could easily receive His grace resulting in my salvation, but for the rest of my life’s struggles – not so much. I loved Jesus, I loved telling people about Jesus, I loved teaching out of His Word to people, but did I believe He liked, accepted, and favored me – well no, not really. I lived for years thinking He was against me because of my struggles in the dark of my soul I just couldn’t get free from. Until...

For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. Romans 5:17

...Until...I began to know Him.

Grace in the Dark - Post #7

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We inherited shame from our mom and dad, Adam and Eve. They blew it big time and their first reaction to their mess-up was to feel ashamed and cover themselves and Paul clearly tells us that their foolishness became our foolishness, too Romans 5:12. A whole lot of darkness descending quickly.

Shame is the almost imperceptible voice that whispers we are offensive, worthless, and good for nothing. Pride steps into our lives to prove that this is not true.

I can make something of myself!

I can do it.

I can break this addiction or behavior.

We try and try and try and try harder. Sometimes gaining traction, but mostly falling further. We work like crazy to get-it-right. Whatever that it is in the moment: our family, workplace, school, a relationship, church or our walk with Jesus. Our compelling need to accomplish can sidetrack us from grace: education, position, status, financial success, perfect children, a clean house – an unending list of must-do or must-haves that almost drive us into the ground.

This can be particularly true in the body of Christ. I mean really. How many ministers have blown-up, burnt-out, had affairs, absconded with money, or ditched their faith altogether? I can say this because, as a pastor with my husband, we have seen this scenario repeated over and over in many lives. I came close to becoming a casualty of the pride-shame scenario myself.

The unrelenting grace of God can be a hard pill to swallow. It should be the spoonful of sugar, but if we take a good hard look at what we really believe about God, grace is the medicine we tend to choke on. Nevertheless, the Bible tells us that to not receive His lavish favor and acceptance is a fall from grace.

In modern vernacular, a fall from grace takes place when a rising politician or celebrity takes a nose-dive from an ascent to the top of their game. The individual does something really stupid. Or we might think fall from grace is when we stumble into something dumb that we know isn’t good for us and probably doesn’t make Jesus real happy either. Or when we continue to struggle with the junk in our lives we just can’t seem to get past.

Well, Paul has a different idea of what a fall from grace is:

"For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God's grace." Galatians 5:4 NLT

For the Jews in Rome whom Paul was addressing here, trusting their own good works and striving to perform the law of Moses was tantamount to a fall from the free gift of God’s grace. We generally experience a different facet of this line of thinking.

For us today, we may consider that the Biblical view of a fall from grace is when we think it is up to us to get our act together, get the proverbial it right, or by thinking we can work or perform better to earn His bountiful grace. We fall from grace when we don’t believe His grace applies to us or an area of our life where we can’t get our act together. We fall from grace when we live believing that our struggles in the dark – our sin – is greater than His sacrifice and forgiveness. Unbelief is the fall, not the thing we are so concerned might keep us from grace. This puts a different spin on appropriating grace in our lives. Especially in the dark.

(To be continued next week…thanks for hanging with me…)

GRACE IN THE DARK - POST #6

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Yes, God’s grace and mercy are relentlessly pursuing all the days of our lives Psalm 23:6, yet like any gift of any type, we can refuse to receive them.

Think about Aunt Martha, who without fail shows up on our doorstep each and every day of our lives to give us a pair of socks she has knit for us. We have choices. Really. We do. We can either...

  • Shut the door in her face.

  • Open the door and receive the gift, yet let it rest unopened on our kitchen counter.

  • Open the door and receive the gift, then proceed to untie the bow, open the box, find the enclosed socks and study them real hard.

  • Open the door and receive the gift, then proceed to untie the bow, open the box, find the enclosed socks and study them real hard and intentionally begin to apply the gift by wearing them.

We have all heard this type of illustration before, but for crying out loud, why is it so difficult for us to believe Him for this amazing gift of grace especially when we need it most when we are messing up or are messed up? We get that we can’t save ourselves from hell and receive the divine free gift of salvation, but for the greater part of our Christian lives, we erroneously tend to think the ball is now in our court to get our act together. Why might this be?

A great hindrance to walking in the riches of His grace is plain old-fashioned pride. Pride was at the root of the devil’s fall from heaven Ezek 28:5-6 and it’s at the root of a lot of our motivation, too. It goes back to the garden of Eden and the deception that we can do it! Add to our pride a spirit of shame.

I am so convinced, that pride and shame are twin sisters too. But unlike mercy and grace whose living-kindness, unfailing love, and acceptance are generously, beyond reason extended to us by our heavenly Father, pride and shame are tormenting taskmasters. Most of us have felt their whips upon our backs and their weight upon our shoulders to some degree in our lives.

We inherited shame from our mom and dad, Adam and Eve. They blew it big time and their first reaction to their mess-up was to feel ashamed and cover themselves and Paul clearly tells us that their foolishness became our foolishness, too Romans 5:12. A whole lot of darkness descending quickly.

{Please forgive the day delay! Out of town with family…enough said! Wonderfully cray-cray!}

Grace in the Dark - Post #5

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{Be sure to read prior post(s) for context…}

Has happened to you? Or I am the only one who settled for a falsehood that God's grace is a nice thought, but to shallow and weak to really accomplish anything transformative? Especially when we feel in the dark about an area of our lives. Especially when we are ashamed or embarrassed about falling for the two millionth time. I could receive grace when I was doing well, I could understand why God would extend it, but in the midst of bondage, strongholds, and call it for what it is – sin?

And yet we read:

"Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so, grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 5:20-21

Yes, our sin and our struggles are much. As pastor and author Max Lucado writes:

“When it came to sin, Jesus never did. We, on the other hand, have never stopped. We are dead in trespasses and sins (Eph.2:1 Grace, pg.33)”

What makes grace so amazing? Lord Jesus and the lavishness His free, unrelenting gift of pardon, kindness, and acceptance. No matter our failing, His grace is greater still. This is what His word teaches and this is what He exemplified in His earthly ministry. We will elaborate on this in a future chapter, but what a glimmer of hope it brings! Yes indeed. Grace in the dark.

Now, let’s meet mercy.

The Old Testament Hebrew word chesed and the Greek New Testament word, eleos – both used for mercy are similarly defined and translated in our English Bibles as kindness, mercy, lovingkindness, unfailing love, tenderness, and faithfulness.

Mercy is similar to grace but with the addition of pity, forgiveness, and clemency for wrongdoing. New Testament mercy is often used in reference to God’s pity and compassion for sinful man bringing into action His forgiveness to redeem us not only from the consequence of sin – death – but from the misery of sin itself by divine intervention.

I don’t know about you, but I be needing a whole lot of divine intervention!

The trouble is we want God to throw some pixie-dust our way or wave a magic wand. Presto-chango! We are free from our life’s encumbrances that hold us back from so much of the abundant life He promised Heb 12:1, John 10:10. However, as we will learn in the next chapter, we are complex beings and the Holy Spirit is after a clean and thorough work.

God is after a restored intimate relationship with us as we utterly depend upon Him as He extricates us from the depravity of our own souls and from the evil of the world we live in - now ruled by the devil - until Christ’s return 1 John 5:19. His deliverance usually does come in a moment’s time Luke 4: 41– but the walking out in freedom is a struggle all too real Matt 12:43-45 and one where nothing less than an intimate relationship with the Lord of Grace will suffice 2 Tim 1:12.

Yes, God’s grace and mercy are relentlessly pursuing all the days of our lives Psalm 23:6, yet like any gift of any type, we can refuse to receive them.

{Ohhhh I love your comments and suggestions! Please remember this is a rough first draft…just trying to keep writing!}

Grace in the Dark - Post #4

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Grace is the word given by the New Testament, Holy Spirit inspired writers to describe God’s favor, free, no-strings-attached gifts, or blessings He bestows without expectation of return. In reference to the Lord, it may be understood in conjunction with the agape, unconditional love He has toward man expressed by Christ’s work on the cross – evidence of this divine, uncontainable benevolence. Grace is His holy influence upon our lives, that turns us to Christ, keeping and strengthening us in our faith. Lord Jesus tells us that His gracious kindness is extended to both the Christian and non-believing Matthew 5:45, Luke 6:35, but it is only received fully as the free-gift of salvation upon one’s acceptance of Him. John 1:12.

 

As we ponder grace it takes our breath away! Grace is not a little wading pool that is small, stingy, or selfish, it is an ocean relentlessly washing wave after wave after wave of divine favor and kindness and acceptance. And this, even smack-dab-in-the-middle of the very habits and behaviors we are ashamed of.

 

Years ago, my husband, Randy, and I were given an all-expenses paid trip to beautiful Monterey, California. The hotel was set squarely on the sandy beach with our room facing the ocean. Oh, the soothing sounds of the waves crashing just yards from our door. Yet, I am a light sleeper. After an hour of tossing and turning, using earplugs, and the white noise of a fan, the sound of those waves was, well, nonstop and overwhelming. Wave after wave they relentlessly came. I desperately wanted the hotel’s front desk to flip a switch and turn them off for just a few hours – but for some odd reason I was told it couldn’t be done!

 

How much more is God’s grace is sure, steadfast, relentless, reliable, and unstoppable as the waves upon the sandy seashore. We can’t stop His grace ever extending its power, acceptance, and joy our way. We can’t ever turn it off or miss-the-mark so badly in life that it is nullified. Nevertheless, we can stymie and hinder His grace joyfully crashing over our lives – as with all of His attributes and promises – by remaining on the sand of unbelief. We can stand on the shore, hear about grace, read about grace, study His grace, and see it revealed in other’s lives, but never take the first steps to get our feet wet for receiving His grace in our own areas of failing or disappointment.

{Bless you for reading this far! Thoughts? Comments? To be continued next week…}

Grace in the Dark - Post #3

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If Lord Jesus truly isn’t afraid of our darkness, and in fact is already there waiting for us in our pits of struggle, addiction, compulsion, dissatisfaction – you name it — we must glimpse not only a thimbleful of what grace means, we must meet her ever present twin sister – mercy.

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

When do we need grace and mercy most? The author of Hebrews tells us in our time of need. Our time of need no matter what that need might be or how dark our soul or circumstances may seem.

Think of your current concerns that trouble your thoughts and your heart, whether personal struggles – which we are looking at in this section of our reading – or relational or situational.

1.       _______________

2.       _______________

3.       _______________

4.       _______________

5.       _______________

Rate them on a scale from one to ten with one being I think I can handle this to ten being I think I am not going to make it through this. Lord Jesus is there in the midst of your concern regardless of its rating. From knowing the hairs of your head Luke 12:7 to facing down death Philippians 1:20-21. His amazing grace and marvelous mercy are ours for the asking even when we are acting out in our struggles of sin that would seem to nullify anything having to do with God.

In simplest definition, grace is getting what we don’t deserve and mercy is not getting what we do deserve. It can’t get much plainer than that, however, these hand-in-hand sisters are ever: So. Much. More.

The definition for the Old Testament Hebrew word chen, translated as grace in our Bible, is favor, graciousness, grace, kindness, beauty, pleasantness, charm, attractiveness, loveliness, preciousness, elegance, and affectionate regard. The root word chanan means to act graciously or mercifully toward someone; to be compassionate, to be favorably inclined.

As we look to the New Testament Greek word charis used for grace, we find that its root comes for the Greek word chara meaning joy and chairo to rejoice. Charis produces rejoicing because of the joy and delight it brings to its recipients.  New Testament grace is a kindness received or desired, a benefit, favor or a gift, acceptance, approval, generosity, open-heartedness, and magnanimity.

Which if any of these definitions, expands our hearts, warms our souls, or soothes our thoughts? They all do. Which of these definitions do you need in your life at this moment of time? It is yours. It is found in Jesus.

 

Grace in the Dark... Post #2 {Be encouraged to invite friends...}

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Post #2 Grace in the Dark - For Our Struggles

 There is no one like Lord Jesus. Really. Truly. There isn’t.

Our God who holds our breath in His hands and owns all our ways (Dan. 5:23) is not afraid to get down and dirty with us. He is there in the dark caverns of our struggles, addictions, compulsions, smallness, selfishness – wherever we find torment in our thoughts or regions of our lives that we can’t seem to get past no matter how hard we try.

“Where can I go from Your Spirit?

Or where can I flee from Your presence?

If I ascend into heaven, You are there;

If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.”

Psalm 139:7-8

The places we are ashamed of, the habits we think we should be over with by now, the temptations that tug at our weaknesses – these are the closets we want to hide in. Every time we overeat, over-indulge, fall prey to a seduction of substance, sex, or self-absorption, we want to find an old blanket and cover ourselves in that small place until we get it right, get whatever it is healed, and then we will come to Jesus and show Him the finished freedom project.

It is the enemy of our souls that whispers we have to get it right before He will pour His light in and through us. What a lie. We need Jesus more in the dark than when we think we have a handle on things. If we can drum this starting truth into our souls – He is already there in our struggle and He is the only One who can walk us out of it – the sooner His deliverance can begin.

We need Holy Spirit revelation. Let’s pray for it now. Let’s read the passage above over and over the next few days and let Him reveal this truth that Jesus is with us in the dark. The truth that this is a message of love, hope, and power and not a message of condemnation. He conquered hell so we wouldn’t have to live there, both now and in eternity. Jesus doesn’t turn away when our failings ensnare us for the millionth time – He came with the keys to procure our release from them. This is grace in the dark.

{Thank you for reading this excerpt as I feel God’s leading to write on this subject of Grace in the Dark - Hope for our struggles, stuff, and circumstances. I am just trying to get my thoughts down from the outline the Lord gave me, then go back and rewrite, add quotes and of course, reference more Bible passages. What do you think is important to share about His Grace in the Dark of our struggles? This is the current section I am working on}

Grace in the Dark... Post #1 {Feel encouraged to invite your friends to subscribe...}

Over the next few Mondays, let’s look specifically at God’s grace in the dark. Our dark. In the midst of our struggles – aka addictions, behaviors, lies we believe and yes, our sin; our stuff in regard to relationships, and our circumstances. I am hoping this will turn into a book and I would love your comments and suggestions as we ponder His grace in the last place we expect – the dim and dark places of life that need His touch. Here goes…

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Faithful...

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A few years ago I heard the whisper of the Holy Spirit say: I will do it!

 

He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.

1 Thessalonians 5:24

 

About a month into this ongoing impression on my heart, our son took a drastic turn away from his faith and family. Oh. My. Gosh. Has anybody had their world drop out from under them?

 

The Lord Jesus is fantastic, amazing, awesome, and wild! He already knew what my husband and I would face and He was telling us He would do it! He would bring full restoration. During that time, others would speak the scripture above to us not knowing they were giving us a divine echo of reassurance.

 

You know what? God did do it! Within months, our son had his own Damascus Road experience. Acts 9:1-22

 

What are you facing today? Whatever it is, let God do it! Don’t try to figure it out. Be absolutely obedient to what He tells you. Don’t try to help Him out. If you are in control, He isn’t. Let this verse sink into your soul. Look at verse v.23 and you will find it pertains to everything in your life. God will do it!