Day 23: God’s grace is greater than my sin

I’d like to take you back in time a couple of years to share something I wrote on the weekend of Easter 2011.

candles

Friday night, minutes before the start of the Good Friday Gathering, Tom and I had a minor disagreement. Not even that, just a miscommunication really. He had to serve & the Gathering was about to begin, so we had to just drop it. Thanks to modern technology, we texted things out over the next 10 minutes and everything was fine by the time the service began.

But…

In the moments before that 10 minute window, I wallowed. My husband doesn’t care. Doesn’t he know I am already having a hard time with other issues and then he throws this at me? Around me I heard friends visiting with one another cheerily. No one cares. I am alone. It only took seconds before I saw the absurdity of my thoughts. How small and selfish and vain my heart is. In that instant, I was broken. Here I came to remember the suffering, agony, and shame that Jesus Christ experienced dying on the cross for the sins of the world, and here I proved yet again, why he died for me. I can’t even come to church and not sin! The truth rang loudly:  nothing I do is ever good enough, nothing I bring is ever worthy enough, nothing I say is powerful enough to forgive my sins, to cleanse me of the blood-guilt.

Here grace steps in. God, in his grace, offers me what I do not deserve and could never earn. God generously gives his son, the only one perfect sacrifice, to pay the debt I owe for my vile actions. Jesus willingly allowed himself to be crucified, for me. He rose again from the dead, for me.

This blows me away.

Bianca Olthoff posted (in 2011) about grace, at her blog, In the Name of Love. I would like you to watch this video she posted, and I encourage you to check out her blog (I’ve lost the link to her original post).

 

What hit me like a ton of bricks was his sentence, “I cannot pay my debt,” and the realization that my debt is as great as this mans. No less atrocious in the eyes of a holy, pure and righteous God. And I, too, am forgiven.

Doesn’t that just blow your mind?!

~~~

I’m reposting this today as part of the #write31days series, Crushing your Kingdoms. Click to read all posts in the series.

crushing your kingdoms

Day 22: You are here – a brief recap

Dear Reader Friend,

There are less than 10 days left in this 31 day challenge. I’ve posted scripture and songs and stories from others. The things going on in my personal life (see Day 2 for a glimpse into THAT) have made it very challenging to carefully craft out a blog post each day. I lost a few days early on and am not quite caught back up yet. But thank you for hanging in there with me.

you-are-here-illustration by hikingartist (CC BY-ND 2.0)

you-are-here-illustration by hikingartist (CC BY-ND 2.0)

So, where are we now?

My goal this month was to look at the things in life that we try to build on, trusting in our own strength or ability rather than leaning wholeheartedly on God, his strength and his peace. I thought I would go through different things we try to rely on and show how they are kingdoms with foundations built on sand that easily crumble. Instead, my physical kingdom, i.e., house, crumbled. Not literally, but with water soaking our entire basement floor and an upstairs crammed with all the furnishings that were down there, it’s been a challenge. I’ve learned that I don’t need to wait until my house is perfectly decorated to invite people over. Instead, I’ve actually had more people in my house this month than probably the past three months combined. It’s hard to swallow pride and ask for help, but the community that has surrounded us has been worth it.

I’ve had some stumbles, too.

Temptations that repeatedly tease with their false hope of something “better” have been taunting me. Being tired and worn thin, it’s been easier to give in, to allow the serpent in the garden sweet talk me into taking a bite of his apple. When I look at it in light of crushing kingdoms, the sins I gravitate toward are often my attempts at building my own kingdom. The idols I manufacture are my attempt at putting myself on the throne.

The next step in this series, though definitely more difficult to spell out in words, is to look at four of those areas that are often classified as the deep idols. These would be the root of the issue, so to speak. If you take the sins you feel you struggle with and start probing even deeper, where does it lead you? At the heart of things, what is it you really long for? How do you figure that out? Here are some questions to begin asking yourself:

What do you worry about the most?
What, if it failed or you lost it, would make you perhaps not want to live anymore?
What do you rely on for comfort?
What do you do to make yourself feel better?
What do think about, or daydream about, when there’s nothing else pressing in?
What gives you your self-worth?
What are you proud of?
What would you want printed on your tombstone?

Think through these, so in the next several posts, you’ll more clearly see what deep idols you are clinging to as you crush your kingdoms.

Thanks for following along with me this month, whether you’ve been a faithful reader for a while or if you’re one of my new friends, many of whom are also participating in #write31days.

me in my World Help shirtHave a blessed day,

Janice
aka Claygirlsings ← (how this name came about)

Day 21: What others are saying

God is Glorious

I’d like to share several things, mostly from fellow #write31days bloggers. They may or may not connect, but all have been impactful for me.

Beth, of Simply Beth, writes:

God does only good things. Although this is true, He will use our hardened hearts as an opportunity to demonstrate His power and to bring glory to His name. He will use everything to bring glory to His name.

She refers to the story of Moses to show how God accomplishes His purpose, even with stubborn people.

~~~

Jennifer Neyhart has blogged about C.S. Lewis this month. While Jennifer and I connected over a discussion on Eustace Scrubb, it was this post on longing in The Weight of Glory that really got to me. She quotes Lewis:

If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Jennifer concludes:

We were made for a whole, complete relationship with God, lacking nothing! So of course our heart aches for more than this fallen world can offer. And we know that God has set eternity in our hearts; he put the desire there so we would long for him and not be satisfied by lesser things. Praise be to God!

~~~

(Jennifer’s mention of Eustace, from The Voyage of The Dawn Treader, reminded me of a post I wrote on the stripping off of some sinful thoughts and behaviors – Stepping out of your skin.)

~~~

And on the waiting, Cheree Hayes reminds us:

Right now, things are not right.
Right now, things are broken…so broken.
Right now, you live here – on this fallen, muddy earth.

And right now, by grace through faith, you are also “seated with Christ in heavenly places.” You wait for His kingdom to come make its home on earth. You wait with Jesus in tears and groaning prayers, longing… You seek the things that are above. You are a citizen of the Kingdom. It’s who you are now. So you wait, eager for your faith to be made sight.

~~~

I hope you find some encouragement from these bloggers as I did.

I’m blogging on Crushing your kingdoms this month.

Click here to read all posts in the series

Day 20: Though you ruin me

not_meaningless

My words fail me tonight. My thoughts are jumbled. My intentions for this post have blown away.

It seems that this has been a season of things being taken away. And some days I can trust in God and carry on, doing whatever needs to be done next.

Other days, much like today, I collapse into a puddle of tears.

And so, this is what I need to hear today. Perhaps you do, too.

Listen as Shane and Shane sing:

Though you slay me, yet I will praise you
Though you take from me, I will bless your name
Though you ruin me, still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who’s all I need.

Not only is all your affliction momentary; not only is all your affliction light in comparison to eternity and the glory there. But it is totally meaningful…don’t say it’s meaningless. It’s not. It’s working for you an eternal weight of glory. Therefore. Therefore, do not lose heart. — John Piper

UPDATE: Dear friends, I realized from some of the comments (thank you for commenting, BTW!) that perhaps a little clarification is in order. I am not despairing. When I wrote this, I was tired, discouraged and a bit worn thin, but I shared it all to say, yes, sometimes it does get difficult, but holding onto hope in Christ is the only way through. If you’re worn and barely holding on, I get it, but don’t let go of God. Don’t lose heart. Love to you all,
Janice

Part of the #write31days series:
crushing your kingdoms

Day 19: Christ is King over Ebola

Ebola virus virion

Jeremy Writebol is a pastor and blogger. He’s also the son of Nancy Writebol, missionary and Ebola survivor. Jeremy wrote a powerful piece about how Christians should respond to Ebola in the US. ← I encourage you to read the whole post on his website.

I love what he has to say about Christ being sovereign over viruses:

Our theology must start with Christ and with Christ as King over all, including microscopic biology and viruses. Jesus is king over Ebola. This epidemic and global outbreak does not take him by surprise or warrant fear or trembling from the Godhead. Christ is king over Ebola. Additionally this does not mean that God is some evil, maleficent deity. Ebola is a product of the fall. It is a product of a broken and sin-filled world. Christ is still king over it, and he will bring justice and righteousness.

Since I’m writing about it, I encourage us all to be praying for this global epidemic. Join in here – this prayer was posted to praytoendebola.org:

 

 

This post is part of the #write31days series, Crushing your Kingdoms.

Day 18: Even still

Do you know the old hymn, It Is Well? If you click that link you can read a very heartfelt reaction I had to that song a little over a year ago. I also share the story behind the song, written by a man who lost nearly everything.

This morning, as we sang the song again in church, I had a visceral reaction. The words that really hung me up are in a tag added by another band recently.

TreeThe words?
“Even still.”

It is well with my soul.
Even still, it is well with my soul.
Even still,  it is well.

Why “even still?” Because I sing the song with excuses. Do you ever find you do that? We internally might sing something like this:

It is well with my soul, but I hate my job, career, major.

It is well with my soul, but I don’t like my roommate, spouse, boyfriend, family.

It is well with my soul, but I wish I could live in a bigger/smaller apartment, house it in a bigger/smaller city, town.

It is well with my soul, but I don’t like my body, hair, ears, voice, feet, personality.

It is well with my soul, but I wish I was married, pregnant, single.

Even still.

The reminder is that, yes, this world we are in is flawed and imperfect and filled with people who sin (including ourselves). People may grievously wound us, intentionally or not. Yes, we may not be satisfied with our station in life. We may never attain that dream we’ve clung to our entire lives.

Even still.

With our souls it can be most well. Even still.


crushing your kingdoms

This is part of a series of 31 days of Crushing your Kingdoms. Click to read all posts in the series.

I’m also linking up with Testimony Tuesdays:

Holly Barrett

Day 17: Let your light shine

light_shine

 

Part of Crushing your Kingdoms, a #write31days blogging challenge series.

Day 16: Theirs is the kingdom of heaven

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 

candle flameYou are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. — Matthew 5:1-20

 Part of the Crushing your Kingdoms series.

crushing your kingdoms

Day 15: King Me

My Dad used to play checkers with my sister or me on the pull-out drawer of his massive wood desk. We’d pull up a kitchen chair across from him and sit down to match wits against our beloved father. I can still remember the glee of being able to shout, “King me!”

firehouse checker by sciondriver (CC BY-NC 2.0)

firehouse checker by sciondriver (CC BY-NC 2.0)

King me, right?

King me. Put me on the throne. My thoughts, my preferences, my desires, my issues, my wants and wishes. King me.

Our Facebook posts, instagram feeds, and tweets shout it out – king me.

We spend our days building up a kingdom that centers around us. Our home, our family, our job, our school, our needs. It just keeps going. King me.

I guess I would call this the kingdom of self. We all reign in our own kingdom at times. We selfishly want things to go our way. We act or scheme or direct conversations so the focus stays on us.

It calls to mind Mark 8:

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

This kingdom may be the hardest to crush. It seems to be a back and forth struggle. Sometimes I feel that I can put myself aside for others, and then the next thing I know it’s “king me” all over again.

Do you see yourself calling out “king me” sometimes? I don’t think that this is one we can crush on our own or quickly. It takes prayer and constant handing over to God. Daily.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23

crushing your kingdoms
← Read all the posts in this series here.

Day 14: Hear our hearts cry out

I’m just going to put this right here.

Seriously, though, this song by Vertical Church Band recently shuffled into play on my iPod and I ended up listening to it about five times in a row. From the first word, the focus is solely on worshiping God. I love that. Please listen to it. I think you’ll like it, too.

Holy, Holy, You are God Almighty
And You reign victorious over all the earth
Holy, Holy, You are God Almighty
Yes, You reign victorious over all the earth

Let Your Kingdom come, and Your will be done
Here on earth as it is in heaven
And to Your renown hear our hearts cry out
Singing “Holy is the Lord”

God of Glory see Your victory story
In the lives of those who gather at the cross
Rock of ages be adorned with praises
As Your people raise their voice in thanks and love

Focus with me on the true kingdom right now. Hear our hearts cry out - Holy is the Lord!
Do you have a favorite song that focuses your heart on worship of our God?

crushing your kingdoms

We’re continuing to work through the series this month. Click here to view all the posts in the series.

 

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