The Power of The Cross

Originally published on June 20, 2015.

On days when the weight of the past is crushing your spirit (and you wonder if you’ll ever grow beyond this ugliness, ever learn to be someone different), the first place to go is back to the Cross. Seems strange to revisit death when all you really want is a new life. But that’s the thing about resurrection power, that it can’t burst out of the grave until something dies. We should know this by now, because God has built it right into the framework of our natural world, the Creator showing Himself in everything He has made: dried up seeds are buried and sprout with new life, every day the sun sets us into night and then rises again so we can begin again, Winter keeps turning into Spring. In the same way, the pain of the cross leads to the resurrection: no shortcuts, no easier route to glory. “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 will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)  It’s my self-preoccupation that needs to die a little more every day, so that the Holy Spirit can re-make me. Jesus’ haunting question persists: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)

So there is no use wasting time trying to figure out how to fix yourself, or hiding the gaping holes so that maybe no one will notice…or worse yet, wallowing in regret till it drags you under. Welcome the discomfort as a necessary step of growth and keep following it straight to the Cross, the only real solution in heaven and earth. There are some things you just aren’t strong enough to deal with on your own, and your own messiness is one of them. Better to admit that, sooner rather than later– better to leave the pride behind, so your hands are free to reach for the Grace that flows down from the Beloved’s sacrifice for us.

Because Heaven already planned a solution for human brokenness; there is a Savior, who came to earth because “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22) He knows the grip of fear. He understands the way people can wound, and how difficult it is to trust. He knows the shame of failure, and the darkness we carry around inside, and how it presses the hope from a person’s lungs.  He knows because He already picked it all up and carried it for us, wept for how it holds us captive. He fastened the entire hideous mess to the Cross with the spikes that pierced His own flesh, wrestled it the whole way into the tomb and left it there so it couldn’t bind us any longer. The prophet Isaiah heralded the coming of a Savior “…He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

So take courage, dear heart, on the days when you see clearly how far short you fall. Let humility rush you again to the foot of the Cross and beg forgiveness. Allow Mercy and Grace to heal your battle wounds, wash away your brokenness, and speak peace to your spirit. “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:18-19)

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What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (Romans 8:31-34)

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All this pain…
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way;
I wonder if my life could really change, at all.
All this earth…
Could all that is lost ever be found?
Could a garden come out from this ground, at all?
You make beautiful things…
You make beautiful things out of the dust.

Beautiful Things, Gungor
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In Everything

Originally published May 26, 2013.

“That’s why He tells us to give thanks in everything,” she said. I knew her story, and it was on her face too, just then, as she thought it through. “Because He takes things away and it seems all wrong, but maybe you don’t really know….He gives things too, and you wouldn’t even have the one if it weren’t for the other.” She knew the secret of giving thanks in all things, and she was so right, that it wasn’t about what you could see in front of you, but Who was present with you. Not about what was happening now but what He was planning. Except that it is hard to keep in mind when the earth drops away and we can say with Job “What I always feared has happened to me. What I dreaded has come true.” (Job 3:25)

Maybe that’s why God gave us these promises of His good intentions, His own word to us “For I know the plans I have for you….”They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) Spell it out for us, so we wouldn’t wonder what He was up to, remind us that “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28) Truth to anchor into and hang all our weight on, when we just might fall over the edge completely. He says I can get through whatever comes, just because He is there with me. Paul knew it by firsthand experience in the jail cells and hiding places, the hunger and cold and scars on his back: “For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

In all the dark winding paths, as I walk toward the light, this thing I have learned is most necessary, to give thanks. Because when you acknowledge that All is Gift, you acknowledge your surrender to the Giver. And when you give thanks, you acknowledge that He is good and worth trusting. It’s the words themselves that matter, regardless of whether the heart is spilling out joy and the thanks are overflowing– or whether they are sheer act of will through teeth clenched with pain. Pick something and give thanks for it, willfully and intentionally, no matter how small, because everything around you is Gift and Grace. And then find another good gift, and another, as many as you can think of, until your heart lightens and hope sparks again.

The long-ago saints would have called it a discipline of the Christian life, perhaps. I only know it is necessary for survival, to keep heart and mind whole. Constant connection with the Light-giver. Constant dependence on the Maker. Constant recognition that He is good, regardless of the circumstances. He wants us to give thanks in everything because in everything He is there, and in everything He is working for our good, and in everything He is accomplishing His purposes. I can trust this and be thankful.

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“When you are a believer — and you stop counting blessings? It’s like blindfolding yourself and wondering why everything’s black.” (Ann VosKamp)

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“I may be weak
but Your spirit’s strong in me;
My flesh may fail
My God you never will.” (Give Me Faith, Elevation Worship)

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When It’s Hard to Give Thanks

Originally published on April 7, 2014.

Joy is the particular province of the broken-hearted. It sounds contradictory, but it is one more paradox of the Kingdom of God, in which He turns everything we are accustomed to upside-down…or maybe it is Right-side-up, after all.

Jesus said it to the crowds gathered on the hillsides: “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.” (Matthew 5:3-4, The Message) This is a joy that comes in the face of loss, when you go looking for Something More than this world, and find God’s presence. It is completely counter-intuitive (and utterly true) that those who suffer the most can find the deepest joy, because their very loss is an unexpected opportunity to discover the riches of God’s provision.

Joy shines brightest in people who are struggling to survive in one way or another, who face silence and uncertainty and grief, and realize that there is still Someone close who whispers words of comfort to the soul and does not sleep, and He is Enough, after all. It is the secret the itinerant Church-planter Paul learned, amid the dangers of traveling over ten thousand miles through the ancient civilized world in the course of his adult life — often bone-weary, in constant danger, harried and pursued, driven out of town and stoned and threatened. “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13) When all my supply runs out and I am entirely dependent on God’s, then I am coming to the heart of what it means to have a relationship with The Almighty. “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand  and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” (Psalm 145:15-16) 

It is easy to celebrate and give thanks when things are going well for us, and of course God delights in hearing our enjoyment of His blessings. But if we wait until we feel happy to count our blessings then aren’t we only putting a label on our response to the circumstances? Anyone can look at the sun and say it is a good thing it is shining; may as well look at a cloudy day and observe that we don’t like the rain. When the needy and the grieving look at their world and choose hard to praise God, to give thanks for His grace and kindness to them regardless of painful circumstances, they are bowing to His rule, giving a sacrifice that costs something. God holds that gift precious, and joy kindles and endures in the offering. This is beyond response to circumstances; this is the obedience and surrender and trust of a genuine Christ-follower.

In the face of any grief there is always a new morning, and the world all around, shelter and food and friends, and the small kindnesses of others– unaccountable blessings un-looked for, and unceasing. “I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.” (Psalm 3:5) Accepting those small things with the simplicity of a child, choosing to give thanks (because even they are grace undeserved) gives Him our undivided attention– opens the door to God’s loving presence in all the seasons of life. The Giver is always worthy of our praise, and we can keep on counting all the evidence of His love.

God doesn’t avoid or ignore pain. He sings a louder song over it. And He invites His hurting people to sing with Him.

Aubrey Sampson, THe Louder Song

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“Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to His name. And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.” (Hebrews 13:15-16)

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Time Well-Spent

In this season when familiar everyday life has put on a new unfriendly face, I think we all are trying to figure out how to live here. How to do our jobs when work has invaded our personal space. How to fill up our time when we’ve just crossed off entire weeks of appointments on our calendars. How to sleep at night and fend off stress and creeping fears. How to find enough patience and kindness for the people we live with. It can feel like only so much trouble and wasted time. But this question of how to live well– right here, right now– follows me around these days, and I’m looking for answers.

I often think that the writer James sounds like a practical big brother, who doesn’t have any trouble telling you how you ought to live and what you should be doing. And there he is, starting his letter right off with “Dear brothers and sisters,when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.(James 1:2-3) Honestly, where we are right now I’d probably be satisfied with just staying calm, keeping everyone entertained, mopping the kitchen floor, and finding something for dinner from what’s in my pantry…maybe a phone chat with a friend along the way to maintain sanity. But clearly God has bigger ideas of what should be happening in times of trouble. Maybe this isn’t just a matter of waiting and surviving. Maybe this blatant interruption to life could be an opportunity for growth, a pressing on into new life. I can almost feel the Spirit knocking on my heart, pushing down walls, shaking what is to make way for what could be. And I can hear His still small voice: “For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?” (Isaiah 43:19)

This week I picked up a magazine that has been lying on the end table for a month, waiting for a spare free moment, and there’s this unexpected word from a well-known house and home writer about her life’s journey. We have to believe that where we were yesterday and where we find ourselves today matter for who we become tomorrow….What is there to learn here and now? How can I make this time significant? If we can lean into that perspective, it can make all the difference between whether it feels like a season wasted or a season well spent. (Joanna Gaines) She may have been talking about her career choices, but I know perfectly well the message is for me right here, right now, as clearly as if it had been written in the margins. And I know it feels easier to settle into survival mode and wait this out, but what if the way we figure out these new paths is to realize they are not unexpected in any way that matters, and we are here for a reason?

The same God who created us rules all things. The same God who “…reduces the rulers of this world to nothing…. gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”(Isaiah 40:23, 29) The Musician-King reminds us of His attention to detail with his song: “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book.” (Psalm 139:16) He knew that we would be exactly here at this time and place at this point in our faith-journey…knew how the shifting of our lives would call out the best and worst in us, and how facing this difficulty would shape our perspectives and choices. And now it’s a little easier to see the joy that James was talking about, in knowing we are entirely secure in His hands. The song lifts again, “He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.” (Psalm 91:4)

This week I am hearing women say that they appreciate the time to step back from busyness and think; they are spending time in prayer, reading more. Families are playing games and baking, working on house projects together. Friends are sending cards to those who are isolated, making phone calls. People are taking the time to sit on the porch with a cup of coffee and admire the world coming back to life after the Winter. They are living intentionally in the here and now, choosing to make this time matter. It will make all the difference. James says it is shaping who we become. I can choose whether I spend today on myself or others, the words I speak, where I set my heart…. I can look around to see what God is doing in this time, and cooperate with Him to make this season well-spent. The best way to live well no matter how life looks is to stay close to Jesus.

The Musician-King’s songs are lifting high: “You make known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11)

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In these days and weeks of quarantine, each of us will be tempted to seek our own pleasure in isolation rather than seek our own good or the good of those around us. We will be changed by what we choose. The patterns of life we adopt while our regular responsibilities are on hold will shape who we will be when this is all over.

Philip Johnston

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For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:5-8
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Of Snowfall and Forgiveness and All Things New

They keep calling for snow, and it happens this way every year, waiting for the first deep blanket of white to hide the bleakness of Winter. It’s like the world has been reduced to its bare bones, and shivers beneath the gray sky, waiting for a covering. And after the rushing around and the beauty of the holiday decorations sometimes it feels like everything has come to a dead stop. You can catch a glimpse of huddled hearts, just trying to survive in this world…putting on a good face and waiting for something to change…feeling like a failure…wishing for a chance to start fresh.

The tree and the holiday decorations are still here, because now I can actually slow down and soak them in. The lights shine bright in the Winter gloom. Every time I see the field of stars and the soaring angel in the nativity, I remember telling the children about Jesus’ birth, and how creation itself sang out, “Welcome, welcome, we are so happy You are here!” It was the best present ever. I think of how often I have yearned for the happiness of Christmas to cover all the aching broken places– but there is only so much you can fix, and don’t we all wish the Peace on earth, goodwill to men could go on after the calendar page turns? I want to believe that the wounds of this world can heal. It’s seeing hearts change, and souls mended, lives turned around for good that keeps me hanging onto hope. And as I contemplate the rough wood of the stable in this Winter light, I see the cross there, too– it is beautiful awe-full Mystery, how the stuff of creation becomes an altar upon which the Creator offers Himself up.

And January hangs on the wall: an invitation to new beginnings, the anticipation of new possibilities whispering in our hearts because of Emmanuel, God with us forevermore. Listen hard, and you can hear the longing for God to make a way where there seems to be no way, as we search for our One Word, and dive into new projects, and refocus on healthy habits. We are all in the same boat, wanting reassurance for the regrets of the past year, and a hope for the year to come…that somehow these months will be meaningful and count for something of worth in the long run. By now I have learned that filling in those days with my own ideas and efforts is only a recipe for exhaustion; it is His presence that covers each moment with significance. So I wait and listen for His voice. And the song of the Musician-King keeps running through my head: “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; He leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to His name….” (Psalm 23:1-3) I couldn’t want anything better for the New Year.

The snow comes in the night, silently overlaying yesterday’s footsteps, and we wake to a world made new. It makes me think of what we have been talking about in our small group, how the original meaning of the word righteousness was more about God making things right than about us doing things right. God is showing His righteousness when He delivers His people from the enemy; when He provides for them; when He brings justice and upholds the needy; when He covers them with His love and says I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15) Blessed are the people who hunger and thirst for righteousness the way a dying man longs for water, because God has given us Himself at Christmas, to make everything right again. The past that you wish you could escape; the loss you are trying to survive; the fear that hangs over your head; the hard angry feelings you just want to let go of…this is why Jesus came, to bring us His righteousness, His making-things-new, and He’s saying Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

We walk into the New Year, and there is His covering of grace everywhere I look.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:18-19

Can’t go back to the beginning;
Can’t control what tomorrow will bring;
But I know here in the middle
Is the place where You promise to be.
I’m not enough unless You come–
Will You meet me here again-?
‘Cause all I want is all You are–
Will You meet me here again?

Here Again, Elevation Worship
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Grace is the One Word You Need Most

I look around this small group as they talk about how life turned out differently than they thought it would, this past year, see the unspoken sorrows and unexpected joy in the paths they have walked. And we try to put into One Word our goal for the New Year, knowing full well that we do not know what lies ahead, only that the One who goes with us has already provided what we need. It is His promise to us, from the pen of the Church-planter Paul: “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

This we can trust, that no matter what word we choose, our loving Father will be working in it and through it, both for our benefit and for His glory. This is His bountiful Grace, to walk amid our days and soften the sharp edges, lift up the weary head, light up the dark places. Grace is the biggest and best word He will give to meet us when we offer up this year to Him. That One Word became flesh and blood in the person of Christ Jesus, so that we could see for ourselves what Grace looked like in this everyday world. Nothing will take Him by surprise in this year, and nothing will take Him from our sides. So we will be okay, whatever comes. Because the Good Shepherd calls us by name and leads us on.

May we only be faithful to follow.

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“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
(2 Corinthians 12:9)

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“You don’t need to be perfect; you need to simply feel His perfect love. You don’t need to be in control; you need to simply be in Christ. You don’t need to be more because He is all you need.”
(Ann VosKamp)

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A Starting Place

To all those who are beginning the New Year hesitantly, already feeling a bit like the walking-wounded and wondering if you have the strength or courage for what may come– Jesus speaks blessing over you. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:3-5) Because you of all people know that this world cannot satisfy your heart. You are already looking for a Light on the horizon, hungry for more than the way things are. And Jesus says you are on the right path, so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6) You are learning the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, that the real treasures are things you can only see with the eyes of faith.

So bring your tears, and your fears, and all your questions, here at the start of a New Year. Hold them out to Jesus with both hands and let Him take them, so that your hands are empty and outstretched….ready for something new. A friend reminded me the other day that a person isn’t really ready to change unless he is a little bit desperate. It’s true, you know, that until our longing for something better outweighs our fear of letting go, our hands remain clenched on what we treasure– and I know a good many people who are hauling around buckets of dirt as if they were gold. So just give them up, here on the first page of the calendar; empty your hands and join the ranks of the humble, the heart-hungry, the longing…all those who can find true riches. They are singing the song of the Musician-King: “Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You. I will praise you as long as I live, and in Your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods….On my bed I remember You; I think of You through the watches of the night.” (Psalm 63:3-6)

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“Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:25-26)

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“Oh Love that will not let me go,
My soul will rest in You alone.
I give you back this life I owe,
To know you Jesus more and more.”
(I Love You, Lord, Elevation Worship)

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The Method in This Madness

I can’t even count the number of times someone has said to me, “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle,” as if the saying of it would magically cut the situation down to size, or at least bolster their flagging spirits enough to overcome.  And I really hate to burst the bubble, but the fact is that every day Christ-followers face circumstances that are too big, too much, too overwhelming for any sane mind. Chemo that makes you weak and nauseous. Spouses that break faith. Babies that come too early. Pain that wakes you up at night and hounds you during the day. Children with seizures. Raging fires that swallow up whole towns. Three-year-olds with tempers the size of Wyoming, and teenagers that are bent on doing life their own way. Siblings that act like you are the enemy. Parents that cannot live on their own any more. The power of addiction. The dark valley of grief.

If we are honest, there is a whole world of things that we cannot control, and that leave us feeling rather helpless and confused about what to do next. And yeah, telling myself that I can handle this because God gave it to me really doesn’t help. Since when is He in the habit of limiting Himself to my own small resources?

Jesus never spoke as one delivering self-help goals– or even inspiring ideals. In fact, Paul admits freely that the gospel does not make sense to the human mind: “…the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18) Jesus’ teachings were life-changing and difficult, and He understood that He was turning the world upside-down for the sake of Heaven’s reality. And yet Jesus meant for us to take Him at His word, to put into practice what He taught us. 

And I can hear the echoes of all His impossible-seeming standards: “…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44)…. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)….”Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)….”Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…”(James 1:2). There’s not a one of them that I can handle, no matter how much I psych myself out about being a new creature. Oh I can fake it for awhile…put my best foot forward and be the saint people expect to see. Or I can rationalize that these are  good things to strive for but maybe not meant for everyday life. Or I can even dodge a sense of failure by comparing myself to those around me, rather than to the standards that measure me short. But when life really gets tough the only way to handle anything is just to come running to Jesus and confess very honestly that this is too much for me. 

That is exactly the point, and the answer is right there after all: “If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) A long time ago, someone’s well-meaning emphasis on productivity gave me the idea that Jesus was talking about the work of ministry here…good works and what you can accomplish for eternity. Focusing on what we can do for Jesus is probably a good motivational tool, but I have found that His power, His presence is actually what I need for Life itself.

It’s more than knowing what resources to turn to, when I run out. It’s letting God make me new on the inside, choosing to rely on Him instead of myself, trusting that He knows what is best in all those impossible things. It’s living out the truth that the Church-planter Paul talked about: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:2-3) 

Maybe all those situations I can’t handle and all those big commands are supposed to be just that impossible, because God isn’t looking to hand out super-charged batteries to help me accomplish what I want to do. He wants to live in me with His resurrection power, to accomplish what He wants to do. So when I can’t figure it out myself, or make things happen with my own strength and determination, then there’s nothing left to do but draw on God’s strength and seek His face, and I am right where I should be. His promise still stands: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) 

He knows that the best way to live is in utter dependence on the Christ who has already overcome– the One who made you and loves you with an everlasting love– and in Him you can do all these impossible things.

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“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

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“Give me faith to trust what You say,
That You’re good and Your love is great;
I’m broken inside, I give You my life,
‘Cause I may be weak
But Your Spirit’s strong in me.
My flesh may fail;
My God You never will.”
(Give Me Faith, Elevation Worship)
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Of Forgiveness and Faith

We have been talking about forgiveness from the perspective of obedience, as the right choice of any serious Christ-follower. As the natural outflow of the Grace that forgives us. And it is, unquestionably. But from another angle, you could just as easily call it an act of faith.

It takes faith to look beyond the hurtful situation to see all the ways it might change if we can be brave and work through this together. We need faith to remind us that we are not stuck in our weaknesses– we are all growing up under the Spirit’s care, and it is never too late to change. Faith has the eyes to see that God is at work, even here, and hope for what good things He will accomplish. It hangs onto the promise, “And we know in all things, God is working for the good of those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Faith is the missing piece that transforms forgiveness from spiritual discipline into a fresh start.

So here I stand before You, God, and say “I do believe; help me to overcome my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) I can trust You to be strength for me in the relationships that are hard for me, and to carry the feelings that are too much for me. Give me enough faith to keep praying for the person who wounds, to keep throwing resentment away and embracing the Cross of Jesus, and He is saying“The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17b)  Help me to believe everything You say about me.

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All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19

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“You say I am loved,
When I can’t feel a thing.
You say I am strong;
When I think I am weak;
You say I am held,
When I am falling short;
When I don’t belong,
You say I am Yours.
And I believe…
I believe,
What You say of me.”

(You Say, Lauren Daigle)

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Where Jesus Is

In wilderness places when it’s hard to make it through the day, sometimes the biggest battle is in your head. Because in the desert, the Enemy’s voice whispers loud, and there is no rest from the scouring wind and scorching sun. The sand keeps shifting beneath your feet until you begin to forget that there is a rock-solid Truth underneath it all…seems easier to listen to the voice saying that you are not enough, and that you better take what you need any way you can get it because no one else is watching out for you. The way to get lost in the wilderness is to listen to the constant refrain that where you are is all there is ever going to be.

But David the Musician knew the wilderness long before he became King, and he is singing out of the desert , “O God…I thirst for You, my whole being longs for You, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1) He knew that the only way to survive the harsh barren places was to turn his eyes on the One who gives Living Water…the One who is beautiful beyond measure. “I have seen You in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.” (verses 2-4) You can focus on all that you lack in the seemingly endless days, or you can focus on the Giver of all things, like a compass-point to steer by and know that eventually you will end up safely Home. “I cling to You; Your right hand upholds me.” (v.8) It is the first choice of every day, the last before you lay your head down at night; even when no one else can hear, and you feel like you are all alone. “On my bed I remember You; I think of You through the watches of the night.” (verse 6) This is Wilderness Survival 101.

And yeah, maybe the Enemy knows all the right buttons to push, because I am most assuredly not enough for any of this…but in the middle of all I cannot control and everything I cannot fix, and the obvious shortage of wisdom and patience and strength in me, still the Spirit of the Lord who conquered death and sin is alive in me, and I am not alone. “Because You are my help, I sing in the shadow of Your wings.” (verse 7) 

Just hold on tight and take the next step, one after another, and don’t be afraid to hurl the everlasting Truth defiantly into the face of the storm.

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“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’” (Lamentations 3:21-24)

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“Can’t go back to the beginning,
Can’t control what tomorrow will bring,
But I know here in the middle
Is the place where You promise to be.

I’m not enough unless You come;
Will you meet me here again?
Cause all I want is all You are;
Will You meet me here again?

As I walk now through the valley,
Let Your love rise above every fear;
Like the sun shaping the shadow,
In my weakness Your glory appears…

Not for a minute
Was I forsaken;
The Lord is in this place,
The Lord is in this place.

Come Holy Spirit–
Dry bones awaken;
The Lord is in this place,
The Lord is in this place.”
(Here Again, Elevation Worship)

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