Out of Miry Clay

Complete

April10

Today is Good Friday.  I thought it might be a good day to post what this day means to me, and I'm hoping you might consider commenting on what God is doing in your life that makes this day special to you this year.

What I'm thinking about this Good Friday is how God completes everything.  If there was a word that meant more complete than complete, I'd use that word.  God has been so faithful lately to show me ways He goes above and beyond to bring things to complete.

One specific way God has been working in me lately is by gently and lovingly showing me areas of my life that need to be restored.  Whether it's a wound from a past hurt, or a scar left by sin, He's been faithful to bring these things to my attention so I have the opportunity to give them over to Him and let Him restore.  It's amazing to me that although being taken out of hurtful situations or being forgiven of sin is often enough for me, it's not for Him.  He longs to see me healed and whole.

It's just those kinds of things about God that really get me.  He knew the law was not enough, could never be kept.  So He sent One who not only kept and fulfilled the Law, but forgave and justified where it could not.

Just as He forgives me, and then goes a little beyond that gift and offers healing.

Just as He gave us Good Friday, and still knew how much we needed the light of Easter Sunday.

I'd love to hear what ways this day is new and meaningful for you this year, so comment away!

Get Out of That Pit

March25

I thought I'd start posting about the Beth Moore book Get Out of That Pit.  It's been really enlightening for me, and I thought posting some of the highlights might be beneficial...and it will keep them fresh in my head.

The book is basically about defining life in a pit: what it is and how you got there, and then experiencing God's deliverance.  Beth explains several different ways we end up in a pit, and makes some really interesting points about life in the pit.  Here are a few of the points that really got me, and some of the things I've recognized in myself so far.  I may go into more detail about the pits I've recognized in my life in future posts but I wanted to get the ball rolling...

  • Living in a pit can be like living in an RV...after you're there a while, you don't recognize that portable bathroom scent a newcomer would notice right away.  Sometimes we've been in certain circumstances in our life so long, we no longer see them for the pit they are.  I've definitely been here!
  • Beth says you can be "God-seeking, Jesus-following" and still find yourself in a pit.  Sin is not the only pit.  Many have nothing to do with being in a stronghold of sin.
  • Beth explains that she searched scriptures for each use of the word for pit and concluded that there are a few characteristics that let you know you're in a pit:
  1. You feel stuck.  You can't get yourself out, it only gets deeper and stickier.
  2. You can't stand up.  Satan is on the attack and you feel powerless under it.
  3. You've lost vision.  It's dark and we feel hopeless.

It was really a revelation for me to realize that being in a pit doesn't always have to do with being in a pattern of sin.  There might be relationships or circumstances that are "pits" for me because they make me feel stuck, dark, and under attack.  The only way out is with God's deliverance.

I almost didn't buy this book because I was so hung up on pit=sin.  I really felt led to give it a shot and immediately through the first chapter (what I basically just summarized) I felt emotionally overwhelmed.  I felt God opening my eyes to pits in my life that have been there so long they'd become like that RV.  I couldn't even recognize them anymore.  One thing Beth notes about pits being dark and us not having vision is that we're meant to be creative people.  We're meant to see ourselves as a part of something big, divine, and thrilling to our souls.  I could see right away that these pits were robbing me of that vision for myself.

Just seeing that I was in a pit gave me a remarkable amount of freedom.  Maybe not freedom yet, but hope of freedom.  That in itself is exhilarating.

The next few chapters deal with how you end up in a pit.  I think I've identified a time in my life when I've ended up in a pit each way she talks about.  I'll write more on each of these and the things I've learned from them.  The first deals with being thrown into a pit.  That's the one that hit me like a ton of bricks because that's the one I need out of now.  So, more to come!

It’s all about salvation

March19

Here goes the first post on what I've been reading in 1 Peter.  In our small group last term we read a book called The Jesus Creed, and it talked about not studying/reading the Bible just to master what it says, but to let what it says master you.  I've been going slow so I make sure I am praying through anything in my life that needs to be mastered by the text.  I read/meditated on these verses for a day, studied commentary and definitions the next day, and re-read and tried to work out what God wanted me to know the next.   Writing posts has been great for my memory retention.  It really helps me apply what the Scripture says if I try to sum it up and highlight portions.

What I think the first 9 verses of 1 Peter have me asking is "How central is salvation in your life?" "How often am I thankful, do I realize the depth and the reach of salvation?" "Does it inspire me, does it fill me up, give me hope?" I've read and re-read and studied these verses and it all keeps coming down to salvation. Here are a couple of things that stuck with me from these verses  1.  We have a living hope because of salvation, 2. an inheritance (that outshines anything we have on earth) as a gift of salvation, and 3. We face trials to test our faith.  Without faith, we don't have salvation.

1. Living Hope

The thing that struck me most was that our hope is living.  It's possible for anyone to have hope.  Believers as well as non-believers.  But as believers our hope is qualified as living.  "According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead..." (v3).  If something is dead, it can hold nothing up, has no future, can bring no comfort.  When it's gone, it's gone. Our hope as believers is through the resurrection of Christ.  What a comfort.   Our hope is as Christ is...certainly not dead, but alive, resurrected.  There's always the option for a living hope to endure.  It all boils down to having a Savior who is also alive.  Our salvation provides us with this hope.  With a Hope that holds everything together, gives us a promising future, and brings us all measure of comfort.

2.  Inheritance

I suppose if my parents or grandparents were rich, I'd think about inheritances more often.  That sort of thing really isn't on my radar much.  I don't really stand to inherit anything on this earth but what I earn.  And probably not much of that either!  But from God, I stand to receive an inheritance.  I have to admit, I don't know that I think about this inheritance much either.  Studying these verses made me realize that what I look forward to as a gift of my salvation will really rock my world.  It will totally out do anything I've seen and experienced.  Basically turn it on it's head.

Peter is speaking to exiled Jewish believers.  They had been moved out of the land God had given their forefathers.  It was an inheritance to them.  They were poor and had nothing, including homes.  Some probably lost families.  Peter encourages them by describing their inheritance as believers.  I was reading through Matthew Henry's commentary on 1 Peter and he details the words used to describe our inheritance (v.4).  What he calls "incomprable excellencies":

  • Incorruptible:  "in which respect it is like its Maker, who is called the incorruptible God.  All corruption is a change from better to worse, but heaven is without change and without end".  I was encouraged by this because I can't count the number of times things in my life have gone from better to worse.  Things that have been totally corrupted.  What hope it is knowing there is something coming that will never change!
  • Undefiled:  "like the great high priest that is now in possession of it, who is holy and harmless and undefiled (Heb 7:26).  Sin and misery, the two grand defilements that spoil this world, and mar its beauty, have no place there."  AMEN.
  • Unfading:  "always retains its vigour and beauty, and remains immarcescible, ever entertaining and pleasing the saints who possess it without the least weariness or distaste."
  • Reserved:  "The heir to an earthly estate has no assurance that he shall live to enjoy it, but the heirs of heaven shall certainly be conducted safely to the possession of it."

3.  Trials to test Faith

Verses 6-7 say "though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ."   I wasn't sure what to think about this because I've definitely faced trials here and there, but I'm not sure I've ever experience a big faith-shaking trial.  Not testing by fire.  Part of me hopes the "if necessary" applies and I'm firm in faith and don't require a big trial (that's a hope, and I'm not sure I can say I've really been so firm in my faith).  But another part of me desires to be found faithful and "if necessary" be given the chance to prove that.

In the same commentary I mention before, Henry talks about how when gold is tested by fire, it can only diminish.  Impurities and other elements are burned out.  The gold is left more pure, but also smaller.  Our faith "more precious" than gold becomes has the opposite end when tested.  Faith is enlarged.  When refined in not only becomes pure, but grows.   He says God's design in trials is to test our character, not to destroy.  It is for "their advantage, not their ruin...to prove the value and strength of his faith.  This trial is made upon faith principally, rather than any other grace, because the trial of this is, in effect, the trial of all that is good in us.  Our Christianity depends on our faith; if this be wanting, there is nothing that is spiritually good in us...if that be supported all the rest will stand firm."

If we have faith, we have salvation.  And in salvation we have a bedrock that is firm.  Anything else can be heaped upon it and it will remain.  It wouldn't make much sense to have a foundation that was never tested, would it?  God uses these tests of our faith and they result in more than our own benefit.  Henry notes, "the faith of good people is tried, that they themselves may have the comfort of it, God the glory of it, and others the benefit of it."

Despite the fact that it may come in the form of a trial, I hope I can exibit the kind of faith that will bring me comfort, benefit others, and most of all, give God some glory  and praise for the gift of salvation.

On the Agenda

March17

I'm working on a couple of posts...well really a couple of different series of posts that I wanted to let you all know about.  Hopefully the first will be tomorrow!  If not, the following day.  It will be soon, I just want to do a good job thinking things through and I really want to be led by the Lord on what aspect of what I'm reading that He wants me to focus on.  

So, here are a couple of things that will hopefully kick off this blog and hopefully spark some discussion:

1.  I'm reading through 1 Peter...I'm hoping to post on what God shows me through that time.  I'm studying up on the first few verses.   This will probably be next in line.

2.  I'm reading "Get Out of That Pit" by Beth Moore.  I'm only about 70 or so pages in and it's been a TON of revelation and a lot of great stuff to share.  I'll probably post on this as I read through it because it's been AMAZING so far.  

3.  We're starting a women's Bible study in the next couple weeks, and our small group is starting back up in two weeks and we'll be reading an Epistle.  I'm sure if God hits me over the head with anything in these studies, I'll be posting on them as well.  

Hopefully that will be a good start and I'm going to take it relaxed and try to post what God is laying on my heart, or what I'm being convicted of, etc.  In those times when things are taking shape I may post something like this and let you know I'm here and I'm working on things while they work themselves out. I want to be careful to take the time to work through things and give everything time to be sorted out in my head and in my spirit.  

I'm thankful for you all giving me this outlet and caring enough to stick with me!

Preparation

March15

Our good friend Jason preached at church this morning.  It was a great message that really confirmed a lot of things that I'd felt God speaking to me about.  Jason's sermon sort of packaged all the pieces and parts of what I'd been feeling and wrestling with and gave me a great reference in Scripture.

For the past year, Tommy and I have had several ups and downs dealing with the direction our life is going and where God is leading us.  It's basically gone something like this:  1) see a totally awesome fulfilling future for our family in the form of a job opportunity for him (that's the up) 2) pray for this, desire, dream, pray, repeat  3) never have the opportunity pan out, leaving us disappointed and confused.

The latest installment on this roller coaster ride has just leveled out from the down turn.  We can't help feeling disappointed although we're able to tell ourselves that God has something better if He hasn't allowed this particular door to open.  What I felt God telling me after this "down" is that we need to change our approach.  We've been ready to change our scenery and our circumstances in an effort to make it easier to change ourselves. God is not on board with this plan for us.

The sermon we heard this morning put everything together for me.  Jason spoke on discerning God's will and used the story of Nehemiah to outline how God intends this to happen.

  • First, he said we need to have passion for God's will in our life.  I don't think we've been lacking in this area (especially Tommy.  I think he's quite driven to be used by God).  I think I need a little help figuring out my fit and how God wants to use me. Nehemiah wept at the plight of his people and wished to be used by God to change it.
  • Second, we need to use prayer.  Nehemiah had a great prayer of repentance and he took it further by fasting extending his prayer time as long as was necessary.  I can see how I need to change my methods in this area.  I've always prayed specifically about an opportunity, and asked God to give it to me/us.  I'm convicted that I should be praying to be made into the person God sees fit to present with an opportunity.  To fine tune me, expel the qualities that need it, instill the qualities I lack.
  • Lastly, Nehemiah showed that we need to be prepared.  This is where I felt God say  "HELLO, hope you've been listening, 'cause this is about YOU."  Jason pointed out that as soon as the King asked Nehemiah what he wanted to do, he was prepared with details and a step-by-step plan.  He no doubt got this plan from his months of prayer and seeking God.  Jason said for us, the key is to be prepared so that when God opens the door, we can basically run right through.

My prayer is that this is the model we'll implement in our lives.  We know we need a change in our circumstances, we know we want a change.  I'm overjoyed that God has shown me HOW he wants me to go about making that change.  There are tons of details to fill in, but the bottom line is that we can understand the whys of where we've been, and the hows of where we're going.  God has a good plan for us.  Thankfully He's smart enough not to let us get in before we're prepared!

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