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Archive for the tag “Grace”

The Pharisee

This past weekend I heard a sermon on the Pharisee and the tax collector. The parable is found in Luke 18. The self-righteous man believed he was right with God because he was keeping the letter of the Law. He did more than he was required. He fasted more often than what Pharisees were expected to do. He gave a tenth of all that he received. The requirements were to give a tenth of what was earned. He believed he was right with God by the things that he did; by the rules he kept. The tax collector knew his heart and knew he was not able to keep the Law. He knew he was a rule breaker – a sinner. I tend to keep rules too. But I recognize my own heart. I am a rule breaker too – I am a sinner who is only saved by grace, not by obeying the rules.

The preacher did not go where I am getting ready to go. What struck me about the topic was the giving part of the story. The man gave on everything he received; not just on what he earned. In essence, he was trying to out give God. By all means, giving is good. Scripture tells us we are supposed to discern in our hearts what we want to give. The attitude of the heart is where we go wrong. If we are only giving because of the requirement to give or to give only to get recognition of the gift; it accounts for nothing. We are to give because God gave to us first, and we are returning the portion that is rightly His. In Malachi, God says we are robbing Him if we do not return His portion. But it is not supposed to be done grudgingly. Paul taught in Second Corinthians that we are to be cheerful givers.

Money is a hard thing to part with. I have a financial background, and this can be one of my most difficult areas of obedience for me. Not necessarily giving back to God; but giving in general. When money is tight, I am not quite so willingly to donate to worthy causes. I check my expenditures for the month before I decide whether the cause is worthy enough to sacrifice for. This is not the way I want to be. I want to have a generous heart. But it is a constant struggle to let go of those things that God has given me. God has given me the challenge to do more with less. God is teaching me that He is sufficient to meet all my needs. He has worked on my desire for less stuff. I have to watch my thoughts though because I can get on my Pharisee corner and think too highly of myself because I have done this “great thing” to reduce my possessions. There is nothing that I have done by myself. It took God working in my heart and pointing out the things that have hindered my walk with Him. I can get too possessive of my stuff if I am not careful.

Then there is the lust game that comes at me from every angle. When I look at my neighbors or my friends, I see they have all they need plus some. They drive nice cars. They go out to eat more than I do. One of my neighbors is fixing up their house. My friend mentioned she found twenty dollars in the parking lot. I can get dissatisfied too if I am not careful to keep it all in the right perspective. I am reminded that if I don’t have something, then it’s because I am not ready for it. If God brings a blessing to me, then I know that my heart is right to accept it with gratitude. I also realized that I don’t need any debt in my life. God gives when we can handle it properly. The nice car is nice when there is no car payment that has to be made every month. Or the nice house is not so nice when the mortgage is more than I could afford.

God has been good to teach me the right principles to live by and how to honor Him with spending wisely. I am learning His principles of money management – it’s taken a few years, but I think I am finally over the “mine” phase. It’s all His. I am just the money manager for a short time. Someone else will get the job when I am finally done here on this earth! In the meantime, I no longer give because I have an obligation to God and want to follow the rules. I give because He is so generous to me. The budget will never look good on paper, but in God’s economy everything is always paid on time and with the right attitude!

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:6-8

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Sharing Spaces

Last week, my family went on our annual pilgrimage to the beach. We have been doing this for the last twenty-four years. It’s become a special time for me and my family. Each year, the adults considered dropping the trip as my nephews got older, but they would have nothing of it. As we have added members to the family through marriage, the new members have had to learn to adjust to these family dynamics. The transitions have been smooth – since the boys have all chosen well! Now, their children are beginning to experience this annual trip as well. We rent one house with enough beds to accommodate all of us, but the sleeping arrangements can be a bit of a challenge with spouses sharing space with in-laws. As older adults have aged, this too has led to some sleeping arrangement difficulties (especially for those of us who are light sleepers).

We have all had to learn how to live together (even if it’s just for one week) in harmony. During the first years, my Mom had a few difficulties dealing with “boy” issues; like unmade beds with clothes on the floor. Mom was used to having “girl” issues since she raised three girls. I had a few moments too with having stubborn teenagers who wouldn’t listen to my instructions (aka orders) to get out of bed or clean the house before departure. Can you say control issues? But those were just bumps in the road. We have had many memories that are seared into each of our hearts that we will never forget.

One of the last times with my Mom remains priceless to each of us. We used to play games a couple of times during the week. One of those times, my Mom won every hand. And each hand she won, we began to wonder how she was doing it. It seemed we would all get distracted by the conversation or something going on outside; except Mom. After awhile, we began to comment that Mom was cheating. By the time the card game was finished, we were all laughing so hard tears were rolling down our cheeks. One of my nephews spoke about that memory this past week. This family week is now bittersweet since she is no longer with us enjoying these precious memories.

Transitions between events can be quite challenging. Loss, either through divorce, death or even family members moving to another part of the world can be difficult when we want the dynamics to stay the same. It never does. Change is inevitable. Each year is different. The house may stay the same; the family members may stay the same, but we are all growing and changing every year (at least I hope so!). Thankfully we aren’t who we once were and we are still in process of becoming who we’re going to be. Living in close spaces with family members brings constant struggles; each wanting to do things their own way (loading the dishwasher for example – not that there is a right or wrong way). Different isn’t bad – it’s just different. My little nephew learned this phrase when he took his missionary training last year.

Meshing families into a functioning harmonious space is challenging. But those harmonious spaces are always under girded with love. We can forgive slights when we know that love is present. The challenge is to love even when hurt; to walk away and forgive the words that cut deeply; to offer grace even when it would be easier to lash back. Close knit families have their own struggles to deal with. I am always reminded that when actions or words are misinterpreted, God knows our hearts. He knows our actions associated with the overflow of our hearts. We have to give the benefit of the doubt to keep the peace. I cannot judge what someone else is dealing with. When we are sharing space with someone else, we have to give them the space in grace. We are responsible for our own actions and reactions. A few sharp words will not change the harmonious nature of our family because we love one another. If we make the trip next year, I know the dynamics will change again. I cherish the way it was and look forward to the way God will make the transitions for next year.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

My Identity Crisis

It’s been almost eight years ago when I found out my medical identity was stolen. It didn’t seem like such a big deal at the time. The insurance denied the claims and everything seemed to be fine. Until the day I went to get my driver’s license renewed and found out it was suspended because of my failure to complete the rehabilitation issued by the courts. Uh? I was floored and stumbled out to the parking lot wondering what had gone so wrong? The lady’s identity became wrapped up in mine. Since then, I have dealt with her problems on my credit report, and the report that goes to auto insurance companies, which is separate – who knew? For years I have been dealing with higher and higher auto insurance premiums and wondered if insurance could go up that fast. When I switched insurance companies, the insurance man pointed to the wrecks in unknown cars that were linked to my account. It just never ends.

This woman has major problems; drugs and/or alcohol, medical issues, and just major sin issues. For some reason this woman is tied to me. What’s the purpose behind it? I don’t know yet. I don’t know how this story will end. Good hasn’t come of it yet, but it will. God says He works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called to His purpose (my paraphrase Romans 8:28). I believe those words so I know there is a greater purpose than these little irritants that keep popping up over and over. Satan likes to use these little irritants to keep me off-balance or to distract me from my purpose. Every time I take a step of faith, the credit report will come back with issues or the renewal of policies/licenses, something tied to this woman will impact in a negative way. All I can do right now, is clean up the mess and pray for the woman. Satan will one day quit using this woman, and she will be healed and saved from the destruction Satan planned for her. Jesus’ plans are much greater for her, and I am praying she one day understands this truth.

I am not writing this to show my prayer fortitude or raise a righteous flag. I am far from perfect. At one point in my life, I could have been in a complete mess like this woman. But God saved me from the destructive path of Satan. Satan planned to kill me, but Jesus came to give me a new life. My character is being built through the trials so that I can grow into the woman of God I am meant to be. It’s the little irritants that help me to have the right perspective. It’s by God’s grace I have been set free. I no longer have an identity crisis. I know who I am and whose I am. Yes, I still suffer from someone else’s sin. But it’s with grace that I take her suffering to the cross and ask for her suffering to end. God has this under control. I need not worry about what could be in my circumstances. I am securely in the palm of His hands. Whatever is allowed, I will endure it for His glory. My character is being renewed day by day. One day, I will see the goodness that the Lord has in store. My character witness will be Jesus Himself standing up for me either here on earth or in heaven one day. Good will come out of this! One day.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

The Light

What our world would look like without Jesus? What would I look like if Jesus hadn’t come to save me? I have been pondering this question since Christmas Day. I can’t really tell you about my life before Jesus since I have known about Him all my life. However, I can you the difference when Jesus came fully into my heart. It’s when I started walking with Him. It wasn’t on the day of my salvation. I had that long before – whether you believe one can be saved and not actually live like it or not. I know my testimony of God calling me out of my pew that Sunday morning. I also know of His protection when I was walking on a different path than what I should have been as one of His children. I am much like the Israelites and their rebellion. They were still His people. He waited on them to repent. He waited on me too. I am so grateful for my patient God.

I love the story of the prodigal son (found in Luke 15). Demanding, selfish young man decided the grass was greener in the far country. He left and found out; life wasn’t better on the other side. The fun didn’t last. The friends weren’t the best. The community didn’t help him. And when he finally came to his senses, he turned around to go back home. That’s me! It took a few pegs to knock me down so I could finally look up. When I did, I finally saw God waiting on me to return with loving arms wrapping around me. It was His amazing grace that gave me a new start.

I am in another Beth Moore study; this one on the Songs of Ascent (Psalms 120-134). She was speaking in the DVD portion of the study about her remembrance of where she was before Jesus reached down to pull her out of her pit. She said “if we remember the bondage, then we must remember the grace; we will also have more grace to give to others.” It sounds like the story of the sinful woman (Luke 7:36-50) who wet the feet of Jesus with her tears and dried them with her hair. Jesus told the parable of two people owing money. One is forgiven a bigger debt than the other. The one with the biggest debt loves more than the other one. Grace and love are shown when we have received it for ourselves. Sometimes I forget where I was. Sometimes I need a reminder; I am the sinful woman who has been given the grace of forgiveness. My debt was high and Jesus paid it all.

Today, because Jesus has come, I am no longer living in darkness. Jesus came to bring light to the world. Without light, only darkness is present. I can see only because Jesus opened my eyes. Where would I have been if Jesus had not come? I would not be here writing these words. I would be right back in the pit of despair wondering how in the world I got there. I would not be in good health because I would still be drinking. I would be living in a very destructive lifestyle. If Jesus had not come, I would not be living with joy and hope of eternity. I would not have the friendships I have today. I would not have the relationship with my family. I would be living in sin with no hope of a future.

When Jesus came, everything changed. What condition are you in today? Do you need Jesus?

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. Romans 3:23-25

I written a couple more things about this subject in my monthly newsletter coming out on the first. If you would like to receive it go here to sign up.

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