Friday, September 30, 2011

Do You See What God Provides?

There are times I share with you the difficult things in life. I do this because God has told us that we will have suffering in this earthly life.
1 Peter 4:12-16 12Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. (ESV)
I also share those tough times to give you hope. Hope that God is with you through the difficult times, and hope that this life on earth is temporary. When I mention these things it reminds us we are not alone in our suffering, Jesus endured much more suffering than we will EVER know, and we can support one another through our sufferings. It’s nice to have a friend by your side when life seems overwhelming.

However, today I want us to look at the contrast of those tough things we go through, up against the way God takes care of us. Let’s just look at few verses where He promised He would provide for us.

Phillipians 4:19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (ESV)

Matthew 6:30-32 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. (ESV)

Luke 12:6-7 6Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. (ESV)

Luke 12:22-23 22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. (NIV)

How many of us have truly gone without the things we need? Before you answer, think about it. Have you ever gotten to the point that you have had NOTHING to wear (ladies, I’m not talking about you gained a couple of pounds and your favorite jeans feel uncomfortable, or you’re tired of wearing the same things over and over and over. I understand.), the clothes on your back are ALL you have?  Have you ever been without food for a day (not because you chose too), or two, or three, because you didn’t have enough money to feed yourself? Have you ever had to sleep on the streets, in your car, or in a shelter because you didn’t have a home? I have to say NO to ALL 3 of these questions because my God is faithful and has ALWAYS provided for my NEEDS!!

He even provides for my wants. I would like to share 3 stories of how God has intervened on behalf of my family, to provide for us in miraculous ways, just in the past two or three months. Before I even start I want you to know, I give Him all the praise and glory for what happened in each incident! I hope these encourage you!

God’s House
This past summer our younger son, Colton, was preparing to transfer from a community college to the University of North Texas in Denton, TX. He had all paperwork completed. He had been accepted months prior.  He had even registered for all of his fall classes and had his schedule. The company he had been working for in Midlothian had worked out a transfer to Denton, so he already had a job. God was working everything out. We just had one problem, where was he going to live? His financial aid covered his tuition but not housing. There was no way he could work enough hours to pay rent on an apartment and still get his school work done. We simply had no idea what we were going to do, we just kept praying that God would provide something. Classes were to begin in about 3 weeks, when a dear family friend who had been having health issues was admitted ICU. So our family went to see him. Because of schedules we all saw him at different times. Cecil and I saw him early in the day. We casually talked about getting Colton ready for school. Later Colton visited him and the man asked if Colton was ready to go to UNT. Colton said yes, but that he was very stressed because he didn’t have a place to live. The friend then told Colton that a family member lives close to UNT and has a cottage behind their house that they might be willing to rent it to him while he attends UNT. Within 2 weeks Colton and his best friend moved in. It is perfect! The rent and utilities are just what college students can afford. We know that God provided this! He is so good!

The Apple Miracle
For several months I have been having some issues with my computer that I have just dealt with. I am an Apple person! So to get it fixed I had to take it to the Apple store. I get it there and begin to tell the Genius, Bryan, what the problem is, “The screen only works when it the laptop is open about 4-5 inches. It has gradually gotten worse. At first the screen would go off when it was opened to about 90o. As I would close it, the screen would come back on. Now I can only open it like 4 or 5 inches. I can’t work with it like this.” So Bryan begins to look at it. He realizes that the battery doesn’t work and I have to keep it plugged in. There is also a USB port that is broken. I say, “Bryan, I don’t care about getting those things fixed, I can deal with those things. I just need the screen to work.” I’m talking to him about how I know I can’t afford to get the whole computer fixed, that I’m just limping this one along until I can afford a new one. We talked about how much repairs like this usually cost and if he could get it fixed for less, how much could I pay. Strange question, I’m thinking. I call and talk with Cecil about it. When I get off the phone, Bryan pulls me over away from the rest of the people and says I got approval to fix all the problems on your computer for half what it would normally cost. At that point I begin to cry. He then tells me he is throwing in a battery for free. All I could say was thank you and Bryan you are a Godsend! When I returned to pick up my computer I have to tell you I was in shock. They did much more than I ever realized they were going to do. It looks absolutely brand new! So I waited for Bryan to finish with a customer. He came over, I again thanked him, this time I let him know I felt God had directed him to do this for me. I hugged him and left. I pray that God will continue to use Bryan if he is a Christian. If he is not, I pray God has allowed me to plant a seed.

Insurance Does a Good Thing
Last week I had to take Colton to the doctor. I step up to the counter to check in. I get my checkbook out and get ready to fill it out when the lady behind the counter tells me to wait. She says, “There is a credit on the account. Let me make sure it is a real credit.” So I wait…then she says, “It’s a real credit.” She explains that the insurance company paid for the physical Colton had a month ago. Of course, at that time I paid the co-pay.  So she applies it to that visit. Once again God’s timing is perfect!

These are just 3 examples of the way God works in our lives each and every day. The main thing is we have to be aware of what He is doing. Recognize that God is at work, performing miracles in our lives everyday.

Now I’m going to ask you for a favor. I would like you to think of a time when God intervened on your behalf, and provided for you when there was a need. Please leave a comment here to share with everyone or send me an email. I can’t wait to read your stories!

Living in Grace,

Monday, September 26, 2011

Laboring for Heaven

I know we all wonder why we endure certain hurts and sufferings. I know I have. Specifically I have wondered why I have lost so many special people who are close to me. I have mentioned before that from a young age I have dealt with death. Maybe that is why this question comes up so often for me. I won’t go through all the deaths I’ve been through, but I feel you need to know some that have made the biggest impact on me. When I was 14 a young man in our church youth group was killed in a car accident. He and I were very good friends. He was 18 and only a month from graduating High School. This was very difficult on a 14-year-old girl, and a small youth group who had a hard time grasping why God would take such a young man. By the time I was 20 I had only one grandparent left. When I was in my early thirties God took her home. Not long after that he took home my sister’s husband who was only 33. Then, when I 43 my precious daddy met Jesus. I have to admit this was the hardest loss I have ever endured. I miss my daddy every day! To this day, almost 3 years later, I don’t understand why God took him when He did. What I do know is I serve a sovereign God and He has a purpose for all He does and I can trust HIM. So I will. As I learn and grow in His word He teaches me. This week He has given me a new perspective on the question, “Why have I lost so many special people close to me?”

Recently I’ve been learning, and trying to put into practice that EVERYTHING is to Glorify God. Ephesians 1:12 “That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ” This means I am to be “to the praise of his glory”, me, my life, always, no matter the circumstances. The Christian life is NOT about circumstances it’s about Jesus! Living a life glorifying Him!

I heard a quote from author Sam Storms that really struck me, that as I live this life I should “Labor to be much acquainted with heaven.” Did you catch that, “Labor”, what comes to mind when you think of the word labor? Let’s get real, I think of 2 things:

  1 Working really, really hard on something, like construction workers
     out in the Texas heat of 110o
  2   A woman about to give birth to a baby

Now I could paint a pretty vivid picture of either one of those scenarios, but I won’t, because I think you get the idea. He is talking about working hard, REALLY hard. Sam Storms is suggesting that we, as Christians should search out scriptures and get ourselves VERY familiar with Heaven. Have you done that? Have I done that? I don’t know what your answer is, but I know that mine is no.

We’ve all heard the quote by Benjamin Franklin, "The only things certain in life are death and taxes." If you’re a Christian, you know this verse,
Hebrews 9:27 “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” No matter what else occurs in life, we all know we are going to die. Benjamin Franklin knew it, the author of Hebrews knew it and you and I know it today. Knowing it about ourselves and accepting it about our loved ones sometimes are two very different things. Am I right? I know that one day I will die and go to Heaven, I find a certain peace in that. However, the thought of my husband, daughter, son, mom, sister, brother or others close to me, preceding me in going to Heaven, makes me a bit uneasy. Should it? NO! I should find just as much peace in knowing they will be with my Savior, as I find in knowing, I will be with my Savior!

So what is wrong with me? I believe I have not set my affections on things above. Colossians 3:1&2  1If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Of course this is talking about the things of God. Now back to what I mentioned earlier about laboring to get ourselves acquainted with Heaven. What is Heaven? Jesus’ home. As we get to know Jesus more and more, and draw closer to him that is how we get to know Heaven. Not by learning about the streets of Gold and the gates of pearl. Because once we see Jesus all those THINGS, and YES they are just THINGS, will pale by comparison!!!

Now you may be saying, “How has this given you a new perspective on why you have lost so many close to you?” Well when I heard that quote from Sam Storms I couldn’t help but think about those who have gone on before me. I don’t know about you but anytime anyone mentions Heaven, my first thought goes to those who are already there. Honestly, that’s pretty sad. My Lord and Savior, the one who gave His life for me, the one who is to be my number 1 priority is there. Yet all I can think of is my daddy, my brother-in-law, my grandparents and others. That is when God reminded me of Philippians 1:20-22 “20as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.” So I am working on keeping my perspective of losing the ones I love as it would be with me, Living means living a life for Christ, Dying means gaining eternity with HIM! Their lives can continue to be witness for Christ even after death by the life they lived for Christ and by where they are now worshiping our Savior forever! They are now my example!

Living in Grace,

Saturday, September 17, 2011

My Righteousness Isn't That Bad...Is It?

Hello Friends! I am so sorry it’s been so long. For a couple of weeks I had a really hard time adjusting to my children being gone, then for a week I was sick and last week my computer was sick. Thank goodness the Apple repairmen were able to get her running like new! With God’s help I will get back on the right track, with the blog and several other things in my life.

So…Finally, let’s finish Luke 15. I know you have been waiting to see what God has in store for us. So am I…time to get started.

Please re-read Luke 15 to help refresh your memory.
We will be focusing on Luke 15:25-32

I have to admit, I really wish Jesus would have stopped with verse 24. I think that would have made a perfectly happy ending to the parable. That would have worked out fine had Jesus been speaking to a crowd filled with only tax collectors and sinners. Take a look back at verse 2 “And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled,”(ESV) from this verse it is obvious there is also a group of Pharisees and scribes listening. Actually, most of the time there was a group of Pharisees following and listening to Jesus. Now understand, they were not there to learn from Him, they were there to find fault in His teaching, but Jesus, being God in the flesh, always took advantage of a teachable moment. I love that! He could have stopped the parable with the younger son’s return to the father, the restored relationship between the two and the huge celebration, which all is a picture of a rebellious person seeing their need for God’s grace, through His sacrifice of His son Jesus on the cross, that person’s confession of sins before God and God forgiving those sins and welcoming him or her into His arms. Then He rejoices when that one has come home! Because our Gracious God doesn’t want anyone to leave this earth without a relationship with Him, as
2 Peter 3:9 says ”The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”(NIV) He continues on with the parable.

At this point Jesus moves His focus from the tax collectors and sinners in the crowd to the Pharisees and Scribes. If you will remember from earlier (Yes…Much earlier, dig waaay back in your memory, or flip back to a previous blog), we differentiated between the two groups by saying the tax collectors and sinners were the blatant sinners, and the Pharisees and Scribes were the moral people of the day. They were hiding their sins behind their good works. Throughout this study Rodney gave the two groups interesting titles, Tax Collectors and Sinners-Too Bad For God’s Grace, Scribes and Pharisees-Too Good For God’s Grace. Here is an interesting thought. They both feel they are beyond grace. The Pharisees have this attitude of self-righteousness. They feel as though they are the only ones that are “religious”. They follow the law, they go to the temple, they worship God, they know the Bible….What? Ok, so maybe they know the law and what the prophets have taught.

In all the years I have been taught the story of the Prodigal Son, I have never paid a lot of attention to the older brother. Except for the fact that he threw a fit over the party when the younger brother came home. Honestly, I thought, “Get over it, can’t you be happy your brother came home? Now move on.” That was the end of it…Until Now. Now I’m realizing the true feelings, motives, and implications of a heart like the older brother. Let me tell you, it’s not a good thing.

Let’s start by defining Self-Righteousness-Relating to God based on my performance for God. It’s thinking I can earn God’s blessing through good behavior, earning His Grace by my good living, that I can be right with God because of my righteousness, and that God’s mercy is dependent on my morality.

If you have spent any time in church, you will reject that you think or believe that. I know you will, because I do. Come on, let’s get real with ourselves. Is that how we live? We know that we are saved by grace, but we live as though we must stay saved by works. God is continually teaching me that His grace didn’t stop at salvation. Right now one of the things I am working on is changing my thinking from common thoughts like: “God helps those who help themselves.” to, God helps those who know they are helpless without Him! You may not even realize it, but that first thought is self-righteousness. This is what God says about my righteousness in
Isaiah 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.(KJV) Let me tell you when Isaiah refers to a filthy rag he is not just talking about a rag you clean with. I will simply tell you what Rodney told us it was and move on. But you need to know, because you need to know the disgust of our righteousness in God’s eyes. He is referring to a menstrual cloth. Jesus died for my self-righteousness, yet I, like the older brother in Luke 15 seem to think I can earn His blessing, mercy, grace, love, or whatever by being good enough. GET OVER IT ANGIE! YOU WILL NEVER MEASURE UP!

Now take a look at Luke 15:28b “So his father went out and pleaded with him.” I don’t need to measure up. Because, just like with the younger brother, the father once again shows us God’s amazing grace.
 He also RUNS to the older son
He entreats the older son
He gets on His knees
If the older son will, all he has to do is submit to Jesus

The following are a few questions from Jerry Bridges, author of several books including “The Pursuit of Holiness”. I believe that is where these questions and the quote to follow came from. If I am wrong, I apologize. Rodney shared this with us and I did not totally catch the reference.

These questions expose self-righteousness:
Do you tend to live by a list of dos and don’ts?
Is it difficult for you to respect those whose standards aren’t as high as yours?
Do you assume that practicing spiritual disciplines should result in God’s blessing?
Do you feel you’re better than most other people?
Has it been a long time since you identified a sin and repented of it?
Do you resent it when others point out your “spiritual blind spots”?
Do you readily recognize the sins of others but not your own?
Do you have the sense that God owes you a good life?
Do you get angry when difficulties and suffering come into your life?
Do you seldom think of the cross?

“If you found yourself answering yes to at least half these questions, it’s likely you’re living under a stronghold of self-righteousness toward God. You need to see this for what it really is-a hideous enemy disguised as a satisfying glory. It will let you down and leave you hanging. Its satisfaction is as short-lived as an ice cube in the blazing sun; its glory has all the appeal of a well-dressed corpse. And at the end of the day this fact remains: no amount of personal performance will ever gain the approval of a holy God.”

May God Bless You All!

Living in Grace,

If you are interested in listening to any of the messages on Luke 15 by Rodney Hobbs, Pastor of Stonegate Church, Midlothian, TX. Please listen to the podcast at Luke 15-Part 5 The Prodigal Son, The Self-Righteous