I'm home! Actually, I got home on Sunday night but I haven't got around to updating. I don't think I have gone eight days before without writing an entry! It isn't that I don't have the time (it only takes me a couple minutes) but I just haven't felt like it and most of what I have been thinking about hasn't been stuff I want to share with the world. But I'm here and around. Eventually I'll write more. Here is a picture from Joe and Jeanie's wedding, where I was over the weekend....
God's kindness in little things.
I wanted to share a little story of God's kindness in the 'small' things of life...
Last Friday I was running some errands for work. One of the places I went was Office Depot. Everything rang up to about $200, but they wouldn't let me use the credit card I had because it was a co-workers ( ) - even though it was a business account. I decided to use my debit card even though I knew my balance was more like $150. As soon as I left Office Depot I went to the bank to transfer some money into my account. But when I checked my balance it already said -$30!!!! I knew this meant that I would probably be charged huge fees for bouncing a check. The rest of the afternoon I was tempted to fret and be downcast because of this - it is a lot of money to me to loose over nothing - but I kept trying to remind myself that God is control and he is sovereign even over things like this. I prayed that he would work it all out and keep it from bouncing.
Well...this morning I downloaded my transactions, and sure enough, I had gotten the money in there soon enough before Office Depot pulled it!!!! I don't know how that could be sense I saw with my own eyes a negative balance, yet somehow God interviened and there are no extra fees! Woohoo!!!!
Isn't it awesome to see how God is watching out for us even in these somewhat "small" things of life?
About a half an hour ago I popped my sixth Imitrex this week. For some reason a lot of migraines have been coming around lately. It did give me a good excuse to do something I like though (and might otherwise be considered odd)...laying on my bed with lights out, the fan blowing a gentle breeze, watching the sun set behind the trees out my window. The serene beauty of it brings a sense of tranquility and helps my tensed muscles to relax.
I wonder how much more beautiful nature was before The Fall?
My psalm this week...
I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. As for me, I said in my prosperity, 'I shall never be moved.' By your favor, O Lord, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed. To you, O Lord, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy: 'What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me! O Lord, be my helper!' You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
Some things came up (or rather, they've been there for a while but were uncovered in more detail) this past weekend that brought me low for a while. Sticky situations, messy mix-ups, and people let down - not to mention my own plentiful contribution of sin. To say the least, I was very discouraged and confused, and it seemed like it would be a while before things got better. In some areas, I have rejoiced to see God has worked quickly. Other areas should be resolved soon, but others will be a process. So it is not over yet (nor is it ever in this lifetime), but God has been faithful throughout.
Although the Lord may bring a night of weeping he restores the joy of his children in the morning - as he has mine. "The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand." (Psalm 37:23-24) And there are precious bursts of sunshine along the way that cannot help but cause my heart to swell with happiness and quiet wonder.
God Gives More Grace
Particularly during the past week God has been reminding me that he promises to give grace and he promises to continue the work of sanctification. Sin and circumstances seem impossible to overcome (or just plain too confusing) and it is tempting to despair. I guess I am going through a season where God is revealing a lot of sin in my life. A lot. The following is from a little Bible study thingy where we were asked to look at James 4:8 ("Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.") and share what we thought the meaning was and the relevance of the context. This is what I said,
"I looked at the context and I think I do see a connection with the surrounding passages. It is rather convicting and relevant to me as I read it again (James 4:4-10 ESV),
You adul'terous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.  Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, "He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"?  But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."  Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
The passage seems to be an exhortation to seek and draw near to God in order to find grace to overcome sin. The part before what I quoted above is about sin and how our relationship with God should bear good fruit - not bad. So I think that James is saying that we need to draw near to God and find grace, and that our lives should be a reflection of that nearness to God. (That also seems to be the theme of the whole book.) Ongoing and unrepentant sin brings distance in our relationship with God. He's rightly jealous. Now, it doesn't bring distance as far as our legal standing before God but it can bring distance in our communion with him. Fortunetly James doens't end there...
He says to draw near to God. In this case I think it means to seek his grace and to humble ourselves (before God and men). And when it says he *will* draw near to us, I believe it is both a promise and a cause/effect. God loves the humble, like it says. He *will* give grace - more grace - enough to overcome. So as we come humbly submitted to God he promises to draw near to us and give us grace and cleanse us. Hallelujah!!!!!!!"
Now if I can remember that and put it into practice I'll be doing good.
I wanted to add this unrelated comment:
Special friends who show special care are especially sweet.
A Vessel of Mercy
I just finished reading the chapter on election in The Doctrines of Grace. It is so amazing and especially so humbling. God works everything for his glory. He chose me for his glory. He passed over others for his glory. The creation, the fall, Israel, Christ, you, me, and the future is entirely and soley for God's glory. I find that humbling. Why is it so easy to get caught up in "the world revolves around me" mentality? It is not...it is all about God.
How fortunete - how blessed - I am that God chose me in his unfathomable mercy! I was dead. To be dead is to be without life...I could not bring myself back even one tiny bit to seek God on my own or to choose him. Yet the Lord breathed life into me when I was hopeless and subject to eternal wrath. Before I was ever conceived the Lord ordained for me to be an object of his mercy...how blessed am I! May my life truly bring him glory forever.
What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea, "Those who were not my people I will call 'my people,' and her who was not beloved I will call 'beloved.' " "And in the very place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' there they will be called 'sons of the living God.'"
I don't really have anything to say today, except that I wanted to say hi. The sky is very cloudy right now and it is pleasantly cool. Does the weather fascinate you? It fascinates me. Then again, I think all sorts of things easily fascinate me.
Watching people fascinates me. Observing the way they interact with others, the faces they make, their expressions when they are deep in thought. I think there is a lot you can tell from a person just by watching them from across the room for a while.
Politics fascinates me. How did the founding fathers have such wise foresight to come up with everything? Why do so many people think that the Constitution says "separation of church and state"? Why do I always feel so dumb when the topic of politics (or economics) comes up?
Anyway, enough rambling. I hope you are having a blessed, grace-filled day!
(And I might write more about a Celebration message later.)
Lessons from Ruth
I think my favorite message from Celebration was Mark Dever's on the book of Ruth, and how it is a picture of God's kindness and sovereignty. It is was ordinary circumstances full of God's intervention. He spoke of how it begins with Naomi's bitterness and complaining about her trials and at the very same time foreshadows God's provision. (How many times have I complained when just around the corner God had something awesome in store?!) Although Naomi could not see it, God had quite a plan for them. Through seeming "chance" Ruth found herself receiving incredible favor and provision in Boaz's field. The continuing story is that of how God directed Ruth's path in many little details so that it came together in his perfect plan. - A plan that Naomi could not have imagined when they left Moab to return empty and alone to Israel. Ruth walks honorably and trusts in the Lord and in the end Ruth and Boaz are married and their son becomes David's great grandfather.
It encouraged me in my life because there are often times when I feel like Naomi did, and I do not want to complain or despair, but to trust God that he has a good plan and that no matter how things appear he can work out a wonderful end. God is sovereignly at work in all the aspects of my life for his wonderful purposes and to bestow his incredible kindness upon me. Even though I have often failed God can redeem and use my mistakes, just as Ruth's first marriage was against God's commands (she was a Moabitess) yet he still blessed her as she sincerely followed him. Also, though Boaz was the main one whose kindness brought about the blessed end, it was ultimately God's kindness that was being displayed through him. I want to see God's kindness as the source and cause of the blessings I recieve from others. Another point Mark Dever made that struck me was how despite all of Naomi's planning and involvment (practically matchmaking! ) she still realized that it was from God - and it surely was. Of course, this summary looses so many of the wonderful points Mark Dever made, but I hope it gives a slight picture.
Back Home Again
Yesterday evening we arrived home after being at Celebration Mid-South for a couple days. It was a great trip! Ever sense the previous year I had been a little trepidacious about it, so I am relieved to have it over and especially so grateful for God's abundant grace and faithfulness during it. The only tears shed the whole trip were during a message when my heart was moved (more on the messages later) - surely so few tears is a first! All my friendships were pure joy, the worship was awesome, the messages were great, and everything else () was wonderful too. It was neat to see God's faithful hand at work pouring out his grace. God is so good!! As Isaiah 25:1 says,
O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name,
for you have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
As time allows, I'll try to write about specific ways God spoke to me through the messages. But right now I need to go start cooking my mom's birthday dinner!
PS There is no trepidation about next year's Celebration - only eager anticipation!
Testing A New Look
I was getting tired of the look of my website, so I'm messing around trying to design something new. Also, I leave on Thursday for Celebration Mid-South so I won't be updating again until July the 8th. To those of you who aren't going, please pray that we would encounter God and experience his grace as we meet for fellowship, worship and teaching. I am looking forward to being able to share when I come back how God ministers to me!