Archives For Astonished

grace

2 Corinthians 12:10 “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

What would make a man cry out those kinds of words? There is only one answer, one word. Grace!

Ultimately for the Christ follower, life is only livable by grace.

Grace alone touches what is beyond your control.

Grace transcends any questions we may have.

Why can’t I find happiness? Why am I trapped in depression? Why do I have no close friends? Why does everything in my life seem to fall apart?

Most often answers to your hard questions are not found in asking more questions but rather by surrendering to His grace by saying, “Nevertheless.”

God’s grace grows perfect in your weakness

The Quiet Canvas

October 22, 2013 — 2 Comments

Image Credit Madison Wright

fairyjar1The simple act of being quiet before the Lord is a discipline that should be visited often. Quietness is a blank canvas before the Lord. In quietness, God makes faint undertones of color building to a masterpiece for His glory. He is the artist; you are the canvas.

My daughter Madison is an artist. She has work hanging all over her room. Each work tells a story-a story that was in her heart at the time. I’ve had the honor of seeing most of her work come to life over the days; weeks and months she would work on them.

Sometimes, I didn’t have a clue what the painting was until almost the very end. I would have to wait, and then once she put the finally brush strokes to the canvas the work would come alive and completely reveal itself. At other times, I could tell from the beginning what the work was and so in that case, the joy would come in watching her layer the colors making them burst off the canvas.

Quietness is where God works. Let Him paint. Let Him layer. Let Him choose the colors. Your part is to choose quietness. He waits for you. He has a grand idea for using you.

Quietness.

Some Day

September 30, 2013 — 2 Comments

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beach

Some day all things will be set right. Some day all things will be made new. Some day there will be a new heaven and earth. Some day New Jerusalem will come down to meet us. Some day the dwelling place of God will be with us. Some day there will be no more tears to dry.

Some day death will be no more. Some day we will see Him face to face. Some day His glory will flood the universe. Some day we will put on our resurrected bodies.

Some day every day will give way to eternal days. Some day there will be no more crying and pain. Some day we will receive from the spring of water without payment. Some day nations will walk together without war.

Some day bloodshed will be no more. Some day the future gives way to eternity with God. Some day might just be today.

NOTHING

August 16, 2013 — Leave a comment

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Nothing! Nothing is the greatest gift God can bless you with.  The gift of nothing is yours to discover…Think on it.

 

Romans 8:38-39 (NLT)

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nothing truly is a gift of God.

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giving

2 Corinthians 8:1-7 is worth a slow read. These verses are packed with the grace of God to give under extreme circumstances. It is a beautifully convicting and humbling portion of scripture.

 

In verse 7, Paul is encouraging believers to excel in “this act of grace.” The act of grace Paul is referring to is the Macedonia Churches have given under punishing circumstances by the grace of God. Verse 2 tells us they were in a severe test of affliction, and extreme poverty. However, generosity overflowed in abundance in spite of their present hardships.

 

Paul is showing that when God takes ordinary people, and throws in a full measure of His extraordinary grace, and then throws in a full measure of the power, and guidance of the Holy Spirit, you have a recipe of all things possible.

 

Often when it comes to preaching about giving, many pastors come across as begging and desperate when asking their congregation to give. They end up using guilt to motivate them to give. However, that case is not true of the Macedonia Churches.

 

I once read where an old ancient Greek preacher speaking on this very passage said, “They did the begging, not Paul.” Isn’t that amazing! They begged to give. How incredible would it be if Christ-followers would beg to give to the causes of God’s kingdom, instead of being coached into given by man’s wisdom?

 

What would happen if we begged God to be able to give instead of the preacher begging God’s people to give? We would be like the Macedonian Churches caught up in the grace of God working through us.

 

Often when we think of grace, we think only in terms of God’s grace working in us and for us. However, that is not all that grace is for. Grace also works through us for His glory. Part of that grace is the grace of giving.

 

It takes grace to receiving anything from the Lord and it takes His same grace to surrender it back to Him. We love holding on to what God gives us like it’s our own. Grace for you, and in you, is an undeserved Gift of God, but grace through you is its purpose. You can’t lose what you give to God.

 

In verse 1 of 2 Corinthians 8 we read, “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia.” The root of given is not money; the root of giving is the grace of God.

 

What is God’s grace capable of producing? It will produce people that give, and beg to give no matter the hardships. In verse 4 we read, “begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints…” There it is! By the power of grace, they begged to give and didn’t need to be manipulated to give.

 

How is this type of giving possible? The answer is found in verse 5. “…they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.” There you have it. When you give yourself first to God, you always give your best. N.T. Wright speaking on this passage says, “Paul phrases his entire appeal, not in terms of money, but in terms of grace.”

 

Grace is what God does for us, and in us, but we must never forget that it is also what God does through us. The next time you struggle to give remember the grace of God and giving will come easy.

church

There are two things I’m sure of. One, God is always faithful, and second, it’s possible to make an idol out of timing.  In 2 Timothy 2:13 it teaches us, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” In other words, God is going to accomplish all things necessary for His glory alone. It’s not ultimately about us; it’s about God.

As to the second truth I’m sure of, timing is in God’s hands alone, and if we focus on the timing rather than God, we make timing an idol. I’ve done this many times in my Christian walk with God. I’ve been hoping for something, waiting for something, and wondering more about God’s timing than about God. Needless to say, it wasn’t until I got my focus off timing that God moved.

God created your life and cares more deeply about it than you do. God birthed His church and cares for it more deeply than you do. I guess you could add two more things to my list that I’m sure of. When it comes to your life and to His church, you can believe His plan is perfect and better than your plan. If fact, Ephesians 3:20, speaking of God says that He is, “…able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,”

The power at work in us is God the Holy Spirit. He prays and knows the perfect will of God in and through us for His glory alone. The more we focus on God and not the circumstances or the timing of something that needs to happen, the faster God seems to move and get the job done for His glory.

For example, the church I now pastor was in need of a permanent church building. We had been  looking for over a year and a half. Nothing seemed to open for us. We were renting and doing okay, but still, we had no home of our own. Money in the bank was great and if we found something we could surely move on it with confidence.

However, God had a better plan. His plan was to get us to the place where it was impossible to point to our timing or money as the answer. Through a course of events,  the bulk of our money had dried up. We had money in the bank to meet the bills but nothing, and I mean NOTHING to go toward a property of our own.

Little did we know, God was dealing with a group of people who had a church, and was praying to God for His perfect will. The church was founded in 1917 and after many wonderful years God now had a next step plan. They were  feeling called to look for another church to continue moving forward with God’s plan.

One of the ladies in the other church was praying, and God showed her the face of a lady in our congregation. That prayer led to about two weeks of talk and prayer between our two church families.

To make a beautiful story short, (I will give a full account in our church history book) with no money to offer them to buy the building and much prayer from both our churches, they heard God speak and tell them to give us the building free and clear. What a magnificent miracle! Our timing was replaced with God’s timing and with no money hardly in the bank; God did what man couldn’t do.

I’m not sure what is going on in your life today, but you can know one thing for sure…God is able to move in your life for His glory without you having anything to give to Him at all. All you must do is keep your eyes on the one that has His eyes constantly on you.

Only God

July 26, 2013 — Leave a comment

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You Lord give longing for the eternal. Only you can satisfy. Forgive me for looking anywhere else for completeness and joy. Soul-satisfaction can only be found in you-the creator of all things.

You walk with me moment by moment. There is never an instant you are not near. Your endless road of Grace amazes me continually. Every hunger of my life leads to you for sustenance.  My soul and heart is restless without you.

I hold fast to your promise spoken long ago,  “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” You are all-sufficient. My soul smiles and I campaign forward.

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Only God can transform a bad life situation, but His first desire is to transform you through your surrendered dependence upon Him alone.

Twenty years had gone by, and the day Jacob has been dreading is now upon him. He is about to run into his brother Esau. God has asked Jacob to return, and the last time Jacob saw his brother Esau, Esau wanted to kill him.

God is at work in Jacob’s life, but at this point Jacob is to afraid to just trust in God’s plan, so he comes up with a plan of healing himself. He is convinced that he can boost his odds of a successful meeting with his brother by the power of self-sufficiency. However, God has a different plan.

God’s desire it to transform Jacob by freeing him from self-sufficiency. God is looking for surrender and not Jacob’s plans. God is looking for complete surrendered dependence. C.S. Lewis once said, “Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self.” God is looking to help Jacob find his real self that is found only in the surrendering of everything to God.

Try as we might, we can’t heal ourselves the way God can heal us. Self-Sufficiency must give way to surrendered dependency on God. In other words, you can’t be fully His until you are fully given over to Him. God has Jacob right where He wants him. Jacob has no recourse left but to rely on God, and that’s a perfect place to be.

In Genesis 32:24-31 Jacob is alone and wrestles with God until the breaking of the day. It’s not so much a physical confrontation as it is a spiritual battle where God is trying to give Jacob a new freedom. After a long match, God touches the hip socket of Jacob and Jacob is left in a position of utter and absolute brokenness and dependence before God.

Jacob declares,  he will not let go until he gets God’s blessing. Up to this time Jacob’s biggest weakness was not trusting God completely and trying to micromanage every step of his life. Verse 27 God answers Jacob by giving him the blessing of a name change.

A name change is a character change. A name change is a direction change. A name change is a purpose change. God changes his name from Jacob to Israel. God’s purpose for Israel has always been that they would bring the whole world to God himself. In one beautiful moment, Jacob’s plans are turned over to God and replaced with God’s purpose.

Jacob calls the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered. From that day forward,  he walked with a limp and a smile. He was now free because of surrender. How about you today? Are you free? Are you trusting God or trusting your plans?

Abraham had to lay down Isaac and trust God. Jacob had to lay down self-sufficiency and trust God. What do you need to lie down before God? It’s tempting to put off what you need to surrender. However, self-sufficiency, non-surrender and avoidance never brings healing.

Only God can transform a bad life situation, but His first desire is to transform you. God doesn’t want your plans He wants you.

Here the message, Surrendered Dependency Upon Him

faith_in_god_spiritual_math

No matter how you add it up zero added to zero equals nothing! However, add God to the equation and you get endless possibilities. You serve a God who is altogether above mathematical quandaries. He has always been able to blow the lid off the box of our limited human reasoning and capability.

Give God a few fish and some bread and He can feed over 5,000 people. Give God your empty wine vats and He can fill then with the best wine using only water. Give God a withered hand and He can heal it. Give God a storm and He can calm it. Give God a dry fishing spot and He will fill the boat with fish. Give God your impossible and He can make it possible.

You can’t control how God will answer your need, but you can be well assured He will answer in a way that brings Him the most glory. Just knowing that God will get the glory should be enough to reassure you that everything you are facing is going to be all right. It might not be the answer you want, but it will be in the end the answer you need.

When I’m feeling overwhelmed about the outcome of any particular situation that is uncomfortable in my life, I remind myself His glory will win out and if His glory wins, I win! God always acts with a view to His glory alone and everything is secondary. When God is put first, everything is going to be just fine.

storm

Mark 4:35-41 (NIV)

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

Of course, He cares. But even better than that, He knows!

Jesus knew the storm was  coming when He commanded the disciples to cross over to the other side. He even knew the storm was upon them during His nap.

It’s kind of incredible when you think about it.

You know you’re in a storm when it’s all you can think about. It’s on your mind so heavy you toss and turn on your bed at night.

However, I want you to know that Jesus can be calmly trusted in the middle of trouble.

He knew they were destined for the other side, and He knows how to write your story also.

He knew they would arrive, and He knew they would arrive different men than when they launched out from the other side.

The kind of differences only a storm can bring.

It is not that Jesus is not around; He is there all the time.

You may not understand His timing or the way He chooses to answer but please understand Jesus is sovereign over all forces and that’s enough.

Jesus can calm the inward and outward storms of your life. He will get you to the other side.

Psalm 89:8-9 (NIV) 8 O Lord God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O Lord, and your faithfulness surrounds you. 9 You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them.