Monday, November 19, 2012

But if not...

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
(Daniel 3:16-18 ESV)

But if not.

I think those are some of the most powerful words in this passage. "Our God will deliver us out of your hand...But if not.."

That is one of the most amazing sentences to me. These men had such faith that God could, and WOULD deliver them from the furnace, but even if he didn't, they would still worship Him. They would still love Him. They would never forsake the true God.

It shows a contrast to some sects of Christianity today -how so many Christians today can be leaning towards the prosperity gospel, that false gospel that promises health and wealth if you are a Christian.

I pray that we will always live in the "But if not." That we would love our God so much to trust that no matter what happens, good or bad, He is continuing His work of sanctification for HIS glory, however He sees fit to do it.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lack of insight?

I tend to not post in this blog unless I feel like what I have to write sounds incredibly insightful.

I have another blog, one that I fill with last minute thoughts on faith as they run through my mind, an ever flowing stream of consciousness in more verse than prose. I let it show the less "scholarly" side of me, and reveal the right-brain side of me. The pouring forth of thoughts, with metaphors a blog long that probably only I can pick out.

This post, I guess, will combine the two. I haven't written in here for a while because I feel as though in order to write in this blog, I need to form my thoughts in such a way as to make an article.

In this post, instead, I will attempt at saying what I have learned lately.

  • I recently finished a book on Biblical Hospitality. An incredible convicting book looking at the command for us to be hospitable, the characteristics of a hospitable person, and how to live in order to anticipate hospitality. It has sparked in me a passion for more fellowship with unbelievers and strangers! What an exciting time.. and yet, I could still do so much better.
  • I desire so strongly to make disciples, and yet I know I am not. I miss being so in love with Christ that the passion overtook my everyday thoughts and I couldn't help but spill over into others, making disciples as I grew in excitement over my walk with Christ. Now, I feel as though I have been getting weary in well-doing, as Martin Lloyd-Jones would say. I just pray that He is working through me, sanctifying me in this time so that as others come alongside me I may reach out to others as well.
  • I have been convicted and repenting lately of lots of bitterness in my life towards those around me. Praise the Lord for giving me grace in this area, as well as patience as He waited for me to realize my sin and confess to others in order to reconcile! 
    • As a side note - a recent conference I attended, with Dr. Stephen Um giving a talk on Gospel-Shaped Community, reminded me of the incredible grace that Christ has showed us. He mentioned that Christ reconciled with us when we were unwilling to reconcile. How incredible is that?! Imagine, someone in our lives unwilling to repent, sinning towards us still, continuing to hurt us, and we giving them such a great gift of forgiveness when they don't care and don't even want it. But that is what Christ did! So that is what we can do for others.
  • My incredible husband has showed me daily what true grace and love is. What a gift and blessing he is, daily. Thank you, Vova, for being such a vessel of mercy to me. You are a wonderful man.
As I look over this post, I know that many may not read it, or find any sort of encouragement in it, but as I say at the top of this page - I am looking to grow in grace daily. And I think Christ is using each of these things to help me. I don't have the ability right now to make this more intelligible, so I hope this is helpful. 

In Him,

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sharing the Gospel

I have been listening to a sermon series this week about Missions. *Note: that link goes to the last sermon I listened to. The series is called "The Great Cause."

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the people I come into contact with every day. I think I spend so much time thinking about how to share the Gospel with them, that I just don't. Chandler puts it in such a great way - "You know this has to happen, so how do you want to do this?" (to his unbelieving friends).

As Christians, we do tend to want to serve instead of speak, to give instead of preach Truth, to do anything that makes us feel like we have fulfilled our "Christian duties" instead of actually tell people they are heading in the wrong direction. Or they are just completely off the path!

I want my life to be so filled with Christ that I can't help but share the Gospel with others. The truth that we are all sinners, separated from God and bent towards folly. That we are not able to fix this ourselves - nothing we can do can make us right with God. That basically, we are screwed. But GOD, being rich in mercy, sent His son to die in our place as an atoning sacrifice for that sin. But it doesn't stop there - the slate isn't only wiped clean (as my small group talked about last night,) but Christ imputes His righteousness on us! God sees us as blameless before Him because of Christ! How incredible is that?

I want to spend my life loving others because of His love for me and because I recognize it. I want my life to be about encouraging others to point them to Christ. Sometimes, I just feel like I am failing all the time.

Lord, help me to love others. Help me to serve others, and to speak the Truth to others. And sanctify me. Sanctify me, sanctify me, sanctify me...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

And this is what grace is.

A lot has happened in a year.

Someday, some day, I will write a nice long post (or perhaps a book) of how I was led in the wilderness last year by my loving Lord to learn how to stand on my own two feet in my faith walk, and not anyone else's. I will write a nice long post about the grace I found in that, and the strength that He gave me. I will write how I was a City not Forsaken, and how He did not forsake the work of His hands.

But today, my post is not about my trials last year. My post is not about what I learned, or how He carried me through. My post is not about the fears I experienced, the anxiety attacks, the loss of faith, the painful aching doubt. My post is not how He was glorified through it (and, like Job, do I even know how He was?).

My post now is about my wonderful new marriage.

About a month and a half ago, I married the most wonderful man I have ever met. I think back to the night before the wedding, the excitement. I think to the wedding day, waking up with butterflies in my stomach, sure I was going to not be able to make it through the whole day. I smile remembering the notes, the cards, the hugs, the prayers, from some of the most amazing people I have ever met. I think about that wonderful day - the great memories I have, our desire to honor Christ in all of it, and how every inch of that day was bathed in prayer, from minutes before walking down the aisle to praying during the reception as we snuck off into the vineyards and apple trees and came before God in prayer as the dancing started. Never have I gotten such an incredible response from people who don't even know Christ about how they saw Him in this day. And that was all we wanted. For those who didn't know Him to see Him, and for those who do know Him to remember Him all the more.

But even more so,  since then I am learning what marriage truly is. It is not gushy and lovesick infatuation; marriage is not about cuddling and public displays of affections. It is not about taking vacations together and sleeping in the same bed. It's not even about sex. Everything I have mentioned can be parts of marriage, but now I am learning what marriage truly is about in such a tangible way.

Marriage is about grace. The gorgeous picture of Christ and His bride, the Church, is shown through the fact that my husband and I are both sinners. Although Christ has saved us, we still struggle in this fallen body, this sinful flesh, as we are being sanctified. We sin against each other more often than not, as we have had 20+ years of practice living for ourselves in a living-single mindset, and under two months of practice living for each other selflessly!

But each time we sin, we can look to the Cross, where our sins were forgiven. We can see the Son of God nailed to a tree, the most disgraceful disgusting way to be executed, cursed willingly in order that we may have a relationship with the Father. We can see this amazing display of love, mercy, and grace, and forgive each other. As we are forgiven, we can extend that to each other. And, what's more, we can pray for each other! What a privilege! And pray WITH each other! What a beautiful thing to be able to do... to show the image of Christ and the Church through grace, mercy, forgiveness.

I am not an expert. And more often than not, I sin against my husband. In fact, I will say I probably sin more than he does! I am selfish, I get angry, I am a sinner to the utmost degree. But my Savior, my sweet beautiful merciful Savior, He has saved me. He is making me new.

And marriage reminds me of this all the more.

Monday, May 23, 2011

I officially haven't written in here in forever.

That's right, forever.

I have had an interesting, difficult, confusing past three months. I still have no idea where God is leading me.

But in the meantime, while I wait and pray for His divine hand to comfort me as I feel like I'm being led into the wilderness, I am learning about grace.

Mostly, how to show grace to others.

I guess I wasn't always good at this, and I still sometimes need a kick in the pants on this topic. But a few weeks ago, I really got to put this into practice. I was incredibly hurt by a lie that came from someone I deeply cared about. And no matter how much this person was remorseful over having lied to me, every inch of me said, "Alicia, you can no longer trust them. You can't let them into your life anymore. Just forget about it. Just leave them. You can't let them in anymore - they will only hurt you in the end."

And let me tell you, I was so tempted to listen to that little voice.

And then, someone else slapped me in the face with the Gospel, and reminded me that "Alicia, you need to forgive. As Christians, we don't get the option of not forgiving."

Sure, sin hurts and the repercussions are incredibly damaging, but Jesus didn't say, "Forgive others unless they've really hurt you." He calls us to model Christ. He calls us to LIVE the Gospel.

So I lived the Gospel. I forgave. Through my pain, through the battle in my mind, I forgave and decided to move on. To move forward.

And since that decision, it has meant letting go of bitterness, choosing to not dwell or not think about the repentant sin. It has also meant never bringing it up again and never holding it over their head.

Because Jesus didn't die and then hold all our sins over our heads. He doesn't shove our sin in our faces and remind us of how we've failed. No. The devil does that. And I will not let the devil have any sort of foothold in any of my relationships.

Live out the Gospel. Practice grace.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Two posts within minutes of each other?

How about a little update on my journey with grace?

The other day I was reading Acts 10 and was floored when I came to this verse:
25When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.”
Now, I could obviously spend time talking about how this is amazing because we shouldn't make other people idols and no one can be Christ for us and blah blah blah, but I want to focus on the other side of this....

I sin. I too am a man. I am not perfect. I too am a man. I am NOT Christ. I too am a man.

In fact, we are all men. We are all sinners.

So why are we surprised when we sin against each other? Why do I hear so many Christians(!) talking about other Christians(!!) and their sins, and how they were hurt, and how "well that was such an unChristlike thing to do."
Well, obviously. Because, surprise!: We are not Christ. No one else can be Christ for us. Only Christ can. Stop expecting others to be perfect! Stop slapping grace in the face!

[Side note: this does not mean that we should excuse unrepentant sin. That's a whole 'nother topic.]

As Christians, we still sometimes get angry and feel offended and end friendships and relationships because of it. Do we not understand the dire situation we are in, our incredible sinful state, in which our indwelling sin hates our Savior and hates showing His love and truth?

I am learning to live in grace to others. Not get angry when they sin against me. If anything, I will hate that they have sinned against a perfect, holy and beautiful Lord. But not against me. I am nothing. I am no one. As Peter said to Cornelius, “I too am a man.”

A City Not Forsaken.

There are days,
I have to remind myself of a simple Truth:

God is not absent.

Was He absent when the Israelites were wandering? Was He absent when Joseph was in prison? Was He absent when Jesus was sweating blood in the garden? Was He absent when Peter denied Him not once, not twice, but THREE times?

Was He absent when His Son died on the Cross because of MY sins? Was He?

He is not absent. He has not forsaken me, He has not forgotten me. I could quote many, so many verses right now, but honestly, I just want to marinate in that Truth.
He is not absent. 

I will be A City Not Forsaken. Greater things are still to be done in this city.

 (Thanks, Alece, for reminding me of this in a post of yours).