Monday, January 31, 2011

Some questions.

I have never done this, really, and I thought I would make this a little interesting.
I highly, highly doubt anyone will comment.

1) What is your OneWord2011?
2) How was your January?
3) What's the weather like where you are?
4) Dog or cat?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

But if we have not love, we have nothing.

What is grace, but God showing His incredible love for us?
I think about His love and it changes my heart, my mind, my thoughts, my actions, my life.

I am the kind of person that focuses on the knowledge. I love knowing. I love memorizing. I love being able to figure out historical and theological points in Scripture, and knowing how to answer questions from Scripture. I love putting pieces of a puzzle together. I like having things organized in my mind and feeling like something is accomplished.

Lately, though, in my walk with grace, I remember that this is not everything. This is really not anything. And I felt a tug recently to open up to 1 Corinthians 13. A must-read passage, one that I often think of as cliche and corny.
..until I looked again.

[The Way of Love]
    [13:1] If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. [2] And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. [3] If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Pause.  What? What? Let me get this straight. I can be filled with every knowledge of the Bible. I can know theology inside and out. I could have every single verse memorized to spout off in any occasion. I could even have enough faith to trust the Lord in EVERY situation, never question Him, never worry about anything, and even move mountains. In fact, I could even be murdered for my faith. But if none of that is rooted in a love of Christ that reaches out to others, it means nothing.

...... Can we just stop and think about that for a second??
I tend to think that my Christian walk is going okay when I am truly studying the Word, truly living in faith. When I trust the Lord. This passage is telling me that no, that means nothing if it is not backed by a sincere love. And this, my friends, is where I can struggle. I so often do not show love very well.

So, thank goodness the passage continues to show what love is:
    [4] Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant [5] or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; [6] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. [7] Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
How does Alicia fail? Oh let me count the ways...
But seriously. I am probably one of the least patient people at times. I can be incredibly irritable when I am in stressful situations, and it shows to everyone around me. I try to be kind, and I try not to be arrogant or rude, to envy or boast, but there are times when this sinful side of me comes up. I can envy others' friendships or even their faith. I can even let that envy lead to bitterness and resentfulness (failure, according to this passage!).
This is not love. And as the Bible says, this must show the abundance of my heart. My sinful nature. That the Holy Spirit has so much work to do in me yet.

What is love SUPPOSED to do? Bear, believe, hope, endure. Bear all the pain of my situation, believe that the Lord is working in others lives as well as mine, hope for the future salvation and sanctification, and endure because Christ endured.

And to sum it up....
    [8] Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. [9] For we know in part and we prophesy in part, [10] but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. [11] When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. [12] For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
    [13] So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13 ESV)

Knowledge will pass away. All these things that man finds such power and strength in, find comfort in - they will be gone. But love? Love will stay. Christ's love. The love we show to others in showing them the gospel. The love of the Kingdom.

This is where my grace needs to lead me this year.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

"So it was not you who sent me here, but God."

I am still in Genesis, trucking along. In 2010 I was already done with Exodus at this point of the year... but this year I am taking my time and really trying to see what I can learn from what I'm reading.
Praise the Lord.. seriously..  He has been so gracious in helping me with that!

Today I read Genesis 43-45. It is the story of Joseph seeing his brothers again for the first time he was sold into slavery in Egypt. One of my favorite part comes in chapter 25:

"And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God." - verses 5-8a
 Three times, Joseph gives them grace by saying "Listen, brothers, don't blame yourselves -- you didn't send me here, GOD did." This truly was grace for them to hear it, but also, wow, it shows God's grace that He opened Joseph's eyes to see His plan and His sovereignty.

 How many times do I forget that it wasn't such-and-such of a circumstance that got me here, but it was God's sovereignty? Yeah, a year of lots of random happenings, some painful, a lot joyful, but all grace-filled, beautiful examples of God's sovereignty.

I still feel like I'm in the thick of it. I still have no idea where this crazy plan God has is going to take me. But I have to keep reminding myself:
God sent me here.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dreams of my second lesson in grace.

Last night, as my mind was dozing off to sleep, I had lofty thoughts of a perfect blog post in my second big lesson in grace. Then, when I woke up, it was all gone, with not even a hint of what I was going to write about.

I have been learning, little by little, day by day, to rejoice in Christ as my grace. I have been reminded in various ways that Satan wants to steal our joy in Christ, and one way to do that is by having us waste a day by feeling defeated by sin. I have been rejoicing so much more lately, and groaning in pain so much less. Praise the Lord!

The promise of grace in my life has left me so much more room to grow. Instead of sinning further in frustration at myself, I look to Christ knowing that He has 1) already forgiven the sin I have JUST committed, and 2) promises to bring His good work to completion. This gives me strength to keep going.

I love that I'm focusing on grace, but there is something more I need to focus on : Prayer.

I'm sorry I've been scattered lately. I have a lot on my mind, and that makes for less coherent thoughts to put on a page.
I am getting heart surgery in less than a month.
I feel burdened about something that I should not bother with.
I feel as though I am not doing a good enough job bringing any of these things in prayer to Him,
and when I do bring it in prayer, I feel as though I leave just as confused as I started.

I know He is faithful. I do not question that. I never will, because of the Truth I have seen.
But please, blog world, if you are out there. Pray for me.

Prayer requests:
  • My heart surgery. That the Lord will give the doctors wisdom, that I will trust in Him that He knows best -whether that be that the surgery fixes my heart or not.
  • This burden. That the Lord teaches me how to use it to glorify Him, to rest it on His shoulders. I would pray that God would take the pain away, but I know that Jesus had a path of suffering. So I do as well. I will work through it, walk with it, and declare Christ the whole pray. Pray that He gives me strength. And if He wills it, to take this cup from me altogether.
  • For my prayer life. That He would give me diligence. That I would open my eyes to see the Holy Spirit at work. That I would know Him more and more each day and desire to spend more and more time with Him in prayer.
Thank you in advance, friends. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

The law of sin

My mentor and I have been studying "Indwelling Sin in Believers" by John Owen. This book, written in the 1600s, shows incredible insight into Romans 7 and 8 and how the law of sin affects believers every day, at every moment.

The more I read, the more I think about this, the more I realize that me hating my sin and mourning over it isn't wrong. The law of grace and the law of sin are at war in my heart. But the more I read and the more I think about this, the more I realize how I need to be praying more, diligent in fighting and striving towards knowing Christ. I have been lax recently. I am still reading the Word every day, and praying before work and on the drive, but my prayers have not been as earnest.

So, blog word, what thoughts do you have? How can I change this? Do you see the law of sin at war in your heart? Have you read anything by John Owen?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

See the work that the Lord is doing in others.

Along with focusing on grace this year, I have been studying the Old Testament.
Today I read Genesis 26, and came upon this verse:
"They said, “We see plainly that the LORD has been with you. So we said, let there be a sworn pact between us, between you and us, and let us make a covenant with you..." -Genesis 26:28
To explain why these words hit me, let's backtrack. These words were spoken by Abimelech and his people to Isaac. Abimelech was not so happy with Isaac for "pulling an Abraham" and saying Rebekah was his sister and not his wife. (Abimelech isn't too happy when others cause him to sin). So up unto this point, Abimelech didn't like Isaac. Isaac even says that Abimelech hates him. But the Lord changed that.

But the Lord.  Sometimes, there are no more beautiful words than that. But the Lord [provided, changed, gave, blessed, helped, foresaw, etc].
The ESV Study Bible says that this verse shows a change of heart (by the Lord!) for Abimelech.

Reading these words, I had such a sense that any relationship can be redeemed. The Lord can do it! That friendship you have given up hope on? That sibling you haven't talked to in yours? It can be redeemed. Isaac was going about his work, serving the Lord, obeying Him, praising Him, and the Lord redeemed it.

This verse not only brings hope of redemption, but also the amazing truth that God opens the eyes of others to His work in our lives - so that we may bring Him glory! This I pray, each and every day, that God may first of all use me and change me, but also that the change will bring Him glory!

Focusing on my word of grace, I am asking myself, "Is His grace not enough for me? To change me? To change others?" What a silly question when we know our God!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

..thank the Lord for His sacrifice.

I was told that whenever I sin, instead of moaning around and letting the devil steal a day from me, to instead thank the Lord for His sacrifice that forgives my sin.

So here I am, ... Lord Jesus, what I did was wrong and it was my flesh battling what I know to be right and true. So Lord, thank You for Your sacrifice that forgives this sin.

I am selfish. I am unloving and not always compassionate. Lord, thank You for Your sacrifice.

I had some thoughts earlier on reading my devotions this morning, and what God is showing me, but right now I'm too busy living in the beauty of His undeserved grace that I cannot remember. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

An update on my attitude of grace.

So my OneWord for the year to focus on is grace. Grace has always been hard for me - hard to give to myself, hard to accept from Christ, and at times, hard for me to show to others... so I thought I would focus on that this year, and become a woman of grace.

I can tell you, that when I decided on this word, it didn't make it automatically easy for me to start practicing it.

There are times when I look at myself, still, and look at my sins that I struggle with, and wonder how I can say I love Christ when I do things that grieve Him so much. Things like getting frustrated or angry at circumstances and situations, things like not trusting Him in hard times, things like saying some rude comeback as a defense mechanism.. things that I don't like that I do, and instantly apologize and pray that the Spirit helps change in me. But that doesn't mean I don't look at my sin and wonder why the Lord hasn't changed me yet... wonder how I can say I love Him and still do these things.

But that's not grace. So this past week, whenever I show any of these sins I struggle with, I have been praying and thanking the Lord for His sacrifice. I have been focusing on the fact that He will bring His good work in me to completion. He's not going to leave me hanging.

My attitude of grace for others has changed as well. I used to just assume the worst of others towards me, because of things that have happened to me in the past. But now, instead of just looking at a certain word or action towards me that could be taken as hurtful, I look at it at face value. This helps me to not be bitter, either. This isn't really grace.. but it is growth. Grace would be that even if they ARE being hurtful, I forgive them as Christ forgave me. That's another process....

Praise the Lord that He has not forgotten me and will continue to work on me.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Always learning...

My life has changed incredibly in the past year.
I live for Christ. I love His Word. I love discussing theology and spending time with Him and others who love Him. My life is so different.

And yet... last night, I had a few friends over. After they left, my roommate and I were talking, and she mentioned, "You know, Alicia, you are such a godly person, an incredible student of the Bible, you love Christ so much, but you don't seem to trust Him."

That was a severe dagger to my heart! The sad part? It's true! I have somehow, in the past few weeks, stopped trusting my Lord and Savior for certain things. Trusting Him with a job?! Sure! Trusting Him for finances? Of course! He always comes through! Trusting Him with friends? Well, He's always provided!
But now, with this?

Lord, with this? I've always had trouble trusting Him with "this." (It doesn't matter what this is, but I'll tell you, it's much less significant than those I listed above!).

That comment last night hurt me (in a good way) because how can my Savior be my best friend and yet I don't trust Him? Much needs to change. Haven't I noticed how He's always faithful, throughout my life and throughout the Word?

I should just permanently write "Trust Him" on my hand. But I have always been opposed to tattoos on girls..

Anyway. Another small note. I am getting heart surgery within the next few months. Please pray for me. What's funny, is I am totally trusting the Lord to take care of me with this - and even if something should happen and I don't wake up, I get to be with Christ! (And I stress about the little things still? Who am I?!)

Sorry for the informal post.. just haven't had time lately.

Friday, January 7, 2011

And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

When I was reading Genesis 15 this morning in my devotions my heart suddenly got tense in my chest (and no, this was not because of my heart problem). I was reading familiar words, things I had read over and over again:

"After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: 'Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.' But Abram said, 'O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?' And Abram said, 'Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.' And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: 'This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.' And he brought him outside and said, 'Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.' Then he said to him, 'So shall your offspring be.' And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness."     -Genesis 15:1-6
The first part of the passage that struck me was "I am your shield."
Praise the Lord, He is my shield. After Abram rejects the rewards from battle (ch.14), God promises that Abram's reward shall come from HIM. That he need not seek an outside source, because God is His shield.

At this point in reading, my chest felt very tight, overwhelmed with the sense of hope and peace, and I continued on.
I noticed something: Abram shows disappointment to the Lord, in his own way. "What will you give me, for I continue childless?" - Abram desires a child, an heir, and yet feels hopeless. Even when feeling hopeless, he accepts this "defeat" by saying "You have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir."

Here I take a deep breath. Abram has just laid it all on the table. This is the "Where is my [dream job, first child, husband, wife, friend, church body, etc] that I so strongly desire?" I usually shy away from this, because I do not want to seem that I am elevating "gifts above the Giver." I do not want to offend my Lord, or grieve the Spirit. So I don't say it, I don't ask.

 Yet God wants to give Abram his desire! His reward shall be great, and that reward is not just communion with God. I most often tend to view my reward as that - nothing that I desire earthly, only Christ. And this reward DOES far exceed all others, but that is not what God promises him. He promises Abram an heir, something that Abram truly wants in this life.

What would God give us if we laid it all on the table? 

God does not necessarily forsake our desires when we truly seek Him. I am NOT talking prosperity gospel heresy - I'm talking glorifying God through enjoyment of HIS gifts.

But it doesn't stop there. The promise comes, and Abram could have turned his back; he could have given up and thrown away the promise, saying, "Well, I don't think that will happen, but that's okay because I have the Lord and He is enough." No. He believed God's promise.
And it was counted to him as righteousness.

What do I desire? Peace, joy, hope, to grow in Christ, to see the fruit of the Spirit in my life.
What is God's promise to me? There are many.... I am not sure about rewards for desires that I have, but I know the rewards that I see promised in scripture. I know that the Holy Spirit that I so strongly desire will come. I know that the resource that I have in Christ of peace, joy, and hope will come. I know these promises will come. I know He will complete His good work in me. I know this, because He has promised it. And I believe it. With my entire heart.

What else is God promising, what other rewards? Maybe He wants me to trust and wait to see.

"We don’t always know what God is doing. We live by faith, not by sight. We get some of our questions answered in this life but the Bible teaches elsewhere that we know in what? Part. We see? Dimly. One day when we’re with Jesus on the other side of resurrection all the questions will be answered. We’ll see it all clearly. We’ll know it all fully. Until then, we live by faith, not by sight. God doesn’t give us answers to all of our questions. He gives us Jesus. Someone who has suffered and died and risen to take away our sin, give us new life, and get us to the kingdom where it all makes sense. "- Mark Driscoll

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Are you ready to lose everything?

I watched the live streaming video of the Passion 2011 conference earlier this week. The speakers that I saw each brought their own passion, gifts, and unique speaking abilities to their session, but one that particularly struck me was Francis Chan.

I had heard Francis Chan's talk from Passion 2010, and read his book "Crazy Love" as well as "Forgotten God," and I believe the Lord is using this man to lead many to a more genuine faith in Him. Yet I still seem to be amazed when I feel like He is speaking directly to me through Chan.

In His Passion 2011 talk, Chan, having done a lot of missionary work in many different countries, began to recount stories of persecution faced by Christians elsewhere. In India, the Christians there told Chan that "When you are a Christian here, you lose EVERYTHING."

I heard that and I felt a focal shift. I noticed that I have started to read the persecution stories in the Bible, and in historical texts, and thinking of them as something of the past. Wouldn't this make Christ a liar when He said that "In this world you will have trouble," etc. ? Does this mean that we aren't living the way we are supposed to if we're not facing persecution?

I want to be putting myself out there, taking bolder risks for Christ, trying to tell my close (non-Christian) friends about the gospel even more urgently.. because what Chan said is true - that without Christ, they are headed to eternal death. Knowing that, how can we let them head down that road?

If anyone reads this, what do you think? Are we living incorrectly if we do not face persecution? Would you be ready to lose everything for your faith?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

OneWord 2011

Alece challenged the world of bloggers at the end of 2010 to come up with one word to focus on for the new year. On my tumblr blog (which now I use mostly to just share random quotes, videos, songs, and thoughts), I had already decided on my OneWord 2011. With my issues with tending to act before I pray, I decided on self-control. This fruit of the Spirit is one I yearn for, and pray for with an eager heart.

And yet, as 2011 rolled around and I began to think more about my word, I decided this isn't what I want to settle on. Maybe it's because of my new blog's name, I don't know, but my heart began to draw me continually back to "grace". This word encompasses so much more than I can begin to describe, but here are the ways I will focus on grace, this year, with the Lord's help:
  • The grace we receive from Christ in saving us from our own sin and depravity. How beautiful that the Lord should give up His holiness, descend from the throne of heaven to come to earth only to be ridiculed, abandoned, beaten, and murdered in a cursed way, and all for MY sinful self? This grace is beautiful and needs to define my life. If I live in this grace, then how can I not have continuous, flowing joy?

  • The grace I need to give and preach to myself. How often do I get angry and punish myself for overreacting or getting angry, or for not doing the right thing, or for any sin that I hate that I do? How often do I tell myself that I do not deserve [a friendship, relationship, encouragement, insert-whatever-here] because of my sin? If I am to grow in grace from Christ, I need to live in grace from Christ. I need to remember that His mercies are new every morning and there is renewal and new hope day by day. So stop with the punishing, and start with the grace, Alicia!

So these are the ways I hope the Lord will work grace in my life.
Pray for me as I start this journey.. and I challenge you to pick a "One Word" as well!

Exercise of Grace

Why did I chose the title of my new blog to be "Exercise of Grace," you may ask?

Grace to me means everything. In one word, I see life, hope, joy, love, compassion, the Gospel. That one word has changed my life.

Over time, as I begin to really write in this blog, I will probably explain more about my story of basking in the beauty of Christ's never-ending grace, and how that has changed my life. Right now, I make these three words my blog title because I pray that every day I may live constantly exercising grace - to myself, yes, reminding myself of the gospel, but also to others. To show them grace, and to preach them grace.

We'll see where this blog goes.