Avenues of Grace

Seeking the Lord with Eyes Wide Open

Archive for the category “Grace”

The Encampments of Our Hearts

We really are screwed up.

Yes, every single one of us.

We crawl, walk, run, stumble, fall, crawl again, and the cycle continues.  Just when we think we are finally steady, we miss a step.

At the beginning of this year, the Lord impressed this Scripture upon my heart:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” Psalm 139:23-24

I started praying this daily, and then one night it happened. I awoke in the middle of the night shaking and sweating as if I was having a nightmare, except the nightmare was real. Somewhere, buried deep in the crevices of my heart, was something that I hadn’t thought of…something that I hadn’t confessed. I awoke with eyes wide open to a chasm in my relationship with God, one that I didn’t even know existed. I literally shook as I prayed for forgiveness and felt the weight lift off of me.

The crazy part? I didn’t even realize that this sin was in my life. Somehow I missed it. Somehow I thought I was okay and was walking (at least to the best of my abilities) in righteousness. Boy was I wrong.

I finished reading the Book of Deuteronomy today, and as I read about the death of Moses, I feel certain he felt the same way. For decades he had spoken with the Lord, walked with Him, seen His Glory, and led His people…but somewhere along the way, even if only for a moment, he forgot. Yes, he FORGOT that it wasn’t about him, that this great deliverance of the Israelites had absolutely nothing to do with him or his righteousness and absolutely EVERYTHING to do with God’s relentless love.

I’m sure it was accidental. I’m sure his intentions were good. I’m sure that he regretted what he said the moment that it slipped from his mouth. But even so, he forfeited his ticket into the Promised Land. He was allowed to see it only from a mountain top before he died.

We are no different. The truth is that as long as we live in this body, we are subject to the inclinations of our flawed hearts, and those inclinations are ones of selfishness, pride, and evil. It is our nature to seek independence, to credit ourselves, and to try to blaze our own paths. It is our nature to want what we want without consideration of consequences. It is our nature to war with the new self that Jesus creates within us. Taking our eyes off of Him for even a moment is all that the enemy needs to trip us and cause us to stumble.

I share this because we need to be honest with ourselves. We need a right view of where we stand before God. We need a right view of His relentless love and glorious grace. It’s not about our titles, our social media facades, or who the world thinks we are. It’s not about how we’ve walked in the past or what we’ve seen the Lord do.  It’s about RIGHT NOW.  It’s about asking the Lord to show each one of us where we stand before Him and taking the time to LISTEN. It’s about asking Him to search our hearts because sometimes we are so flawed that we can’t even see our own sin until it spews out of our mouths from some ugly place in our hearts that we didn’t even know existed.

A dear friend once told me that we should rejoice when we are under conviction. (I can think of many words to describe conviction, but “rejoice” is certainly not one of them!) Then he asked me: How many times do you think you’ve sinned today? This week? This month? This year?  I shook my head with wide eyes. He replied, “God doesn’t lay all of that on you at once; He gives it to you one piece at a time. So when He brings up sin in your life, you should rejoice because He loves you enough to mold you into the image of His Son.”

So I challenge you to ask, to dig, to search, and to pray. There are many encampments in our hearts, encampments that wage war against the Lord and encampments that wage war against the flesh. Jesus IS the Victor and the Savior, but is He really your LORD?

 

Photo via Visual hunt

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On the Edge

We are only ever on the edge…

the edge of something new, the edge of sickness, death, success, love, temptation, destruction, healing, hope… we are only ever on the edge.

Today has been an emotional roller coaster of celebrating a reunion and God’s grace, mourning the death of a friend lost far too young, and learning that a dear sister has breast cancer.  I am both in awe and numb all at the same time. But that’s life, isn’t it?

On Christmas day, I visited a place that meant much to me during my teenage years. It was a gloomy old bridge in the middle of nowhere, and I used to go there to escape the turmoil of my world. I would sit mesmerized, staring into its black waters, and more than once I contemplated letting them swallow me up.

It was strange to visit those same waters as an adult, saved by the amazing grace of God, and see them so differently.  The black waters still swirl, but they no longer beckon me… because my hope is no longer in escaping the tough situations in my life; my hope is in Jesus.

I am aware that I am only ever on the edge in this life. This world is not my home, and every part of my physical body wars against the spirit that God has placed inside me. This world is fallen; every part of it is broken.  Everywhere is temptation, and I am only one thought, one arm’s reach, one choice away from going over the edge. God’s grace alone holds me in place.

And what of this grace? This infinite, unwavering, steadfast grace that He offers? It is the one that allows me to look at those swirling waters and see the miracle in them, the one that whispers, “You are loved; you have a purpose; and you need only look to Me.”

One of our pastors, Dan Reeves, once said, “The greatest indicator of God’s future faithfulness is His past faithfulness.” This thought has resonated with me ever since.  I remember doing Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby, and he echoed that thought as he discussed the patriarchs in the Old Testament. He mentioned how every time God moved mightily in one of their lives, they would build an altar to the Lord in that place and name it after the characteristic that God demonstrated. Blackaby urged us, as believers, to make mental altars in our minds, ones that marked those tough moments in our lives when God rescued us and really showed us who He is.  In our darkest times, we can look to those “altars” and remember His faithfulness.

So when I look at the waters under my bridge, I now think “Emmanuel” because I realize how dark depression can be, and despite my feeling that I was alone, He was ALWAYS with me, directing me in ways that I could never have even imagined.

You see, God is sovereign. He is in control of absolutely everything in the universe. He knew your innermost being before He spoke words and created the world. But even more than that, He is GOOD.  I think sometimes we forget that He is not just in control…HE IS GOOD.

Whatever difficulties you face, reflect on your altars, remember His power, and know that He is good and loves you infinitely and irrevocably.

Trust Him.

The edge is not the end, and it won’t swallow you up; it’s where He will help you walk on water.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he[b] loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

    Psalm 91

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