It’s all mercy

I don’t receive what I do deserve, and I do receive what I don’t deserve.

When I was worshipping in a prayer meeting this week I found myself weeping at the sheer mercy of God towards me. Mercy is another of those words we use so lightly but hold so much meaning for us. I’ve been thinking about it so much since  that worship time.

The only time God has ever held anything back from me was when I was lost and did not know Him. He held back His wrath even though I deserved it. When my feet were in the miry clay, when I was in a pit of my own making, when I was as far from God as I could be – dead in my trespasses and sin, God loved me! How amazing! He held back all the punishment that I deserved, the wages of sin meant death but He held it back. He held back because of His mercy.

mercy-1However there was a day when He did not hold back, but gave everything, even His own dearly-loved son, to die for me. His mercy paid for me. Because He did not hold back I got to walk free. Free from sin, free from death and the fear of death, free from all that had ensnared and enslaved me; and more than that He lavished His love on me. I who had been opposed to God was now adopted into His family and can call Him Abba Father. I just did not deserve it.

Now, there is no good thing that He withholds. He is lavish with me, not stingy or mean but generous and liberal. It’s all  mercy – “compassion that forbears punishing even when justice demands it”. You see there was nothing good about me that deserved God’s love. I was sinful; but this is the nature of the gospel that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, the just for the unjust. I still don’t deserve it.

This is the wonder of mercy that I don’t receive what I do deserve, and I do receive what I don’t deserve. Not just once in the past but every day. Every day when I blow it, get things wrong,  give in to temptation, get jealous, greedy, unkind, shout at my husband and/or children etc there is still mercy for me.

Because mercy is given to those who don’t deserve it I don’t have to work at being deserving- it’s unattainable anyway. Far better to spend our time worshipping the One who is merciful and let the wonder of His mercy move us to tears.

annie-spratt-156497Matt Redman has written a wonderful song about God’s mercy here. In it he describes God’s mercy as endless as the sea. Mercy is like those ocean waves – it just keeps coming towards us. We will never get anything other than mercy from God. Hallelujah!

 

Photo credits:
Photos Unsplash
Mercy word cloud created using Tagul

 

 

The Marvelous in the Mundane

How often do we sing or pray “His mercies are new every morning” without really stopping to think about it?

As I  was walking to work this week There was a thick white frost and a dense fog hanging over the landscape. It was so beautiful that I began to thank God for it, thanking Him for the beauty he had created that morning. Of course it wasn’t just for me but I enjoyed it all the same and stopped to take the photos used in this blog.

How often do we sing or pray “His mercies are new every morning” without really stopping to think about it? I know I do.

God has already been incredibly merciful to us. He sent His son to die in our place so that we could walk free from sin. He adopted us into his family to become joint heirs with His son Jesus, so all that is His – is mine – including the love of the Father. I’ve come home to a place of rest where I am known and loved. I have been given all this freely. What new mercies can there possibly be?

Some blessings are so everyday that  we  take them for granted. They are so much part of our lives that we don’t even think about them.

First of all, there is life itself. Every breath we take is a mercy of God. Since recovering from cancer I am much more aware of how precious life is than I was before. Our lives are a gift from God for us to experience His blessings. God knitted us together in our mother’s womb, he gave us life and he has numbered our days. Each one is a gift from God. Each day is full of potential for experiencing the blessing of God, for living the adventure of faith and serving Him. Sometimes I think we miss the marvelous in the midst of the mundane. We do the same things in the same way not stopping to see what the Father is doing in and through the small things that shape our lives.

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We have been placed within God’s wonderful creation. Everyday we can enjoy the beauty that surrounds us. Each morning as I walk to work I have been taking photos, many in the same places and of the same trees.File_000 (22).jpeg It has meant that I have taken time to notice all the changes taking place as the seasons come and go. If we take the time to notice we can find the wonder in the smallest flower and thank God for the incredible diversity in His creation which is for us to enjoy.

Ps 103:2 encourages us to “forget not all his benefits” It’s really good to take a little time to think not just about the big things that God has done but for the everyday mercies and blessings that come our way.

In one of the VeggieTales movies Madame Blueberry sings a song called “The Thankfulness Song”. which includes the line “a grateful heart is a happy heart”.Our boys used to watch this when they were small and I always remember that phrase. Being grateful leads to happiness. When we remember all that God has done and is doing for us it lifts our hearts.

What new mercies are you thankful for today?

 

 

 

 

A work in progress

I am not yet what I one day will become

Are you like me? Do you get impatient with yourself? rage-1015611_1920Wishing that you could change aspects of your character, frustrated with recurring failings. I am not someone who is always down on myself but there are things about me which I wish I could change and just don’t seem able to. Even after years of being a Christian I find myself still battling with the some of same stuff that I did when I was first saved.

I was in a meeting this week when someone read aloud the following C. S. Lewis quote. It was one of those moments when a truth hits you between the eyes.

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship”*

You see we are not yet what we one day will become.  I think that is worth saying again. We are not yet what we one day will become.

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as He is.” (I John 3:2).

This is what C S Lewis was getting at . One day we will be like Jesus! The theological term for it is glorification. We are being glorified! That sounds strange doesn’t it? Surely it’s God who is glorified.. Well yes but the Bible is very clear that we too will be glorified.

What does that even mean? We were created in the image of God. In fact  we are “partakers (sharers)  in the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4). That image of God in us has been spoiled by sin but our glorification means that it  will be fully restored. That is why we will be like Him.

Isn’t this all a bit like pie in the sky stuff? No! This bit of theology gives me hope for today when I feel I am failing. God is at work in me. I won’t always be as I am now. I will change.

star-1553671_1280We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,[a] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.[b] For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18)

There’s that word again – transformed, we are being metamorphosed from something  dull and uninteresting (in CS Lewis words) to something Godlike. That is quite something to get my head around! It is a transcendent truth.

It also gives me hope for  tomorrow – one day I will not only be like Him but I will also see Him! I find I can get so caught up in the minutiae of my life that I forget to think about Heaven. I forget that this life is like the blink of an eye, it is transient, but Heaven is eternal.work-in-progress-24027_1280“Be patient with me, God’s not finished with me yet” is such a clichéd expression but maybe we should address it to ourselves. When we want to take back the words we didn’t mean, when we give other drivers “the look”, when we are over-sensitive to what others say or do, when we do that same old thing again. It is not ok to sin but we can cut ourselves some slack knowing that we can’t transform ourselves.It is God who does that and when he does, it is not by tiny unnoticeable increments. No He takes us as we are and is making  us like Him. How amazing is that?

* CS Lewis “The Weight of Glory”

Credits
I am not yet …  created using wordswag
Other photos pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once, twice and three times blessed

This benediction is wonderful! I want to live in the good of it everyday.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Cor. 13:14)

This is Paul’s way of ending his second letter to the Corinthians. The words are familiar because many of us would have recited them at school or as part of our church liturgy. They are often used by the minister or priest at the end of the service as a benediction (blessing).

I have been thinking about the three elements of this blessing and how vital they are to us in our everyday lives.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is one of those phrases that encompasses so much. It is like a Tardis which you enter and find is so much bigger on the inside than on the outside. It is by grace that we are saved (Eph. 2:5). The word grace is used to explain all that Jesus has done for us at great cost to Him and none to us.  We become Christians through grace  but more than that we carry on living in that grace.

Grace means that I don’t have to strive to earn God’s favour because Jesus has already done that for me. This is why I need this blessing, not just in the past as a once and for all entry into God’s kingdom, but daily so that I don’t slip into working to earn my salvation. I can so easily fall into following rules – I have to do x, y or z to be acceptable or to be a good Christian (whatever that means). A daily reminder of the Grace of the Lord Jesus is a daily preventative against legalism and following a different gospel.

 

file_000-13It’s so hard to communicate in words just how wonderful grace is – I don’t and never could deserve it but IT’S MINE! Nothing can take it away from me. Jesus has died for me and because of that I am now clean and righteous in God’s eyes. WOW! Just meditating on grace fills me with wonder and thankfulness. I could NEVER achieve this for myself yet it has been given to me as a free gift. Even as I am writing this I feel joy rising in my heart. (You see meditation is not dull!)

There is not only grace for today but for tomorrow too. I am confident that all that God has already done for me will continue because it’s not about me but about Him. That is such a good thing! We get so easily ensnared by the thought that we can do something to earn our salvation. That is the gospel of me. Trust me, no one would want to rely on me for  their salvation. The good news is that we don’t have to because it is truly all about Jesus, our Wonderful Saviour. That is why I can trust that grace will still be there for me tomorrow because Jesus is the same, yesterday and tomorrow. He will not change, He will not leave me, He will always be faithful to me. Are you getting excited? This is such wonderful news and it is truly freeing. I love these lines from the song

In Him we have redemption
Through His blood through His blood
In Him we are forgiven
According to the riches of His grace
Which He freely lavish’d on us
Freely lavish’d on us
And bestow’d on us in the beloved*

Those are juicy, fat words – riches, freely, lavished – and all for us to enjoy deeply and fully everyday. You have riches not given begrudgingly but freely and not just a small amount, they are lavished on you!

If that is not enough, there is also The Love of GodI am loved by God. Little old me, warts and all. Despite my failings, my sin and all my shortcomings, God loves me! True God loves the whole world but he also loves the individual. file_000-12Parables show us that God is interested in the individual, he had 99 sheep but one was missing. What did He do? Did He say 99 will do? No he went after the one lost sheep. We are individually important to Him. He is a Father who welcomes home the lost and the Prodigal because He loves us.

Paul prays for us that we may be “rooted and grounded in love” (Eph 3:17b) . Plants draw sustenance from their roots. Their roots anchor them. This is what God’s love is like  for us, it  sustains us every day, whether things are going well or not God always loves us. His love gives us security. Psalm 3 says that God is the lifter of our heads. We can lift our heads every day because we are loved by God with an everlasting love.

Finally there is the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. I can personally enjoy the presence of and communion with the Holy Spirit. The same Greek word koinonia is used to describe the fellowship of the believers and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. The root of the Greek word is to something shared in common; the disciples shared life together, they shared what they had with one another. So too we can share our lives with the Holy Spirit. This is what fellowship is about – sharing ourselves, our days, our hopes, our dreams, our disappointments and His thoughts, direction, vision, comfort etc.file_002

The Holy Spirit was sent to be a helper to us. One who would be with us after Jesus had ascended to the Father. The Holy Spirit now shares His power with me as He fills me with His Spirit, He gives me boldness to speak, he gives me gifts of the Holy Spirit such as healing, and prophecy and he reveals the Father to me. What a gift He is to us! I can fellowship with Him whenever I want.

This benediction is wonderful,  I want to live in the good of it everyday and I pray that “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

Christine

 

 

*Song: In Him We Have Redemption by David Fellingham, Copyright© 1984 Thankyou Music
Photo credits:
Hearts created using wordswag

 

 

 

No sinking sand here!

We have solid rock beneath our feet.

When they were young  my boys used to love watching a game show called Takeshi’s Castle. The idea of the show was that the contestants had to take on various challenges in order to reach Takeshi in his castle. Each challenge would feature greasy slopes, stepping-stones that gave way, rope swings across muddy water, giant unstable inflatables and lots of mud. The boys would shout encouragement to each contestant and laugh when the inevitable fall came. Hardly anyone ever managed to complete the course.

It’s no laughing matter though if you feel that your life is like that. If everything feels insecure and uncertain, where even the ground you stand on feels unsafe and others seem to be waiting to laugh at your misfortune.

If you are a Christian this is NOT a picture of your life. We have solid rock beneath our feet. Hymn writers have described Jesus as “the rock of ages”. The Psalmist says

“He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
    out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.” (Ps.40:2)

God has taken us out of the Takeshi’s castle experience and planted our feet firmly on a rock. The solid ground we stand on is the security our salvation brings to us. We are no longer trapped in the sticky mud of sin, we are now clean, made righteous and FREE. We no longer need to fear ANYTHING because Jesus has conquered sin and death on our behalf and our loving Father watches over us. When we face temptation and difficulty, we do so from a place of security with our feet on solid ground which will never give way beneath us.photo-1422728221357-57980993ea99

Not only this but I am personally secure in the love of God. He is always good to me and will never leave me or forsake me.

This means that whatever my circumstances may be or however I feel, my feet are still in the same place – on the rock of my salvation. This tremendous truth undergirds everything we do whether we are on the frontline serving in some way or whether we are walking through personal difficulties.

Sometimes we are tempted to think that our security lies in being healthy, having enough money, having a (good) job, getting married, having political stability but all of these are sinking sand and may let you down. The Wise Man builds his house upon the rock: 

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.  (Matt. 7:24-25)

I think we often think about our security in the context of our own difficulties and pressures but there is so much more to it than that. This security equips us for life. When we engage in warfare we do so from that same rock. It is unmovable, unshakeable and eternal.We are all called to do the works of the kingdom. We are all called to share the gospel and make disciples of all men everywhere. Some of us are called to the political sphere to fight for justice, some of us are called to work among the marginalised in our society whether they be sick, elderly, poor, refugees etc. Some of us are called to work in the creative arts. Some of us are called to bring up families etc Whatever we do, we do it from this secure base. It means that we can be very courageous.  lion-1141303_1280The rock we stand on isn’t just an oasis in the midst of trouble; it is a platform and a springboard for us to go out from into the world. I can be as bold as a lion (Prov. 28:1) because I am secure in God. God is behind me every step of the way and He is for me.

 If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:31-37)

That is true security!

Photo Credits
Feet on solid ground Unsplash
Mud & Lion Pixabay

 

 

 

 

Heads up!

Looking down instead of up

Sometimes something imperceptible happens –  maybe I’ve had a tough week, maybe I am just tired, maybe I have had bad news and after a short time I realise that I am looking down instead of up. It’s not that I have sinned or that I have made a willful decision to look down. It just seems to happen from time to time.

 

At times like these I can find myself turning to myself and my own resources for living my life. It’s a dangerous place to be. I can turn to other things – tv, boxed sets, food or anything else that gives momentary satisfaction.

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You see the looking down has become avoidance. Because I haven’t felt great I don’t feel like worship, I don’t feel like making an effort. Then I can get stuck. Not enjoying the place where I find myself but not wanting to do anything about it either.

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This is where the enemy starts to whisper condemnation and accusation into my ears. Feeling disgruntled and disappointed makes us withdraw further.

Telling ourselves to pull ourselves together doesn’t work; it’s not an answer – just more trying to do work things out in our own strength and not dealing with the issue. No at times like these whether we feel like it or not we need to go back to God

Thank goodness we have a Father who is the lifter of our heads. Ps 3:3. He gently puts his hand under our chin and raises our head so that we gaze into his eyes. In that place we reconnect with the love of God. As we meet His gaze we know that we are loved, the condemnation and accusation falls away and I am at home with my Father.

When I  lift my eyes to God I am able to process my disgruntlement and disappointment with Him, I can talk to Him about it instead of storing it all up in my pity jar. I can be real about the pain with the One who really understands.

When I lift my eyes to God I am lifting my eyes to the source of all my help. He is described as the author and finisher of my faith. He is the one who gave me faith in the first place and one day He will bring me home to glory when the time for faith will be finished because I will see him face to face. Of course He will help me, Of course He wants me to come to Him.

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and for evermore.

The Psalmist knew where his help came from. I know that too really. It’s just that sometimes I need to remind myself.

photo credits:
DVDs photo belongs to me and  cannot be used without permission. Thank you!
Other photos: pixabay

 

 

 

Undeserved

Jesus has done it all

We often know a lot about God but don’t live in the good of it.  We  know that God is good but can’t trust that He is good to me as an individual; maybe we believe that He is good to others but not to me. Why is that?

Many of us struggle to experience the abundance of God’s blessing because deep down we don’t think we deserve it. We have a sense that we are not good enough. Instead of saying “that’s absolutely right, I’ve done nothing to deserve God’s love.  Jesus has done it all for me when He died on the cross”, we set about making ourselves worthy (as if we could).

We try harder to please God, we get involved in works and performing well in order to earn God’s love. This is a miserable place to be. We know the truth but we don’t experience it for ourselves. File_000 (1)We see others enjoying God, worshipping Him with abandon, experiencing intimacy with Him but we are stuck with our to do lists: I must pray more, I must serve more, I must have a regular  bible study, I must, I ought, I should. That is not the language of freedom, it is not the language of grace. Of course it is good to pray and to study your bible but the motivation is wrong. I do not need to earn anything from God because He has given us everything freely to enjoy.

The enemy sees our weakness and he points out all our failings to us. You didn’t pray this morning, you didn’t volunteer to serve, you’ve blown it and so on. This compounds our feelings of unworthiness and we feel condemned. So often our response to this is not to go to God but to try harder. It’s hopeless. How could I ever know that I have done enough to make myself  worthy? It’s like having a mortgage where I don’t know the sum to be repaid or how long the term is . That means I will ALWAYS be trying to repay a debt.

I have spent too long in my life  trying to do well, being fearful of getting it wrong and of making mistakes. How sad it is that we feel we need to work, work, work. We can become like the older brother in the story of the Prodigal Son, he is so caught up with his work that he can’t rejoice when his brother comes home and is jealous of him because His father lavishes love on him even though he has done nothing to deserve it. That is the whole point! And yet he missed it just like we do. This is the message of grace – we have done nothing to deserve God’s love but He has freely given it to us through what Jesus has done for us.

This parable is a wonderful picture of the love God has for us. Even though his son had turned his back on him, the father looked every day for the return of his son. When the day came that he returned home rather than put his son to work he puts a robe around him and a ring on his finger and calls for a fatted calf to be killed so that they can have a celebration.

This is what our Father God is like with us. He loved us so much that He sent Jesus to die for us. We have probably heard that scripture so many times but do we let that truth sink into our hearts, that the God of Heaven, the God of the Universe, the Father of Creation itself loved me so much that He gave His son for me? That means that I am now FREE! Free from sin, free from guilt, free from shame because Jesus has paid the price for me.

File_000 (2)I can enjoy all the benefits that knowing God brings. I can know that I am loved unconditionally, I can enjoy an intimate relationship with God because He no longer calls me a slave but a friend. (Jn. 15:15)

I think that one of the saddest things about the story of the Prodigal Son is that the older brother lived with the father all the time and could enjoy all that brought to him but he didn’t because he was so caught up in working to get his father’s approval.

We only have one life to live – I don’t want to waste mine working for something that is already mine to enjoy. Jesus came that we might have abundant life. Life full of joy, contentment, at peace with ourselves and with God. Why would I choose to live differently?

 

photo credits:
hands: Unsplash
Other photos belong to me and  cannot be used without permission. Thank you!