More Than Enough-and Yet, Exactly Enough

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” 
-2 Corinthians 12:9

I’m taking a break from the devotionals for a moment, because yesterday was a huge day for me.
I have some sort of acute anxiety and depression. It’s gotten better over the years but it’s always around, and yesterday was a breaking point for me. I had a big mental breakdown, and one of my friends helped me through it.
For years and years, I realized, I have been living in a way that is trying to pay for the grace that is given to me by Christ. I was trying to re-earn it. And it was causing me to be anxious and depressed, always hating myself because I felt like I was never good enough for God. Never good enough to be used, I always messed up so why should He bless me? I felt like I was a burden to everyone around me.

God gives us His grace freely. Not because we deserve it-and that much was true about my thinking. I don’t deserve the grace He has lavished on me. But I continued striving, continued searching for something that could possibly redeem me in His sight, in my mind. That isn’t true. There is nothing I can do to earn what He has given. Ever. I can’t earn God’s favor.

BUT.
What ISN’T true was my mentality that I am too far gone for Him to pour Himself out on me, that I am messed up beyond repair and that I need to do something to fix it. That’s precisely the point! God uses our brokenness to His glory. HE uses me, messed up as I am, to bring an authentic gospel to those around me. His power is made perfect in my weakness. His abundant love is shown in my abundant tears, I feel His grace and mercy when I am just laying broken before Him.

I don’t know how else to say it. God is so good, His grace is way above and beyond what we deserve-but it is also exactly what we need to be able to find new life. It is more than we deserve but it is enough to deliver. I love my God, so much, for what He has done for me. Can you even fathom it? God, as a man, coming to die for us. For you. For me. He DIED so that we could have this free gift of grace.

Our God is so good.

I’m doing better, I’m taking it day by day. But I know that God’s grace is sufficient, and that even when I’m weak-He is able.

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Pots and Potters (Devo, February 19)

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”
-Proverbs 16:3

     I have mild anxiety and depression. Not clinically diagnosed, but I just know myself well enough to know that it is there. Here’s what happens. I will be fine for a while. Things are going good, and God is good, and life is rolling along. Then suddenly I may come upon a particularly busy period, or something bad will happen, and I will just snap. I slide into a worried frenzy, trying to figure out what’s going on, or what I’m going to do next, or how I’m going to manage all of this, or why do these things always happen to me? Why am I such a screw up? Why do people even trust me or look up to me?

I’m a loser. I’m not worth it. I’m not gonna succeed at anything.
And I stay like this for awhile until God comes along and snaps me out of it in one fashion or another. And so it goes. It’s gotten better, but lately I have been feeling the pressure and the loneliness again.

What does this have to do with working?
Everything.

You see, I get into modes where I think my life is my own to lead. That I am the one that has to direct my steps, that I have to help God orchestrate the next few days or weeks or months or years of my life. I feel like I am responsible for getting myself to where He told me I would be. There is a little truth to this. But it comes with the next part.

I AM NOT IN CONTROL OF MY LIFE. None of us are. At the end of the day, it is God who moves and God who ordains and God who works. This isn’t to say I don’t have choice; but I am not supposed to be in charge. Why should the pot dictate where the potter should mold next? That isn’t my place. Instead, I am trying to get to a place where I can commit everything into God’s hands.

To that place where I can say, “Here, God. Lead me. Take me to where You want me. Shape me. Mold me.I will work hard and I will be diligent to honor You, and to be disciplined, and to follow You, but I will not step ahead of You. I will not walk in front of Your ways, I will not overstep Your decrees. I will operate within the freedom that You give me, and I will allow You to have my life and my works.”

When I do this, He will keep me firm and secure. When what I want in life is for God to move through me, then the things I do will fall into place. He knows my desires. He knows my wants and needs and hopes and dreams. It’s about priorities. When those things move ahead of God, then things fall apart. When God is first, all things follow.

So I will commit my plans to the Lord, and allow Him to establish them as He pleases. He is the potter, I am the clay. I don’t have to manage my life on my own. I’ve got a God who WANTS to take care of me, who wants me to rely on Him and Him alone.

I’m Yours, God.

.http://bible.com/59/pro.16.3.esv

I’m Not That Strong..But He Is (Devo, February 16)

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
-Philippians 4:13

“The Lord our God/is mighty in battle/ we are not afraid/ His hand upholds us/ through our trials/ our God is strong to save!”

These are the lines of the chorus to “Strong to Save” by the Vertical Church Band (find the song and more by them here). I think it rings so true with where I am at in life today. This past Saturday, I was in a car accident. On a grand scale, it was quite minor-but for me, it was traumatic. I flipped my car after hitting a patch of black ice and skidded on my roof into a field. By the grace of God, I barely missed ramming a telephone pole, or the other car that was coming towards me, or anybody. I walked away with barely a scratch. It was terrifying, but because of my faith in God I knew I would get through it. I was supernaturally alert, I was calm and knew how I needed to respond to the situation. Yes, later on I broke down a bit, but I know that God was working through me to keep that situation under control. I was scared and confused, but not afraid. I knew God had me in His hand.

Most people look at this verse and think, “Yea! With God on my side I can do anything! Nothing can stop me!” and this is true. With God for us, there is none that can ultimately stand against us. But I want to talk against the thought that, because we have God, NOTHING will stand against us. This simply isn’t true. Jesus proclaimed again and again that if we were to follow Him, our lives would actually become increasingly difficult. Paul quoted in Romans that “As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Rom. 8:36). This life is going to bring suffering. God is with us, sure, but we are going to suffer. Life is going to suck sometimes. That is the truth.

So when I look at this verse, I see a God that is so great that He can overcome all the obstacles of our lives. We humans, marred by sin as we are, live in a world where bad things are just bound to happen. It’s the curse of sin. But again, our Savior is bigger than our sorrows. We have a God who doesn’t give us a free pass in life but helps us to pass into the freedom that His life brings. We have a God who, through ordinary people can do extraordinary things. We have a God that can take a young kid from a mediocre school and transform him into a speaker who sees lives changed. He can take a car accident and turn it into a testimony, a financial crisis and turn it into humble dependency, a broken family and turn it into a proclamation of His love, a prostitute and turn it into the message of the Gospel. When I see that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, it doesn’t mean that I’ll be able to conquer every obstacle or climb every mountain. Rather, it lets me know that no matter what the circumstances of my life, I have a God who is alive and active inside of me-a God that can give me strength to endure, hope that is eternal, and joy that is unexplainable. I know that He is there to guide and to lead and to comfort and to exhort me on to greater measure. He may not always change the situations (although He clearly can and does) but He does change my response to them. God uses situations and people and all sorts of means to work His strength through us. Because of Him we have the ability to change the world.

The bottom line is this:

My strength doesn’t come from
the change in the reality
of my situation,
but in the change in the response
to my Savior.

http://bible.com/59/php.4.13.esv

Who Steps In? (Devo, February 14)

 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
-John 15:13

     I’d like to apologize for my brief hiatus. This past week I was equal parts busy and distracted-it was a long week. But I back, dear readers, and I shall stay this time.

On this odd day on which we celebrate love, it seems only appropriate to look at a man who showed the ultimate love. Scripture says that there is no greater love than for one to lay down his life for his friends. There are two things on this earth that I can think of that speak to this kind of relationship, and they both point back to Christ: the military, and marriage.

I will start with the latter. We have clearly all heard the oft-quoted line from Ephesians for wives to submit to their husbands, but what about the rest of it? It says

 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27). 

Do you know what that means? Christ loved the church unto the point of death-He gave Himself up for the church. Husbands are supposed to have that same mentality-meaning that there isn’t anything (within being a good, Christian man) that a man should not be willing to do for his wife, even to the point of dying for her. In marriage, the sacrifice that a husband makes for his wife-leaving his father and mother to become the head of the household, to provide and to give a good life…that requires much from him. Even more so, Christ gave His all for His bride. He made sure that she would have every opportunity to be presented white and clean, blameless, even if it meant giving up His own life so that she could have hers. We are that bride, and I know that I am personally so thankful to have a groom as faithful as Jesus is. I couldn’t do any of this on my own.

Now to the former. In the military, you are brothers. You are closer than family. The guys in your platoon, in your squad, your group…you all depend on one another for your very survival. And there is nothing you won’t do for them, and they for you. It’s one of the only institutions in the world I can think of where people willingly die for each other, and even for those back home they don’t even know.Your life, while valued, is expendable if it means others will survive. It’s the attitude built up in the military and I see Christ completely in it.Christ is more than just a brother in arms. He is the commander that leads His troops, that would-and did-jump in front of us to take the bullet, the one to jump on the grenade, the one to die so that we don’t have to.  His life, while clearly valuable, means so much more in His death than it ever could have in life. Because of His willingness to die for us, we have the opportunity to continue to live full, abundant lives. Christ is the ultimate soldier.

So i ask you. When things fall down around you, who steps in? Friends? Family? Sure, at times. But when your life feels like it’s crumbling, remember: There is One who is constantly stepping in for you, a man who already has faced death and despair so that in your darkest moments, you don’t have to. He took our punishment-cling hard to His salvation.

http://bible.com/1/jhn.15.13.kjv

My Savior is Bigger Than My Sorrows (Devo, February 3)

“But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O Lord ; you cover him with favor as with a shield.”
-Psalm 5:11-12

     Now, how does it feel to know that God’s got your back?
Yea. The God who created everything that ever existed. The God who created the moon and the sun and the infinite expanse we live in, the God who made DNA and calculus and other things way beyond our (at least my) understanding. He is for us. And that sounds fantastic, but when you get down to it its much harder to really believe this.

    As humans, we generally just see the day-to-day. We see what is happening NOW, what’s happening in our immediate future. We see a girl with cancer and can’t possibly imagine that God has plans for her life 15 years from now when the doctors give her 3. We look at our bills  and see the debt and we wonder where the plans to prosper us and not harm us are, to give us hope for a future when our future looks like the streets. We don’t know where God is when he has been abused since he was 5 and has had depression and bipolar disorder for 18 years. Where is this God then? Where is He now?

     I am here to tell you that He is there. It requires something we are not willing to give-faith. And trust. And commitment. And it’s hard. I personally know people who are going through situations in which the “favor of God” upon them seems like an impossibility. But He is there, working. The Israelites didn’t think God was gonna come through for them, too. He was leading them with a pillar of fire, and they approached the Red Sea and realized that the Egyptians were behind them. They accused Moses of bringing them out to die. God, however, had other plans, and the rest is history-Israel was saved.

We see the immediacy of the chariots bearing down on us in life. We feel the stones hitting our sides as the challenges and trials of life drag us down. But we forget that there is a God we serve who is greater than our struggles. As hard as it may seem-when we come into those hard times we need to lean into God more. We need to pursue harder, push further, cry longer, pray more fervently, and trust more securely. I personally have had my life flipped upside down within the past year and a half. I’ve moved three times after never having moved at all, lost all my friends, my mother committed suicide, my father almost died, i changed schools, started college, became depressed and suicidal, and was on the verge of falling apart. Because the world is cruel. It was good, but it is tainted by sin and it is messed up out there. And when everything fell out around me, I was barely hanging on to the feet of Jesus.

But He never left. He never left my side, He never let me down. The prayers weren’t answered right away. But He came through in only the way He knew was best for me. The tears still fell, the hurts still came, the pain is still felt deep. But my Savior is so much bigger than my sorrows. He is good. All the time. And that is a fact I will die for, that my God is good. He is my shield and my strong tower, and He desires to be yours, too.

Will you rest in the presence of the Lord today? Will you allow Him to be your shield?

http://bible.com/59/psa.5.11-12.esv

Stop Playing Games (Devo, February 2)

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.”
-1 John 2:15-16

It is appropriate that as we approach Valentine’s Day, this first verse for February has to do with love. As humans we are wired to love. It’s a part of our nature. But the things we focus our devotion and time and affection on can determine our eternity. As Christians, we are called to be separate-to be set apart. We are called to be perfect and holy and to be in this world but not of this world. But that is a hard thing to do in today’s society. There is stimulation for our sinful nature everywhere-television to the internet to the billboards you see walking down the street. Things that gratify US, and that do so RIGHT NOW! It’s instant, but the feeling is fleeting. So we search for more. And more. And more. And our sinful nature loves the chase; it loves the constant acquisition of things that make us feel so good. But spiritually? It’s like…if you were to go play Frogger in the street. The rush of not getting hit would be a lot of fun, but sooner or later you’re going to get hit and probably die. And yet we continue to try and play! Even worse, on Sundays and Wednesday nights a lot of us go back to church and say we’re okay! That God is all we need, and we worship and pray and then during the week? It’s back to Frogger. Looking for the next instant rush and then moving on.

We need to stop playing games with God. We search for temporary alleviation for the pain and unfulfillment we have inside that can only be filled by the love and righteousness of Christ living in us. We were not designed to die. Physically, or spiritually. Humanity was designed to be in a relationship with the Lord, because He is the giver and sustainer of life. And yet we look to all these other sources and ignore the only One that can fill us, until crap hits the fan and then we realize those other things just don’t quite cut it. We drink from leaking buckets to quench our thirst when the ever-flowing fountain of life is standing right before us with open arms. When we recognize the source of our needs, and abide in Him instead of the world, life will begin to look quite different.

Is it hard to be a Christian? Yea. Is it a process? Yes it is. I still struggle daily. But at the end of the day-and at the end of the ages-it is so worth it to follow Christ and to have God’s love flowing through me. If you are searching for true fulfillment-that angst deep in your soul that something is not quite right-have a talk with God. Pick up a Bible. And experience the healing that comes from the deep wells of His mercy and grace.

http://bible.com/59/1jn.2.15-16.esv