Archive for category Decisions & Change

An Impartation of Grace?

Ken and I attended a special meeting yesterday. I would identify it as a worship service—although we were drawn there because we’d been told a respected teacher would provide excellent teaching.

For the familiar reasons, we struggled with attending. 5:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon is a good time to relax at home.

In the end, we went. And I’m don’t think I’ll ever be the same.

I hope not.

What was the life-changing message about? Well, part of it dealt with forgiving others. Part of it dealt with receiving forgiveness from God. Because it was about knowing God and receiving His grace—about knowing He loves, accepts, and forgives those with whom He has a relationship.

Oh, yes. Relationship was a major topic—because knowing God is more than knowing facts about Him or than having correct doctrines about Him. Knowing God involves interaction with Him.

But I could have told you all those things before we heard the message. I could have laid it all out systematically if asked to do so. And the speaker wasn’t systematic at all. He wound around, sharing not only his story but the stories of others as examples. All jumbled together.

He shared several Scripture passages, but I can’t tell you any of them today.

But as he meandered, the message somehow became Life. I not only heard and understood; I received the Holy Spirit in my inner being. Somehow, the Holy Spirit revealed and imparted and the Life of Christ.

To make sense of this—to explain why I needed this impartation—I’ll mention that I’ve struggled for several years, ever since we retired, with indefinable feelings of inadequacy and alienation that affected relationships with family and friends. I wanted to withdraw. At times I did withdraw. I wounded people, people I cared about.

I felt judged. From within because I felt guilty for not being able to respond the way I should have to others. And because I failed to meet reasonable expectations of others. And the more I failed, the deeper the despair. I knew that my failures—my sin, if you will—had caused schisms beyond repair. I felt family and friends could not forgive me. God was surely very disappointed, too.

The only thing left was operating without emotions.

Which only compounded matters.

I believe it was God’s grace that allowed me to begin bringing some of this up before a small group several months ago. (Because I was so desperate, I had begun attending a prayer group a few years ago—difficult because I knew and know so much about the Christian life. I can seemingly operate on a spiritual level while overcome by guilt, making it difficult to be transparent and honest before God and others.)

Meanwhile, in life outside the prayer group, I tried to extend love to a couple of people who are especially important to me on several occasions. Although I struggled during the processes—generally felt miserable, estranged—I believe the efforts were important.

And last night, as you might imagine I was uncomfortable as the speaker began.

He continued to probe deeper—to reveal more and more of human frailty and of God’ grace. I hope you won’t be surprised or disappointed when I tell you I cannot exactly explain what happened. I do know I was emotionally wasted and devastated.

And when it was over I was free.

Free from guilt.

My understanding of God’s grace somehow expanded. I realized that God was not surprised by my sin or my capacity for sin. He is not surprised by my failure to love with His love. He understands emotional weakness, and He accepts me and others just as we are. He receives us and loves us. By the end, I somehow knew God receives me, accepts me, loves me, and forgives me.

I went to sleep easily last night. And after waking up around 4:00, I easily returned to sleep.

Of course, there are thorny issues ahead: I can do nothing to change the past. Right now, at least, I have faith to believe I can live with the problems I’ve created, even with the wounds I inflicted. Because God’s grace will reach out to others. His grace can turn all things to good. And His grace is big enough to sustain me through the process.

I understand this faith will be challenged—and that my part will be limited to prayer, to hearing His voice, and to responding to His leading. There will be difficult times.

But truly, the grace that was big enough for this breakthrough will be big enough to sustain me during difficult times ahead. I cannot undo the damage my diseased soul wrought. But God set me free, and He can and will set others free as well.

If I try to remain in His grace, I’ll fail. But if I look to Him rather than to myself, His grace will continue to work on my behalf. I don’t expect it to actually be easy, but the hard part will not be self effort or working to make changes. It will be continuing to release my guilt, to receiving His forgiveness, and to move in others because He loves them.

I didn’t stand up during the call to ministry. I couldn’t. I was too overcome and remained glued to my seat. Nevertheless, transformation occurred. Something larger than mere understanding occurred. It would seem God’s Spirit penetrated my inner core, my heart. He wrought a new relationship between us.

Lord, I love You. I praise You. I come to You with joy. Because You love me. You welcome me. You desire to bless me even while I’m a sinner.

Praise Your Holy Name.

Advertisements

, , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

Ruth 15: From Empty to Full

After the marriage of Boaz and Ruth, all the characters in this story find fulfillment. However, Scripture emphasizes the fulfillment that came to Naomi. She is emply and unfilfilled at the beginning of the book with no obvious source of support. At the close she receives provision and protection through the marriage of her daughter-in-law Ruth to Boaz, and she is blessed by the birth of the son named Obed who will continue the line of her husband Elimelech and herself.

, , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Ruth 14: Boaz, Elders, and the Competetion

Boaz determines everything will be in order before he takes Ruth as wife, so he arranges a meeting where he reminds the other kinsman-redeemer or obligations and rights.

It was enough. Boaz establishes his position and takes care of the competetion. Accomplishing his purpose requires moving carefully and wisely through the legal procedures of the time.

, , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Ruth 13: Fulfilling God’s Plan for His People

Boaz understands that if he marries Ruth, the inheritance of her dead husband’s land affects their relationship and any children they might have. This post looks at cultural practices, instituted by God, that affects their future together.

, , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Ruth 11: Under God’s Wings

Ruth followed Naomi’s advice when she approached Boaz on the threshing floor. She let him know she was interested, and she reminded him of his position as kinsman-redeemer. A romantic incident couched in teh culture of the time.

, , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Gleanings: Ruth 10, To Wash, to Annoint, and to Put on a Cloak

This post focuses on one verse, Ruth 3:3. Naomi, the one who knows, offers instructions to Ruth when the young woman prepares to meet Boaz. Because the meeting could be life-changing for all three parties, every detail is important. Naomi even tells Ruth what she must do before she leaves their home. She must wash herself, anoint herself, and put on her cloak or new clothing.

These would be normal preparations today, but they would have required major effort in Ruth’s time. Each offers obvious physical benefits. But they also represent spiritual realities, because each uniquely prepared Ruth to meet the challenge before her.

Because some might wonder if putting on new clothing could actually refer to a spiritual truth, I included additional Scripture references: Zechariah 3 and Ephesians 4:22-24. You might also appreciate Job 29:14  and Colosians 3:12-16.

, , ,

Leave a comment

Insight: It’s Time to Hear His Voice

Take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.  (Eph. 6:11:”13)

During a prayer meeting we attended last week, a fellow shared a challenging prophetic message. I felt it was important at the time so I jotted down what I could, and stuck it in my Bible.

From there it went home where it was placed on a stack near my desk.

Tonight I’m feeling overwhelmed, faced by the need for internal and external resources I don’t have, feeling self-imposed pressure to make decisions that can wait. And we’re going on a short jaunt for a few days

Here’s the message I found when trying to organize that stack of papers:

          Arm yourself with the Word, with prayer, with praise, and with the blood of Jesus.

          Put on the armor to stand against the enemy.

          Become an enforcer [in the Spirit]. Use your sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.

          Rise up and take your place. Take your righteousness.

               Don’t be shy.

                    Don’t be ashamed.

                         Don’t be afraid.

          Authority belongs to me and I’ve given it to you.

              It’s your will.

                    It’s your choice.

                         It’s your move.

          So move forward.

               Do not retreat.

                    Do not draw back.

     Go forward and the gates of hell will not prevail.

Now, I know this message could be criticized on several counts. But you don’t know the man and you didn’t hear it in context. He’s not suggesting God wants us to foolishly take on spiritual battles we aren’t ready for.

But God is calling His people to spiritual battle. The world needs Jesus. I need more of Jesus, you need more of Jesus, we all need more of Jesus. And we won’t receive Him as we need Him unless we put on God’s armor and do what He tells us to do.

I also know I’m not the only one who has heard a message, identified it as important, and then walked away. But I’m so glad God didn’t let me get away with it. He saved it for tonight—when I’d be too tired and vulnerable to set it aside again.

I initially remembered a verse. Proverbs 25:11 reads, A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. If ever a word was fitly spoke, this one it. But there’s even danger when I revel a word—and savor it as a way of avoiding the bite

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not weighed down by condemnations by this message. In fact, I’m not as burdened as I was before it hit me.

The word convicted and liberated.

God knows how to deal with people that way.

And here’s the crazy thing: I don’t feel called to a specific function—I’m called to a different mindset.

There are times and there are times. And this is one of those times.

It is time to listen to the Spirit.

It is time to actively listen to the Spirit.

Add it’s embarrassing to acknowledge He’s saying this to me because I do hear Him—quite a bit.

I get messages now and then. God is my friend.

Yet He’s telling me to listen.

And I know it is time to hear His voice.

I know it. I feel it. He is calling me—and probably many others—to something different. Something new.

Do you feel it, too?

, , , , , ,

Leave a comment