The Power I Steal from God

 

 

 

 

Have you ever lost sleep thinking about what God was teaching you? When you’re so full of conviction over a sin or situation that you literally cannot sleep. That happened to me this very week. As we traveled into Salt Lake City and the team starting settling in, I was face to face with an ugly truth. I wanted to be in control of what happened in my life and not God. When this truth and wrong belief was revealed, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Not just because of the one situation, but because I realized that throughout this past summer I was struggling with the same thing, but I was blinded. I realized the pain I had caused and the power that I was trying to steal from my God. I was literally wrestling with the Lord.

That night, as I was going to bed, I was full of such sorrow and tears that I could not sleep. I was struggling with choosing to focus on things that I couldn’t change and actually be grateful and joyful that God was kind enough to show me my sin. By God’s grace, the gratefulness and joy in the Lord won. I was in awe that God loved me enough to let me fail so that I could see that I was never in control; that I could never actually steal power from God. He held on to my heart as I pulled and acted as a fool. In 1 Corinthians 1:15 it says, “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” I’m a fool to think that I can manipulate such an awesome God! And even more amazingly, He even uses the fool to do His work.

Philippians 1:6 it says, “Being confident of the very thing, that he that hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” What a precious promise! God is still working on this unfinished product. We are broken vessels used to glorify His name. I often give the illustration that when you put a candle into a vase that is glued together with broken pieces, it is much more beautiful than the one that has no broken parts. The light is all you see through the broken vase.

When I think of broken vessels used for God’s glory, I think of Paul. He was greatly used of God but was a sinner just like you and me. He struggled with God but obeyed. He let God use him and have power over his life. I think of the Church at Colossae that he was burdened with. He was currently in jail when he wrote to them. He had no power or control over the people or God. He was forced to be in a place where all he could do was trust that the Lord was working. The last verse of Colossians 1 says this, “Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” As he toiled over the burden that he had for the people of Colossae, he claimed God’s promise of completing His work. God is powerfully in control!

Bearing a Fruitless Work in Self, Bearing All in the Vine

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Are there things in your life you feel are out of control? Do these questions come to mind: Does God really care? Does God love me? Does God understand me? Does God have my best in mind? Because of my naturally fearful flesh, these are questions I am tempted to answer “no” to every day. I often think that I am the best one to understand me, that I have my best in mind, and that I am the only one who knows how to love me better than anyone else. So, when I have finished doing all of my Christian responsibilities I feel more in control and secure. However, when responsibilities or situations get too difficult, then its time to go to God.
“Lord, I pray that You would help me to do___.” Many times I find myself praying this prayer. A cry of despair and a real need for help from God. But, most of those times, I regret to say that those prayers were prayed after a long period of self-effort attempts to live the Christian life. A Christ-less mindset bearing a fruitless work. Reading the first few chapters of Jerry Bridges’, “True Community,” my eyes have been exposed to this lifestyle open in its raw form. My countless efforts to be God in my life are worth nothing.

Are there times when I do live righteously and honestly desire God, even in my self-effort? No, because without God’s enablement, I can do nothing. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are you saved by faith; and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” This means that my salvation and any good or righteous thing I do is from God. I am His child. What an awesome thought, that I can rest in the fact that I am a sinner and can do no good, so I need Christ. Therefore any good that comes from me is because I am in Christ. I am ever fixed in the Vine, who is Christ. Christ, who bears all fruit of righteousness, flows through me. I can, in fact, do this life, not because of anything I do, but because He lives in me. So, “Lord, I pray You will enable me to do ___ because Christ lives in me.”

What Has Your Heart?

I’m sure many of us, if not all of us have thought back to when you were a child. What mattered most to you? Even if you don’t remember when you were a child you can certainly look at a child and see what matters most to them is what they want; their desires. Whether it is a toy, sleep, food, or comfort, it is all a child thinks about. In fact, you could call it idolatry.

Idolatry is extreme admiration, love or reverence for something or someone. Of course, a child may not realize that they are idolizing a person or something like a toy, but we as Christians know the desires holding our hearts. I make this comparison because of the many hours I have spent with children, but mostly for the extreme conviction that I have in my heart over my idols. I am like a child holding on to what I think most dear in the world and I will not let go. Whether it is friendships, relationships (my singleness and family), financial stability, future plans, physical state, spiritual state (in the eyes of others as well as my own) or my own comfort, it has my focus, my heart. Are all desires sinful? No, but when it becomes the ruling thing in our hearts, it becomes an idol. What does God think about these idols?

First, God commands us to have no other gods before Him in the first commandment. So, obviously, these are sinful, because the only person who should have my worship, praise, life, and heart is God. Secondly, not only does God command it, He reveals to us how serious idols are throughout the scriptures. I have been reading through Isaiah and specifically, in chapters 14-19, he describes how God was pouring His wrath on many different cities for their idolatry. God destroyed cities for this! Thirdly, He allows us to see His love for our hearts. James 4 asks us pointing questions about our desires/idols. “From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?” (James 4:1-4a) Then, it describes God’s heart in verse 5, which says, “Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The Spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?” God is not sinful, so ultimately He is a holy jealous God who desires our whole hearts. He is not partial; He wants to claim us as a whole.  A righteous, beautiful God, who loves you, desires to fellowship with you and with me!

            I have found in the past few months that God takes away idols. Sometimes it hurts. I do not enjoy it, but it is for my ultimate good. In fact, God has my best in mind. He loves me and wants to give me the best. I think of the Prodigal Son, but the child illustration has been on my mind. I am like a child, carrying an old dirty rag for a toy, who is offered a priceless jewel from my loving Father, and I do not want it. Eventually, God in His kindness pulls on the rag. I scream and throw a tantrum to get back what I want, but then God puts the jewel in my hand. I sometimes may toss it aside, mad, but He picks it up and hands it to me again. Graciously He changes my heart and I realize what precious object He has given me; Himself. What has your heart?

Stepping Up

What is God asking you to do? Do you trust Him fully in the situation you are in? Is there something in your life that God is asking you to give up and to step up to become more like Him? These questions and many others have been swimming in my head lately. Why? Because I do have situations in my life where God is testing me. God has been gently peeling away securities so that He can expose me for who I really am and humble me.

When God takes things away that I cling to, is that because He doesn’t love me? No, in fact, He takes those things because He loves me and is making me more like His Son.  He is perfecting! God promises in Philippians 1:6Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” What a wonderful promise! However, I, in my sinful and wicked state, am not satisfied. I want what 1 Peter calls as corruptible things. I want things that are perishable. I do not want God and His precious Word. In Proverbs God calls those who do not want understanding or wisdom (His Word), fools.

Thankfully, God has been working in my heart and using His Word to show me that I need Him and that those corruptible things that I love actually do not satisfy as much as a relationship with Him. I can so easily be satisfied with material things, with comfort, with relationships that seem okay, even my devotions, but yet God is calling me to a higher calling. He wants to give more than I am settling for. He loves His children and has given us a perfect and loving gift. This gift is Christ. This gift is becoming more like His Son who is perfect and has taken our sin away and replaced it with His own righteousness. I need to step up and live a life “sold out” for Christ! That is what Christ’s disciples had to do. They had to take up their cross, die to themselves and follow Christ. The awesome part of that is that Christ already died for them, for me, for the world. What God is telling and compelling us to do as Christians is to live worthy, holy, set apart. It may be a hard road to travel, but God never promised ease. He promises grace. Paul describes this perfectly in II Corinthians 12:9 which says, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

So, daily I have to ask myself, am I satisfied in becoming like Christ? Is His grace enough? And the answer is yes! No matter my failures, my untruthful thoughts, my sinful and wicked heart, deep down I am a child of God and I want to become more like Christ! I may have to step it up, I may have to die to myself, but my result is heavenly. In conclusion, the verse that actually showed me my true heart was in Psalms when David is running from Saul and pleading to God for his safety. At the end of the passage, his prayer actually brought me to tears. Psalm 17:13-15 states “Arise, O Lord, disappoint him, cast him down: deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword: from men which are thy hand, O Lord, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly thou fillest with they hid treasure: they are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes. As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” David, a man of God! An imperfect man, but yet loved the Lord and was a man after God’s own heart! The step may be steep, but I want to be satisfied with the likeness of Christ!

A New Year’s Resolution To Keep

Every year it seems we make New Year’s resolutions to better our lives. Or maybe you are one of those who thinks resolutions are useless and decide that “if you don’t make them you don’t have to keep them.” However, making resolutions is a good thing and I have learned that I need to have some discipline in my life. For instance, a goal you may have is to not drink soda, exercise more, eat more healthfully, read more books or have a deeper relationship with God. Even though each goal might seem impossible and maybe insurmountable, in fact, you may fail trying to achieve them, but the fact is that God loves you no matter how you are and He will help you to become more like His Son through your accomplishments and failures. My goal here is to share with you a goal of mine that I pray will be a challenge to you and also to be a use of accountability.

One of my goals this year is to not skip a day of devotions. This goal has been hard to keep in the past. Of course, life gets busy and things you never planned seem to come up, but a lot of the time, and I know this because I am guilty of it, we seem to get lazy. That’s when we start getting off the path that God wants us to be on. We start going down our own path thinking that we can live off of the small amounts of God’s Word that we have picked up in church services or just the passing verse. Truthfully, God’s Word does not return void and He will use everything for His glory. What men mean for evil God means for good. However, think about this: what are we on this earth for? If you go back to the beginning you will see that God made us for His glory and for a perfect relationship with Him. Our sin has made us the enemy of God (Romans 3:23) and has sentenced us to death (Romans 6:23) , but to the praise of His Son, Jesus who was sent to die in our stead, conquered death and hell for us so that we might dwell with Him someday for eternity. And by faith, if we ask Him to forgive us of our sin, He will forgive us (1 John 1:9). Saved by grace, but still sinners, and until we die or until Jesus’ return we are here on this earth. So, while we are here on earth God has given us a special gift; His precious Word. First of all, God’s Word is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Secondly, it is our weapon against the devil and our own flesh. Thirdly, it is our comfort, our light, and our lifeline to our relationship with God.

For a while now I’ve been studying out 1 Peter and I’ve been using Elizabeth George’s study Putting on a Gentle and Quiet Spirit: 1 Peter which has been a great tool. In the beginning of the 7th lesson I have now come to chapter 2:1-3 where it states, ” Therefore, laying aside all malice, all guile, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” She goes on by asking what we must lay aside; which when we look at the beginning of verse 1, it tells us clearly. These are behaviors and attitudes, as Peter says, that we must discard. Next, Peter tells us what we are to desire; which is God’s word. I can tell you that I am convicted of my lack of desire for God’s Word. I have gotten so tangled up in my own world that I have become blind to the fact that I even missed reading God’s Word or even taken God’s Word lightly. I am lazy and weak! God is showing me, that I am starving for His Word. There are many mistakes and sins I have committed because I have not sought it out through Him. I need to desire His Word as a baby desires for milk. No matter how dry my spiritual life may seem, I still need God’s word. I want to long for God like the deer pants for the water (Psalm 42:1 As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God”). And as Elizabeth George said, “To study God’s Word should never be a labor, but a delight instead.” In closing let me challenge you to dive into God’s Word and grow closer to Him. That is why He created you in the first place! In James, it says that if you draw nigh to God, He will draw nigh to you. Of course, you and I will not be able to do it on our own, but with God all things are possible!

It is Truth sent down from heaven;

It is much to be desired;

It is perfect, pure and cleansing;

It is every whit inspired.

It is manna for the hungry;

It is milk to make us grow;

It is light for every traveler;

It is Truth that all should know.

-Anonymous

Joyous Trials

 

This past summer, while studying James at Northland Camp, the Lord starting working in my heart about what trials are used for in our lives. It starts in James 1:2-4 “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations: Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
God has been teaching me about how He uses trials to change me, but recently He has been showing me even more of how the trials He sends my way are really for my good and His glory.

As we studied James, I was also going through the New Testament in my devotions. When I came to I Peter, that’s when my view of trials began to change. It was amazing to see the parallels between James and 1 Peter. The verse that really caught my attention was I Peter 1:7 which says, “That the trial of your faith being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus.” So God was showing me through James and Peter that my trials are not just times where I get joy from coming out of a situation, but that the trial itself is actually for my good. I need to treasure those times because of the end goal: the glory of Christ in me. For example, I hate running, and when I run it’s not just to get it over with, it’s to see the end result. God is still working in my heart to teach me this.

I began to understand the fact that my trials are joyous and that they work patience in me, but also, that they are for the praise, honor, and glory of Christ in me. That is not the end though. With excitement, I went on in I Peter only to be stopped in my tracks again. I Peter 1:15-16 “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, ‘Be ye holy: for I am holy.’” Automatic shut down–I was convicted. I started thinking about all the times I have responded in my trials with an unholy view. I started thinking about my sins: my selfishness, pride, and many others. I was starting to get discouraged, but God was using this in my life to point me to Christ, who is holy, and who lives in me. Christ suffered just like us and went through trials, yet He was holy. “So,” I thought, “how can I be holy?” God immediately brought to mind that I can be holy because Christ is in me. I can trust that He will do whatever it takes to make me more like His Son, Jesus Christ who is holy.

The last few verses of I Peter 1 have been constantly on my mind. I Peter 1:23-25 says “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” My inheritance is imperishable because of a holy God. It is well worth the run.

What Causes Me to Be Worldly?

Our team has been studying James this semester and this was a question that our team discussed in devotions this past week. Will, asked us all to answer so we started at one end of the table and I was the next to the last person in line to answer.

 My first thought was “Oh, good! I have some time to think about what I’m going to say.” Then, my thought was, “Well, I better listen to what the others are saying because it is important.” Then, while the others were speaking, my flesh and the Spirit were warring in my heart. I knew that I didn’t have to think about what to say. I knew that there was one very big thing in my heart and life that caused me to be worldly; that caused me to be selfish and sinful! It was my fear. Of course, I didn’t want to say that out loud. The team already had heard me say that I struggle with fear and in fact, it was what I always mentioned. I didn’t want to say that I still struggle. What would they think of me? Would they think I’m a failure for not being able to conquer that specific area in my life? Would think that I’m an awful wicked sinner for not trusting in the Lord for my fears? I’ll probably cry when it is my turn to speak. Would they think I’m such a girl for crying? I do this every time! Would they look down on me and reject me? Would God be disappointed in me for saying the exact same thing over and over and over? What?! No, wait…

There it was…lying out there for God and me to see. My fear was oozing out of me like sin always does.  It was gross and I hated it. I had to tell the team that I still struggle with fear and it causes me to be worldly. I still want to look good in front of people and I want people to think I’m godly and like Christ. Don’t get me wrong. Being Christ-like is not a bad thing, but “every Godward motion is opposed by the flesh.” What I mean by that is that most of the time my motive for being godly and Christ-like was so that others would see me and think “good” thoughts about me and like me because I was “spiritual.” When I told the team I did cry, but God was humbling me and loving me at the same time.

God sometimes uses our weaknesses in our hearts to show us how much we need Him. When our sin is exposed we find that we need the grace of Jesus. Christ died for the sin we have done, for the sin, we are doing this very second, and for the sin, we will do in the future. We don’t have to wallow in self-pity. We can rest in the love of Jesus and with His help, we can change and become more like Christ. We certainly can’t do it ourselves. I relearn that every day. God has been teaching me to be humble. To realize that I will ALWAYS sin, but because I am saved by the grace of God through the shedding of the blood of His Son on the cross, who died, rose and is coming again, I can conquer sin. I have already won because God is on my side. God is “cementing” my foundation in Christ! He is molding me to be more like His Son, Jesus!

 What causes you to be worldly? In James 4:1 it says,

“From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” Then, in James 4:4 it says, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” When I read this, I am so moved because I realize that every time I sin, I act as an enemy against God. My God, who loves and calls me His own. Thankfully there is more because James 4:6-10 says, “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”

I will probably always struggle with fear, but I have Christ! If I humble myself and just be honest with God, seek after Him and confess to Him about my sin and struggles, He will use them to bring me closer to Himself. What an awesome God!

Imperishable Inheritance

Last week our team was in Wilmington, NC at Grace Baptist Church and Grace Christian Academy. We came in knowing that it was going to be busy and exhausting because it was going to be different from our normal schedule. What made this week different was the chapels for elementary and high school every day plus, our regular responsibilities for the week which include: a Cola War, Irish Concert and this week a Bluegrass and Barbeque night too. Talk about a crazy week! Despite our weaknesses, God was working…

Our team came into the chapel services every day before the invitations so that we could council kids that responded. What we didn’t expect was the number of kids that did respond. Even the first day we all had about 2-3 elementary kids for the first service and then we talked to about 2-3 high school kids each after the second service! All week we had kids from elementary to high school and even adults in the regular evening service respond to the Gospel and many were saved. There were some who got an assurance of their salvation and some who had questions about their spiritual walk. At the end of the week, we had all given the gospel multiple times. I personally got to talk with 14 kids this week about the gospel and it really has opened my eyes. What I mean by that is that God was even working in my heart as I was giving the gospel to these kids! For one thing, it is God who saves, not us! And two, I was growing in my knowledge and most of all confidence in what I believe and what Christ did for me on the cross. The Holy Spirit works! The Gospel works! We are saved by the grace and blood of Christ alone!

Most of all, the point of this article is to encourage and for all us to realize that we who are saved through the blood of Jesus Christ have an imperishable inheritance. I was reading just this morning in 1 Peter 1 (ESV) that “[God]has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” As soon as I read that I was thinking of a few girls that I talked to this week who were not sure of their salvation. They were not sure if they understood it when they first asked Christ to save them. I, of course, could not assure them of salvation only the Holy Spirit can do that. So I took them to Romans 6 and shared with them that sometimes we may have sin struggles in our lives that we feel we are a slave to and that makes us think we are unsaved when really we feel guilty and we don’t think God is big enough to cover those sins. However, once we are saved “we are not under the law, but under grace.”(v. 14) Sin has no more power because we have Christ in us. “For Christ also suffered once for sin the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit!” (1 Pet. 3:18 ESV) Christ has died once for sins and He doesn’t have to die again. Christ and His salvation are alive in us and so we don’t have to sin.

The last part of that passage in 1 Peter 1 says, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” Though trials, pains, and temptations may rise throughout our lives, we can have joy that we have Christ who has given us an imperishable inheritance with God in Heaven for eternity!

Beginnings

 

My name is Sarah and welcome to my blog!. You may be wondering what the purpose of this blog is and what it will be about. Well, first off I better tell you that I do something that is very interesting. I travel for a living with an evangelistic group all over the US. The group I travel with actually gets the privilege of staying with the families of the churches that we minister to and it is usually very home-like and comfortable! And to make this blog a little more fun…I might throw in some funny situations or stories. You never know!

The purpose of this blog then is to tell you what God is teaching me on the road as I travel. I guess that’s why I have named my blog “Beyond the Road Less Traveled.” The team I travel on is not just about traveling. It’s about helping churches be healthy in their spiritual growth and also in our own lives. Being on the road is not easy. You’re away from home; away from ease and comfort. No, I don’t mean physical ease and comfort, I actually mean spiritual ease and comfort. It is a daily battle here when you are spreading the gospel and you are constantly being convicted by God’s Holy Word!

God has taught me so much on the road already that I almost don’t know where to begin. First, off I would like to say that I have learned a lot from the people on the team. I have learned more than I thought I would actually. I guess you could say that it is difficult to be humble when you are trying to impress other people on the team. Yep…I’m fearful. In fact, that is probably the biggest thing that God is trying to teach me is to trust in Him and to worry more about what He thinks of me than other people. People are going to see my mistakes and they certainly see when I am fearful towards them. I know I’m not the only one sinning, but it sure feels like it. Basically, being on the road is a real test of who you are and it will definitely show you your weaknesses and your selfishness. I will probably get more into this in a later post, but for now, thank you for reading and I hope to hear from you!