Not by Myself

Person Alone

God taught me something beautiful this week.

When I am struggling, when I have sin in my life, God does not push me away. He does not wait to help me until I put it all it all right.

If it were not for Christ, I would be hopelessly separated from God because of my sin, my mistakes, my failures—my self-seeking heart. There would be nothing I could do to correct those offenses. I would not even have the ability to seek after God.

But I am in Christ. That (up there) is not my reality. He conquered the power and the darkness of sin. His grace has made me a beloved child. His love for me is greater than I can ever know, and His grace is has greater power than evil.

Because Christ’s blood has made me right with God, my sin does not drive me away from Him. Of course, it does not please God, but He is there to show me how to overcome sin—in Him, through Him, for Him. He will never leave me or forsake me. His divine power has given me everything I need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3)—including this sin and these struggles.

I don’t have to find victory before I come to Him. Not by myself. I find victory in Him.

Remember these verses in 1 John 2:1-2:

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Yes, I will make mistakes. But I am in Christ, and this doesn’t change me back to my preconversion state—being an enemy of God. Because of Christ’s work on the cross, I can come boldly to the throne of grace to ask for mercy and help. I can receive forgiveness. I can receive strength to choose righteousness.

Not by myself. Only in Him.

~Rachel Sue

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When Faith

Woven

When words cannot describe the soul’s movements. When the mind can’t understand what is going on in the heart.

When I’m completely baffled by the way the world works, by the way that God works. When I don’t see how what’s in the Bible matches up with what I see in life. And when all the confusion makes me want to pull away and not even mess with trying to figure it out.

When I’m engulfed in guilt, but not knowing why—and just wanting to get it all right, but not knowing how. Why do I feel this way when I think about God? What’s wrong with me? What do I have to do to make it better?

When you can’t explain it, but it’s so real. When your heart relates something that your mind can’t really agree with.

When I want to be close to God and give glory to Him, but I don’t see amazing things in His Word like I think I should. Or I don’t understand it. Or when I’m drawing near I feel indescribably uneasy.

When I analyze to pieces everything that I do or say. Is it something to correct? Or should I just forget about it?

When a mere feeling taints everything in my life. When everything else makes it seems like I’m disqualified to be a good servant of Christ.

I know that feelings don’t always portray what is real, but feelings are real. They are a struggle. They are a prison that we need to be freed from. They must be overcome so that we can take another step.

But it’s better today. It’s not because I have a ten-step system that clears away all of that. There’s no handy set of perfectly clear directions for the Christian walk, like there is on a cake mix. Because if we had a bunch of directions on the box of our Christian walk, we would trust those instead of Jesus.

Jesus is always the same. He is changing me to be like Him, but there’s still lots of me left that doesn’t look like Him. There’s still lots of sin. And while my life might look the same to everyone else, inside it’s raging or crying or baffled. I still need Him to save me from all of this.

When it’s the worst, it’s time to seek God. And when I can’t feel like I can, I can trust what I already know.

When I remember, “Satan is the accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10). Satan would love nothing more than to make me forget that Christ is the one who cleanses me by His blood. Satan wants to convince me that I have to fix all the mistakes that I’ve made.

When I remember Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” If God needs to convict me about something, He will be faithful to do that. He is not the God of confusion. But Satan condemns unreservedly. And I am pretty good at helping him when I look inward rather than upward when he accuses me.

When I do sin—“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). My only way to be right with God—for salvation and after salvation—is  the blood of Jesus.

When I know that what He says is real—more real than my feelings about it. When I can pray that He would change me and cleanse my mind from all this junk. When I know that He is making it better. When faith looks to Him, faith grows stronger.

When I don’t have it all together, “in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).

Look to Him, to His Word, pray to Him. In our weak state of human feelings and inconstancies, He is our only hope.

~Rachel Sue

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We have so much.

Empty

There’s something in my life that I don’t like. One of many imperfections, but I think this is what I struggle with the most. I want it gone, but that idea just seems impossible. Anyway, I asked God to teach me what I needed to hear. Because honestly, I didn’t even know what I needed—but I knew that I needed something.

I didn’t even try, and God just gave me of a part of His Word that fit everything I needed to hear. Perfectly.

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3, ESV)

How can I begin to understand all that this verse means?

Life. Jesus came that I could have life and have it more abundantly. In Christ, life has meaning and fulfillment. Life encompasses so much. It’s so complex. But by His divine power, I have everything I need to live.

Godliness. I can hardly take in that I already have all of God’s riches to become like Christ. Doesn’t that make you feel rich? And it’s not just a feeling; it’s true. Godliness is profitable for all things—today and eternity.

Possible. It’s possible to overcome this battle—or any other battle—because it’s through His divine power. My struggle is in both the “life” category and the “godliness” category. That doesn’t mean it’s too big or complicated for God to fix.

Passive. What did you and I do to receive all of this? He called us to his own glory and excellence. He gave us everything that pertains to life and godliness. I don’t have to do something amazing to get on God’s side. It’s not as if I have to have some incredible spiritual experience for this to apply to me.

If you’re a child of God, this applies to you.

And the best part? It doesn’t stop with me because it’s not about me. (Actually, that would be a tragedy because I’m so small.) It’s about God and His own glory and excellence. It’s one of the paradoxes of Christianity how God can give us so much and still make everything about Him.

God showed this to me this morning and it tied in with several other things I saw and read….

The Logos Bible art of the day:

Is61.10-2

This picture and quote from a friend:

Promises

This link:

http://stuffchristianslike.net/2014/01/02/thinking-youre-naked-2/

So often I put God in a box. I trust more in my weakness rather than His strength. Yesterday I knew I was going to need help, and He showed me not to ask Him to give ME strength, but to ask to go in HIS strength. There’s a difference.

I don’t know if my thoughts are very organized this post. Let me make it clear, however, that GOD IS AWESOME! He gives us so much! He supplies EVERYTHING that we need!

Be encouraged,

~Rachel Sue

 

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Finding the Balance

Image

“There’s a balance.”

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that said. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard it myself. 

I’m fed up with the balance. 

Christians, myself included, often have a fine time discussing (i.e. arguing) about the perfect balance for our lives. To read the Bible or let the Spirit lead you? To have complete faith or use your God-given intellect? To focus on your own spiritual life or witness to everyone you see? Oh, we’ve only gotten started. Where is the balance between righteous and unrighteous anger? Where is the middle line of being wise with your resources and giving away everything you possess? Where is the balance of [insert balance problem here]. 

It seems, when everyone on both sides of the discussion has used up their favorite comments, we all must shake hands and concur, “There is a balance.” 

What? That’s all we can say? Did we really get anywhere? Chances are we already stand somewhere between the two extremes. Isn’t that good enough? Somehow in our quest for an answer we’ve come up with…absolutely nothing. 

I want answers, people. 

Furthermore, it’s nearly impossible to find that sweet spot, much less stay there. How long can I keep my footing? It won’t be long before a breath of wind catches me by surprise – and leaves me searching for “the balance” once again. 

In my philosophy class last semester, we learned about Aristotle’s ethics theory – and the doctrine of the mean. Imagine a line, two vices on either end, the virtue in the middle. One end is deficiency, the other is excess. For example, the virtue of courage has the deficiency of cowardice and the excess of rashness. You can read more about it here. Thank you, SparkNotes. Anyway, we achieve courage – true courage – somewhere in the mean. Like the balance. 

Now I do agree with Aristotle. I believe his theory of ethics is incredibly accurate, especially in light of the fact that he did not know the One True God. But I still don’t like the balance. 

Why?

Because we think the balance is the answer, when only Jesus is the answer. 

You see, the balance is another way of discerning righteousness and virtue. Perfection. When we try to find “balance,” we are trying to put our finger on the righteousness of God. He is the only perfect one. He knows what the balance is. And Jesus is the “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). In Him is all perfection, and – dare we say it? – the balance that we seek. 

We follow Him, learn from Him, and get to know Him more. And He makes us like Himself. He Himself is our wisdom, sanctification, and justification. Now, when God looks down on us, He sees His own Son’s perfection – bought with His precious blood. He doesn’t see imbalance. 

He shows us His truth in His Word. We must not study it as if we are only trying to find that hidden balance, deficiency and excess, or whatever else. We are to take it in – all of it – as His words of love and grace and goodness. 

If we are ever to become unbalanced, let it only be that we are too consumed with Him. 

~Rachel Sue

Where have you seen yourself or others struggling with “balance”? What do you think is the best way to approach it? 

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Disappointed

This weekend, I have watched several people around me face disappointments. At the basis of each situation lay an expectation, a plan…shattered.

RainyDay

Although I can’t speak for them, I can remember the taste of my own pain. I think I might know how they feel. Though we all have felt the sting of disappointment, we can’t share it with another. “The heart knows its own bitterness” (Proverbs 14:10, NKJV). As I’ve watched these people deal with their disappointments, I have tried to understand what causes the different responses: peace and thankfulness…or anger and hurt.

Some weeks haven’t gone as I had hoped. I’ve competed in various competitions…numerous times…but one regional win and zero national wins was not really what I had hoped. Conversations haven’t gone like I would have liked. I fall short of other’s expectations. I’m left disappointed.

Sometime the disappointment is only a bruise. Sometimes it’s ripped flesh.

This weekend, I came to realize that the outcome of a disappointment depends on two things. First, where was the hope placed? Something transitory – like my abilities, your reaction, good weather, happy times, a relationship, money – can never hold the weight of my greatest confidence and expectation. But hope placed in Jesus Christ is different. He controls the weather, the situation, the entire outcome. He does what I, in my weakness, cannot do. The circumstances that confront me are not arbitrary. Each one is filtered from a loving Heavenly Father, “Who only does wondrous things” (Psalm 72:18, NKJV). 

How can our disappointments completely tear us apart when we know that God allows it, somehow, for good? If our hope is in Him, we do not have to hold ourselves, or anything, or anyone else, to blame for the pain.

Secondly, in disappointments, where do we turn for help after the it strikes? Do we seek escape? Do we seal ourselves off from the situation, as if the pain were not there? To ignore the pain is not to make it disappear; it is only to deny the truth. To continually remember the pain is to invite bitterness to consume us.

But we can turn back to the One who is still good and still full of grace. “He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3, NKJV). From the deepest depths of our hearts to the outside, He alone can make us whole again. He can give us anticipation of what He is yet to do in our lives. We can still have hope of what is to come.

I love how Emily Freeman talks about closure versus healing in her book Grace for the Good Girl: 

“…closure implies that I will no longer have to deal with the thing I have closed…more often what we really seek is healing. Healing is messy and fluid and often unpredictable…It usually takes longer than I think, runs deeper than I wished, and involved more areas of my life than I ever imagined. But once I come through it on the other side, healing not only offers the closure I thought I wanted, it comes with a wholeness, wellness, and restoration that closure lacks.”

Sometimes it takes a long time. I still remember the aches from long ago. Yet God brought His healing, and they don’t hurt anymore. I can go on.

Start with your hope in Him. And when it doesn’t turn out as you would like, hope in Him again. Turn to Jesus for healing.

~Rachel Sue

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