Discipline and Grace

I’ll be honest, I’ve been sorta avoiding blogging for the last couple days and weeks out of fear and frustration and pride. I have not been keeping up with my bible reading every day as I had hoped and planned. I obviously haven’t been keeping up my daily reflection posts either! 

If I haven’t already made it clear on here (or you might have guessed yourself), I am one who struggles with an “all-or-nothing” mentality when it comes to most things in life. I either do something really well, or I don’t want to do it at all. I usually do very well at those things that are required of me (like school or work), but I’m otherwise pretty lazy. I’ve learned that the motivation behind this attitude is most often rooted in pride. Sure, God calls us to be excellent in all things. We shouldn’t be okay with being lukewarm, especially with our relationship with the Lord. God says in Revelations that those who are lukewarm he will spit out. Not a comforting verse, but oh so needed.

But… we (preaching to myself) also need to be humble enough to keep pressing on, even if that means not doing something to our own expectations. God is not displeased with our best efforts.  And it’s not ourselves (or others!) that we are out to please, but God.  Am I willing to keep working hard, day after day, swallowing my pride (not the most biblical phrase, but you get my point) with this reading through the Bible chronologically, even if it doesn’t measure up to how I want to be or how I want others to think I am? Or am I going to just run away and hide and never allow myself to get to know the Lord better?  

I, along with everyone else (but maybe more so me), struggle with discipline and with keeping routines, and I can easily list off more excuses than you’d ever want to hear (working night shift being the main biggie). But God has been really teaching me lately to persevere, humble myself, and also have some grace for myself. I really can’t expect perfection from myself, and that’s okay.  But I know I need to also challenge myself and not be okay with just okay. Especially when it comes to something as important as reading the Word. It’s a fine balance, and I need to be in prayer about this every day. (The book “The Discipline of Grace” by Jerry Bridges is really helpful with fleshing this out.)

So after all that explanation… here I am, asking you to please be praying for me to persevere and to humbly submit myself to this goal that the Lord has placed on my heart for this year. I don’t want this to be about me and my pretty neat always up-to-date and wise sounding blog. It’s about getting to know the Lord through his Word… and that needs to be my greatest passion in all things. Thanks for those of you who have been praying and checking up with me… God has been still working to keep me reading most days. I’m only about 10 days behind right now (Leviticus and Numbers are difficult to get through!). Gotta keep pressing on!

{On a side note, some exciting happenings that have been brewing over the last couple weeks that will hopefully help me (to some extent!) with my reading and blogging-  I am about 99% sure (not official yet) that I will be getting a day/evening shift nursing position at my current hospital (but different unit) starting in May! I have been working the night shift for about 2 1/2 years now, and it’s been really wearing on me lately, and I’m tired of using my night shift job (and the after effects of never-ending tiredness) as an excuse to my struggle with not only my Bible reading, but things like exercising, eating well, serving others, etc. If I’m working regular hours, I will no longer have others feeling sorry for me all the time and will hopefully be able to start some routines. Praise God!! :) Also, a huge praise is that my hubby has recently been offered a full-time position at a triathlon store/fitness-center. He will be a bike mechanic and a personal trainer, along with heading up their “tri-club”. So exciting… and all glory goes to God for providing these opportunities, ones we have been praying and asking for over the last few years!}


Because of the gospel…

How the Gospel Transforms a Marriage

Because of the gospel, Christians have become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). Therefore in our marriage, our past does not define us, confine us, or determine our future.

Because of the gospel, we are forgiven (Ephesians 1:7). Therefore we can live free of all guilt and condemnation for every sin, and we can trust that God, in his mercy, will be gracious to us.

Because of the gospel, we can forgive, just as Christ forgave us (Ephesians 4:32). Nothing done against us compares to our sin against God. Therefore all offenses, hostility, and bitterness between Christians can be completely forgiven and removed.

Because of the gospel, we are accepted by God (Romans 15:7). Therefore we are not dependent on a spouse for who we are or what we need.

Because of the gospel, sin’s ruling power over us is broken (Romans 6:6, 14). Therefore we can truly obey all that God calls us to do in our marriage, regardless of any circumstance or situation.

Because of the gospel, we have access to God through Christ (Hebrews 4:14-16). Therefore we can at any time take any need in our marriage to the One who can do all things.

Because of the gospel, we have hope (Romans 5:1-4). Therefore we can endure any marital difficulty, hardship, or suffering, with the assurance that God is working all to our greatest good (Romans 8:28).

Because of the gospel, Christ dwells in us by his Holy Spirit (Galations 3:13-14). Therefore we are confident that God is always with us and is always at work in our marriage, even when progress is imperceptible (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

Because of the gospel, we have power to fight and overcome remaining sin, which continues to dwell and war within us (Romans 7:19-21, 24-25; Galations 5:16-17). This indwelling enemy represents the essence of what is called the doctrine of sin.

From Gary and Betsy Ricucci, Love That Lasts: When Marriage Meets Grace (Crossway, 2006), pp. 22-23


Marriage Retreat

This past weekend, my husband and I had the privilege to attend the annual (though our first time) marriage retreat through Bethlehem Baptist Church…

Can I just say WOW! God blessed this retreat! It was amazingly full of truth, grace, wisdom, and conviction.

The speakers this year were Gary and Betsy Ricucci, authors of the book Love That Lasts. We had read this book almost four years ago now when we were engaged as part of our pre-marital class through BBC. Hearing them in person was such a rich experience! The Ricucci’s were simply amazing at pointing us to the cross and keeping us focused on the LORD always, even amidst the many topics and issues surrounding marriage, like communication, conflict resolution, and romance.

Though I am still slightly overwhelmed with all the great nuggets of wisdom I heard, we were encouraged again and again to remember that even taking away ONE thing from this retreat is enough and will be helpful to our marriage. We don’t swallow an entire meal at once, we have to take it a bite at a time and really chew on it.

The one big takeaway for me, which seemed to encompass every topic discussed this weekend, comes from James 4:6, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” This simple yet profound truth alone is not really new to me, but God really seemed to be hammering this into my heart and mind. John and I both really have sensed God convicting us about the root of SO many of our issues is our pride…. but praise God that when we humble ourselves, he gives us GRACE! That is all we need, and we really do need his grace to conquer anything and everything in our relationships and in this life.

Well, I could go on and on, but really any of you who are reading this who are married, you must read their book. We have an extra copy if you ever want to borrow it! :)

Eventually I do want to type up this amazing list they provided for us of promises that we can believe and cling to that all start with “Because of the gospel…” It’s just amazing truth that really pierces your heart, and I hope to share that with you sometime tomorrow.

And… I plan to get back at blogging about my Bible reading in Exodus soon, too! It’s been a busy and full weekend and I also wound up getting a nasty cold last week. Now I can get back at it! :)


Job

Not posting about jobs, like an occupation or career, but about the book of Job. :) The last week or so I’ve been reading through the book of Job with my chronological reading and have been enjoying it! I’ll be honest though… I am struggling to understand what to take away from each day’s reading.

When Job’s friends respond and tell him all sorts of “wisdom”, I get confused as to what is true and what is lies. So much of what they say does sound right and wise, but yet when I asked John to help me understand and he consulted our big ESV study Bible (which I hope to use more in the future!), it seems as though much of the wisdom from Job’s friends, regarding why God has caused him to suffer, is full of lies and human reasoning.  That God can and will do as he pleases, without us always understanding.  Sometimes we have immense suffering for so many other reasons than simply as punishment from God for our sins.  As Christians, we are going to suffer, and God will bring us through it and bless us in the end. That’s the big nugget that I’ve gathered from this book so far. I haven’t gotten to the end of the book yet, though.

A couple other things I have learned through this last week or so…

I can’t understand the Word all on my own! I need to pray for understanding and for patience for that understanding!

After reading through the Bible this year (Lord willing!), I’ll still (and always will) have SO much more to learn! I loved reading through Genesis the last couple weeks because so many of the stories became clear to me, but Job… not as much.

With any discipline, such as bible reading or physical training of some sort, even if you don’t feel like it’s going well or that you’re gleaning anything from it, you must push through and persevere. I’m trusting in God to give me understanding when he decides the time is right.

I’m also trusting that God is working in my mind and heart despite my seemingly lack of understanding. His Word is so powerful and active and does not return void! So even when I don’t enjoy the reading or don’t have big “Aha!” moments, I must keep on reading. Just like sometimes we eat things that don’t have much taste or flavor, but we eat it because we know it’s food and will still nourish us. :)

Looking forward to reading Exodus soon!   

And… I’d love to hear what you have learned through reading the book of Job! This is a book that I have never really studied before… so I’m excited to learn!


Blessed be…

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said,”Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”   -Job 1:20-21 (ESV)

This past Sunday, the topic which was preached on was Suffering, and the key texts were the first chapter and beginning of the second chapter of Job. Happened to also be the same week that I start reading the book of Job in my chronological reading! Loved how it worked out that way… (Thanks God!) :)

Though I’ve read Job in the past, this time around it has such a deeper impact. Learning how Job was upright, blameless, without sin, and yet was chosen by God to have everything he owned and loved taken away from him, including his health… and yet, he bows before the God who has willed his suffering and WORSHIPS. Ponder that for a moment, because I sure could for the rest of my life! What an amazing display of trust in God and love for HIM, not what he gives us.

This has really given me a much better perspective on those big life events that so easily entangle and trouble us… accidents, disasters, diseases, sudden disabilities or even death. It is all in God’s hands — our circumstances and our very lives — not ours. And no matter what God decides to do with us or what he has given us (it is all controlled by God, not just chaos!), we are nothing without him and he still (even as we lie naked and diseased on our death beds) deserves all our worship. Oh that I would believe and live this out!


God intended for good

Life gets busy at times, doesn’t it? I have struggled to complete these blog posts but I have, by the grace of God, been keeping up with my reading! I actually miss it on days when I put it off or get behind. That feeling of hunger for the word is exciting for me since I know I have often lacked it in the past. Eating more of the word and tasting how truly good it is only makes you want it more. Praise God that he gives us all we need and that we have freedom to feast on his word!

I am at work right now and won’t be able to do my official post for the last day’s reading like I normally do, but I have to say that I have been really enjoying the story of Joseph… What’s so strange to me is that I have read it before but honestly have hardly no memory of it. And this was only maybe a year ago that I read it.

The NLT has been so helpful to me in understanding the stories and how it flows. I have never been good at following story lines… I’m one of those who gets easily confused in movies (“what just happened?”) and was always SO confused when reading history textbooks. But the Holy Spirit is giving me understanding when I read lately and I am so thankful!! I need to always be in humble need of the Spirit’s aid in my reading… this little brain isn’t so bright and this heart is hard without God’s wisdom and softening power.

What I love about Joseph’s life and his story is how God used the evil and mistakes of his brothers for good. How merciful God is and how wise He is and how powerful He is to turn things around (He had it all planned to begin with!). I just love that about God and this story!

I love when Joseph says to his brothers, who are begging for forgivness and are afraid they will be slaves…

Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.  No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them.   -Gen 50:19-21

What a picture of God’s love and forgiveness through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for our sins! We don’t have to fear evil, trials, painful circumstances, the sins of others, etc. We don’t have to be slaves to our sin any longer. We do not have to be afraid, because what people intend for harm, God will bring about good! Praise God!


The LORD is with us!

“But the LORD was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love.”  Genesis 39:21a

Something old:

The jealousy that Joseph’s brothers had towards him because of the favor he had from his father Jacob and also the dreams he shared with them, of how he would have grains, sun, moon, and stars bowing down before him.

Something new:

After reading through the comments for today’s reading at wendypope.org, I have to say I have learned SO many new things! I have read these stories before, but honestly have never reflected or been through any sort of study on them. I’m loving all the new insights in God’s Word….

Here’s a bunch of  nuggets I have gathered from this reading:

- Jealousy (seen by Joseph’s brothers) is so strong and when not repented of right away, leads to many other sins… hatred, lying, even murder.  Favoritism on behalf of Jacob probably also affected the brothers and had a role in them becoming so jealous.

- Reuben wanted to rescue Joseph from the cistern that he was thrown into by the brothers, but he tried to rescue him quietly and it didn’t work! When you must stand up for what’s right, don’t try to do it in secret, God won’t bless your efforts. Don’t be ashamed of the truth and of the gospel.

-The brothers wanted to protect themselves from having a guilty conscience, so instead of killing Joseph, they sell him into slavery. How often do we do something “less evil” to make us feel better, when really it’s still just as sinful? We are sinning against God… it is not about just protecting our guilty consciences.

- The story of Judah and Tamar…. She dressed herself differently because she was desperate for a husband (which she had been promised but hadn’t been arranged yet).  When Judah saw her and thought she was a prostitute, she agreed to have sex for money (!).  And then they each speak so many lies to try and cover up what they each had done.  My thoughts went along these lines- How often do we “prostitute ourselves” because we want something so badly that we haven’t been given? We will sell ourselves short of what perfect plans God has for us.  And the lies we spread to protect our reputation, when really we are all sinners in need of grace!   At least Judah does seem to humble himself and admit his wrong and stop sleeping with her…

- Joseph succeeded in everything he did, because the LORD was with him.  Potiphar, his master,  then gave him more responsibility and continued to be blessed by Joseph’s service to him.  Clinging close the the LORD and being obedient will bring about more responsibility and blessing!

-But… perhaps not the blessings we always want or imagine. Poor Joseph gets thrown into prison for even more lies (Potiphar’s wife said that Joseph tried to sleep with her, when it was she who wanted him to but he refused!). I love how Joseph “rips himself away” from this woman (and loses his colored cloak from his father!) since he knew that sleeping with her was “A great sin against God.” What a picture of being wise and obedient to the LORD!

-And then Joseph remains in the prison and the LORD is with him and shows him his faithful love. I love how God blesses him and is with him in the “pit”… after being thrown into a cistern, sold into slavery, and then thrown into prison unjustly. God doesn’t always rescue us right away from our “prisons”, but He is with us, blesses us, and manifests His love to us. That’s all we need, even in the darkest, scariest, most unfair circumstances.  

Something to do:

Keep close to the LORD, through reading and meditating and memorizing his Word… and pray and seek to be obedient to Him. Be patient for God’s timing in the things that I so desparately want NOW (to be out of debt, to move to a cheaper home, to have children!!, to not have to work full time as a nurse, etc)… Don’t manipulate my way through life because I have to have them when I want them!  Know that the LORD is with me and loves me. He is all I need!

Day   14

Remaining   351

 

 

 


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