MAKE THE CHOICE
What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs. The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings. They will continue to grow stronger, and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem.
Psalm 84:5-7 (NLT)
Have you ever had something just “fall into your lap” and wonder why it appeared when it did, the way it did? Last month, the February 2013 issue of “In Touch,” a magazine from the ministry of Dr. Charles Stanley, arrived in my mailbox and I dropped it in my bag to read when I had the time. Preparing for this blog, I pulled it out and decided to peruse for anything that might be helpful. Turns out this issue is about grace, about a deeper relationship with God, about seeking Him during our trials. I doubt this is a coincidence.
I think we can pick up a few good tips from this little magazine today.
“God is willing to provide what we need in our darkest moments. Like a spring, His provision never ceases to flow, but we must seek it.” (Hughes, 10)
Dr. Stanley writes, “Too many believers approach the Christian life on a behavioral level. They go to church, read their Bibles, serve others, give generously, and try to be as good as possible, thinking that they’re doing what God wants. Although all these practices are beneficial, they’re not enough. He desires more for us than knowledge and good behavior. He wants us to know Him experientially—person to person.” (22)
But, Max Lucado brings it home in such a simple way, ‘Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come. ‘Twas grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” (31)
Recognize those words? Amazing Grace! For me, this chapter has been screaming about grace. Not just about His grace towards me, but being gracious to myself. God gives us a free gift (grace) to forgive every sin we’ve committed, and even those yet to be. All we have to do is accept His gift. It’s our choice. Pretty simple, right?
So why is it easy to accept His grace for us, but we cannot extend the same gift to ourselves? When I look back on the experiences that led to my heartache or bad circumstances, it’s been due to my choices. I ended relationships, or started ones that were inappropriate. I left jobs for no other reason than boredom. I said things that hurt other people. And, even though God has forgiven me and washed me clean with the blood of His son, Jesus, there are days I cannot look at myself in a mirror without thinking I’m a wretch. I yelled at my kids. I grumped at my husband. I didn’t use His time wisely, or manage money effectively. I trashed my body because the bad food sounded so good. My hair’s out of control. My waist is too thick. My complexion is too splotchy. I find every little fault possible with my life, my character. What does this say to God? Am I grateful for His creation? His design for MY body, my character, my life?
While a symptom of my heart’s protective nature, it’s also a sign that the father of lies, Satan, is trying to keep me from thinking the truth. If God has forgiven me, I need to let it go and stop beating myself up. I’m not a bad person. I’m just a person who made bad decisions. This negative thought system is one of the biggest issues I need to overcome. I need to stop checking off the endless list of things ‘wrong’ with this woman God created. It affects how I view myself as a wife, a mother, a worker, etc. And, rather than focus on my short-comings, I need to (1) focus on His Word & Truth about my life, (2) focus on not comparing myself to others, (3) focus on finding gratitude for each day and circumstance, and (4) focus on letting it go. Hmm, there’s that control thing again!
We’re told in Ezekiel 36:26, 27:
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I will take away your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to follow My Laws and be careful to do what I tell you. (NLV)
He will give us a new heart and a new spirit. Will you reach out and accept this treasure from The King?
Take the time this weekend to write a prayer to God. Acknowledge your shortcomings, character defects, areas you wish to change. Tell Him what you would like to see instead in your life. Be specific. I once read that while God knows our prayers before we speak them, He wants to know that we have thought through the requests and really zeroed in on what we’re asking for. I think it makes for a much more personal prayer than the rote memorization we learned as children. Show God your gratefulness, even in difficult times, and as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians, thank Him for everything (good & bad) in your life. Ask Him to show you ways to change, and lessons to be learned from the experiences you have.
List areas you have been able to turn over and surrender to Jesus during our study.
Are there areas you still need to turn over, attempting to control on your own power? Remember, we make progress by focusing on one defect (or task) at a time. Not by trying to attack it all at once.
Sometimes it’s not easy to see the positive changes in our lives. What changes have you seen in the past 5 weeks? Have you been able to celebrate and find joy in these steps?
Check out Life’s Healing Choices for an excellent note card exercise to help you focus on His Truth regarding your character and life. I have a list of verses at my desk that I can see at a glance, but this exercise gives a more hands-on approach to keeping the Word close to your heart. I have listed some of the verses from this exercise below.
Share the one defect God has guided you to focus on changing first.
Share the progress God is making in your life in changing this defect.
Share about your efforts to act yourself into a better way of feeling.
As I was writing this blog, this song came on my Pandora station. I think it’s another God-moment.
Power Verses for Chapter 5:
Romans 12:1, 2
1 Peter 1:13, 14
1 John 1:9
2 Thessalonians 3:3
Verses from the Note Card Exercise:
2 Corinthians 5:17
Proverbs 3:5, 6
Philippians 4:6, 7
Pray this with me:
Lord, show me Your will in working on my shortcomings. Help me not to resist the changes that You have planned for me. I need You to direct my steps. Help me to stay in today, not get dragged back into the past or lost in the future. I ask You to give me the power and the wisdom to make the very best I can out of today. Amen. (prayer taken from Celebrate Recovery Participant Guide 3, p. 36.)
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If you would like to send Amy a private email in regards to this blog, please email her at: Amy@girlfriendscoffeehour.com