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Re:flect-I

Recently, I took on some new responsibilities at church, which have been a huge privilege, and my focus has been elsewhere than this blog.  As a result, I’m going to take an extended break from Iron2Iron.  If you keep in touch with this blog via email or by searching me out online, I want to encourage you to head over to a new blog that has been birthed by our women’s ministry, Women of the Word.  You can find it here and I’d love for you to become a regular reader and share it with your friends.  My desire is for re:flect-I to be an awesome encouragement for women as they journey with Christ.

Hope to see you over there soon!

Love, Wendy

Too Much Grace?

For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  Ephesians 2: 8-9

As I write this post–with great care and trepidation, I may add–I want to begin with the gospel of Christ.  If you are reading this and have been saved from your sins and from the wrath of God against those sins, then my hope is that you already know full well that it was the grace of Christ at work to give you eternal life with God, our Father.  This is a grace that is matchless, immeasurable and seemingly senseless!  Yet, this is God’s glorious plan of salvation for His children and I love it.  To imagine someone dying for me in order to become a scapegoat for my sins…it’s inconceivable.  And, Jesus did this when we were His enemies, no less.  The whole gospel message of Christ Jesus is unimaginable to my selfish, sinful mind.  Yet, this plan pleased our Father and Jesus lived to glorify His Father.  Our only response is great gratitude.

For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.  And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight-

Colossians 1: 19-22

The case for grace is well established in the Word of God and I cling to it so.  While I say that, though, I must also observe in our modern-day Church the phenomenon of too much grace.  Before you cry, “heresy!”, please let me go on.  I’m not the first to reply to this kind of statement either…

Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound.  But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  What shall we say then?  Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?  Certainly not!  How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?                           Romans 5: 20-6: 2

“Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church.  We are fighting today for costly grace.”  (Written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in 1959, The Cost of Discipleship)

See, it is not accurate to say ‘grace is grace is grace’.  Not all grace is the same.  To proclaim the costly grace of Jesus’ shed blood on the cross is the same as the grace that covers my ongoing, knowing habitual sin (with no evidence of repentance) is heresy.  The latter is a cheapened, tarnished and filthy version that must be eradicated from the Church.  Ephesians 5: 27 describes a ‘glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”  This is a very different church than the one we often see today.  One that says, “There’s no hope for homosexuals to change, so live happily in your sin.  Jesus’ grace covers all!”  Or one that says, “If you struggle with this sin or that sin, just stop trying so hard!  There’s grace for you, so just relax.”

Yet, the apostle Paul asked the Romans (and us) how we could keep on sinning when our ‘old man’ has died?  How can we live as the old man when we are new creations?!?!  Something different!  Transformed creatures!  Alive!  No longer dead!

Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.  For he who has died has been freed from sin.  Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more.  Death no longer has dominion over Him.   Romans 6: 4-9

Do we believe that God has power?  If not, re-read the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus in your Bible.  What greater evidence of power is there than raising yourself from the dead?!?!  This same ‘divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which has been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.’  (2 Peter 1: 3-4)

We can fight our sin, we can live for Christ–because of His great power.  Because of His costly grace.  To continue to wallow in our miserable sins, to wear our ‘old man’ flesh, is to pronounce the impotence of God, saying that He is unable to change me from a slave of sin to a slave of righteousness.  This.is.not.biblical.

Too much grace?  We must be discerning in what we listen to and read in the Christian world.  Just because a blog post uses the word “grace” a lot does not make it biblical.  Just because someone gives you earnest advice that includes the mention of Jesus’ grace does not mean she is on target.  We must ask God for wisdom to discern whether or not the grace we are hearing about is Jesus’ costly grace or a cheapened version.  His costly grace:  a grace where He gave everything up.  This is also a grace where we, too, must give up our everything so that He might become our All in All.  To hold onto my habitual sin and presume that God will just smile upon my sin because Jesus paid it all…it’s atrocious and horrifying.

For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit…But, why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?  Luke 6: 43, 46

If you love Me, keep My commandments.  John 14: 15

Love, Wendy

Offended.

“He said this to me…”, “I can’t believe she overlooked me for…”, “They didn’t invite me…”, “She said what to my child?”, “That was so rude…how mean…how could she…”

How easy it is to turn on the ‘mind tape-recorder’ and let it play and re-play and play again when we’ve been offended.  We begin to hold onto the offense tenaciously, justifying it over and over in our minds why we are right to be hurt so.  Sometimes we really are right.  Sometimes people really are rude.  Sometimes others really do exclude us, or our children, and it really does hurt.  Sometimes our husbands don’t show us love by their actions or their words.  But…

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil… 1 Corinthians 13: 4-5

This summer, as the kiddos and I are memorizing 1 Corinthians 13 (“the looooove chapter”), God is really making me learn this.  No, I’m not talking about just learning the actual words, but I’m talking about the meaning behind them.   When I say “Love is patient; love is kind” or “Love is not self-seeking” or “It is not easily angered”, I am really challenged by what this will look like in my life when I *am* self-seeking or easily angered or unkind.  This kind of love seems impossible!

And, it is.  Whenever I become hurt about something–and I’m just going to go off on a limb here and assume I’m not the only one who becomes easily offended by others–my natural self, my flesh, wants to retaliate and hurt back.  I want to review the hurt as if we’re in a courtroom and I’m the judge who finds myself innocent and the other person wrong!  I want justice.  I want the world to be right.  But, because of all of our sins, we humans mess things up.  We hurt one another.  We overlook one another.  We exclude people, sometimes purposefully, sometimes accidentally.  The list goes on and on.  We are ripe for offense.

The choice is this:  we can either live continuously in an offended mode seeking our own version of justice or we can believe God’s Word is real.  My desire is to see my sin of holding onto offenses (either against me or against others close to me) quickly and to ask God to give me His strength to let them go.  Jesus is our example:

When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats.  Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.  1 Peter 2: 23

Here are some other power-filled words that can help us take a hurt and deal with it in a godly manner:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil.

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written, “It is Mine to avenge; I will repay”, says the Lord.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  Romans 12: 17, 19, 21

If we call ourselves Christians, we just can’t hold onto our rights.  Others may tell us, we may tell ourselves!, that we have the right to be hurt, or mad, or angry…but if we are Christians and believe God’s Word is true, we “have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  If it is Christ living in me, then I need to deny–crucify–my rights, my flesh.  When I am hurt by others, I need to recognize it as sin and ask God to forgive me and give me the strength to forgive others and to love them.  Perhaps the best antidote to the disease of offense is loving and serving those who have offended.  We just can’t do something like that unless we’ve been emptied of ourselves and our rights and filled up to overflowing with the Holy Spirit.  When we choose to love others instead of harboring anger or bitterness towards them, we are showing them Christ.  We are decreasing; He is increasing.

I’ve found that when I allow myself to become offended about things, it’s easier to be offended the next time someone hurts me.  It’s an insatiable cycle.  But, when I let go of the offense, God strengthens my spirit so the next time I am tempted to become offended, I remember that I need to let go of my rights and trust that God will take care of the situation.  He might cause the other person to change, but more than likely He will change me.  He might remind me that I am to “set my mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3: 2) and those things that seemed so important before take on a whole new light.

Love, Wendy

In the Vine

It’s gardening time once again for us northerners and I, for one, am very happy about that.  Nothing is more depressing than my beige house with its beige landscaping during the bleak winter season.  Once spring hits and the red buds burst open its blooms and the crab apples look luscious and the dog woods are just heavenly, I’m ready to plant my annuals and make my home colorful once again.  New life is appealing!  It brings hope and joy and, of course, I’m talking about more than the lovely flowers in my garden.

Who can’t help but be reminded of her new life in Christ when she sees the signs of spring all around?  Every single human being is born dead.  Weird, huh?  But, it’s true.  Every single human being is born dead because of the sin in the Garden of Eden.  That sin continues through all of human kind for all time.  And, because of that sin, Jesus died.  He took our sin upon Himself, He incurred the wrath of God against that sin, He gave His life for His children.  That sacrifice is what now gives us new life.

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.  He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.                               2 Corinthians 5: 17, 21

This new life isn’t just a one time thing.  We live it out every single day.  As we live out this incredible gift of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, how do we do it?  How do I live as a woman in Christ?  How do I live as a godly wife?  How do I parent in a way that brings out good fruit in my children?  How do I serve my family when I want to just serve myself?  I can only help my husband, love my children, serve others and die daily to myself when I am abiding in Christ.

Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.                John 15: 4-5

When I bought my new plants, they thrived for a short time on my back patio, but after a few days, they began to wilt and look pathetic.  They needed to be connected to the soil and water, nutrients that would provide them with life.  We, too, need to be connected to our Source of Life.  We are branches, Jesus says.  He is the vine.  He is our life source–remember, we were dead before He died for us and made us new creations.  He caused us to come alive, to be born again, because of His sacrifice.  Apart from Him, we are basically zombies walking around with dead hearts.  Sure, I can do things, but will they have eternal value?  Will they be for my glory or His?  How far does my own glory go?  Basically, until I’m in the ground or people just forget about me eventually after a few years or so.  God is eternal and His glory is forevermore.

As we go about our daily lives, the challenge is to get connected to Jesus.  His Word gives us direction, life, truth.  As I pray, and listen, He re-directs my thoughts and gives me peace that passes all understanding.  When I stick closely with Him, when I abide in Him, I am connected with the One who says He can do all things.  The One in whom all things are possible!  But, if I’m just doing things on my own, John 15: 5 says, I can do nothing.  How about that for humbling?

Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.                   James 4: 10

Our God is good, isn’t He?  Now, I must be off to go parent-in-the Vine…

Love, Wendy

Side by Side

After a long winter’s hibernation (from exercising), this girl has decided it’s time to get serious again.  What used to be a piece of cake now leaves me with aches and pains, unfortunately.  However, I’m determined to persevere and exercise through the discomfort because I know it’s good for me on so many levels.  It’s humbling, though, and this morning exemplified that process.

As I was walking at a slow-moderate pace, and contemplating the extent of my leg and shoulder aches, I heard a rustling noise from behind me.  I looked around and saw a jogger about 50 yards away.  Very soon after, the jogger was parallel to me on the road.  He looked at his stopwatch and realized it was time for a walking break.  Since he was a few steps ahead of me, I decided to examine this person a little more closely.  He was probably in his 60’s or 70’s.  His legs were very strong.  He was obviously a pro at this exercise thing.  During his walking break, he began focusing on his arm strength.  With weights in hand, he contracted over head, he released.  Over and over again, this man was working hard towards good health.  I, on the other hand, was a good 20-30 years his junior and in nowhere as good of health.  Part of me was quick to want to give up.  “I’ll never be back in shape again!”  “This isn’t even fun.”  “How long does it take to get leg muscles like that guy?”  On and on, the excuses started pouring out as I compared myself to that guy.

And, there’s the problem.  Comparing.  After a quick google search, I found that Sir John Fortescue is the author of one of my favorite quotes:

Comparisons are odious.

Odious indeed.  Stinky.  Pukey.  Nasty.  Garbage.

When we compare, we either find ourselves out on top or squashed down below like a bug.  Both are focused on ourselves, so it’s pride either way.  But, when I compare myself with another person, and I’m squashed down below, I want to give up.  If she exercises six times a week, and I only manage two times each week?  Yep, I just give up.  How do you compare yourself with others?  Do you ever compare yourself spiritually with other women?  I’m prone to do that too.  It is completely unproductive and it just ends up with me not liking the other women and me not growing spiritually.

I want this to be an encouragement to all of us women who are “side by side” with someone to whom we are comparing ourselves.  Instead of sizing one another up, let’s build one another up.  If you’re a stronger exerciser, help your friend who is struggling to maintain any exercise routine.  If you’re a more experienced pray-er, help your friend who has never prayed before and doesn’t know how to begin.  If you find yourself to be the weaker person, ask the stronger person for help…in whatever area it is.  It seems  I’ve almost always found that someone else is usually very willing to help me grow when I’m open to it.

As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.  Proverbs 27: 17

Love, Wendy

Impossible Prayers

Several months ago, a sweet friend of mine shared with me that she and her sister were fasting and praying on the first of each month.  The prayer request that drove them to fasting and praying on this regular basis was so earnest that I determined to join them.  Recently, during the appointed fasting day, I realized that the requests that I was praying were downright impossible ones.  Nothing about the requests were humanly do-able.  I can’t change a person’s heart.  I can’t heal an incurable disease.  I can’t make a person stop loving his sin.  I can’t peel off scales of deception.  I can’t fix a mental illness.  Have you ever prayed such impossible prayers?

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever!  Amen.  Ephesians 3: 20-21

What a relief to know that the God that we serve, the God Who is hearing these impossible prayers, is the One True God.  There is no one else like Him.  And, Jesus tells us that “with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Jesus was telling His disciples how it was possible for anyone to be saved; only through God.  His answer applies to many other prayer requests we lift, though, too.  In fact, the answer to all of our prayer requests is:  “With God all things are possible.”  Who knows how God is going to work in our lives?  It is not up to me to try to figure out God’s ways (see Isaiah 55: 8-9), but I can turn over every single concern and trust that He is a good God whose thoughts towards His children are thoughts of peace, not of evil, and His plans are to give us a future and a hope.  Certainly this is bound to look different than our plans and I pray that we can all determine to believe that God is indeed working all things together for good to those who love Him.

Are you praying impossible prayers?  Or are you giving up before believing that with God all things are possible?  The Ephesians passage reminds me that God can do so much that I cannot even measure His works, not by anything physical like a measuring stick nor by anything in my mind, like a really vivid imagination.

Let’s access His power that is at work in us and ask those impossible prayers.  May God be glorified in us and in the Church forever and ever!

Love, Wendy

Assimilation

On the way home from AWANA last evening, my little man Tate rode in the front seat with me (yes, the air bag was ‘off’).  He’s my thinker, my joker, my talker, you name it.  I enjoy a good conversation with him.  So, as we made the way from Toledo to our home, I wasn’t surprised that a song from the CD sparked some questions from him.

Why did the Israelites have to destroy the people in Canaan?

Why did the Canaanites worship other gods?

How come they couldn’t live together as friends?

That was just a sampling of the conversation that flowed as Jamie Soles and his family sang about the Old Testament in the background.  These are difficult questions to explain to an eight-year-old because in our human minds it seems “mean” that God would tell His children to do these things.  Yet, as I spoke to Tate, I kept bringing to mind this scripture:

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55: 8-9

and this one too:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.  Proverbs 3: 5-6

As I forged ahead in my comments with Tate, I realized how applicable God’s words to the Israelites really are to us today.  How?  Well, some of the biggest spiritual stumbles in the friends I’ve had, and even in my own life, particularly in college, were when we befriended someone who didn’t follow the Lord.  In my case, I began liking people, hanging around them, listening to their ideas, agreeing with their ideas because I liked them, and eventually forsaking my earlier beliefs.  Thanks to the tremendous mercy of God, Christ-followers spoke Truth into my life and my heart was soft enough to return to His ways, but this is not always the case.  Some continue stiff-necked into their own interpretations of the Word…”this person is so sincere and loving!  Surely, God didn’t really mean it when He said…”, and soon they are following their own wisdom and turning from God’s ways.  Like the Israelites, we begin adopting “gods” or “idols” of the culture.  We begin to second-guess what God has said in the Scriptures.  We begin to use our own wisdom in the circumstances.  I see this each and every day among Christians.  We have become more and more assimilated in “our Canaan” and we have begun to believe in our culture’s ways above our God’s.

If they’re happy, then I don’t see why they can’t get married.

They should have legal rights just like we do, regardless of their sexual orientation.

The mother should have the right to do as she chooses and not be told what to do.

God will forgive us.

Maybe my way (rather, God’s way) isn’t the only right one?

As we surround ourselves with the wisdom of the culture, we will begin falling away from God.  We are no different from the Israelites.  Do we honestly think we are?  Do we think that we can hang with the world and remain unaffected?  We are fooling ourselves!  God’s Word says:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.  Romans 12: 2

We do live in a different time than the Israelites.  We are certainly NOT to destroy those who are different from us nor are we to never befriend someone who doesn’t know Christ.  However, we must incorporate the wisdom of 2 Corinthians 6: 14 and not be unequally yoked with unbelievers for what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness?  As you befriend unbelievers, have the purpose of sharing the hope of Christ.  Be on guard and pray for protection from the lies of this world.  Be filled with the Holy Spirit so you can earnestly love them.  But, don’t become like them.  There is no eternal hope in that.  The principle remains for God’s people to be holy, to be pure.  Let’s be very mindful of what we surround ourselves with–what are we hearing?  watching?  loving?  believing? If any of it is contrary to the Word of God, cut it off.

Renew your mind with the Truth of the Bible and be strengthened by Him as you build the Kingdom of God!

Love, Wendy

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