Thursday, May 13, 2010

In God's Grace....

We talked a few posts back about grace, particularly God's grace. Grace is getting something that I totally don't deserve. I don't deserve forgiveness for the multiple ways I sin against my savior. I don't deserve the spiritual blessings that are mine in Christ! I don't deserve any semblance of joy in my life. I don't deserve such a great, faithful husband. I don't deserve my amazing little boy. Yet, I have a gracious God who has given me all of these things. Well, in God's grace he has given us more blessings. Not only has the Lord provided a new job for Chris (one that looks like it will be a good job), but he has also provided a great blessing in the area of Chris going back to graduate school. He has this week been selected as one of the graduate assistants at Baptist Bible College and the payment for those services come in the form of tuition at the graduate school. We are thrilled with this opportunity, as Chris finishing his Master's Degree was one of the main reasons we moved back to the Springfield area. For a variety of reasons going back to school has not been possible yet, but now, in God's mercy

it most certainly is and we are so thankful for the opportunity! I've included a picture of Landon swinging as well just for fun. He loves to play outside!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Ephesians 1:15-23 is such a powerful prayer. Paul prays some really big things for the believers in Ephesus, all of it based on what he had just told them in verses 3-14. "For this reason"... I pray all of these things. I really liked how Wendy summarized it, "Because God determined before time began to adopt us into his family, to redeem us from our sins, to lavish his grace on us, to reveal his plans to us, and to give us his Spirit as a seal to us to guarantee our inheritance as his children, we enter this prayer of thanksgiving." There is so much to unpackage here and I won't pretend to hit on it all, but a couple of things stood out.

Paul prays that the believers in Ephesus would have a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of their hearts enlightened. I think I forget at times how much I need the Holy Spirit to open my eyes as I dig into the Word. I can study and study and study, but unless God opens the eyes of my heart to understand the depths of the truths I'm reading and studying about, I'll never get it! I need the Spirit to work in me through the Word. I can do nothing on my own.

But there is a reason he asks for that for these people. There is a nice little word in there, 'that.' 'That you may know...' Oh there is so much to know about God!! And Paul gives us quite the list here. "That you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe." Three things: our hope, our inheritance, and His power.

Wendy started off talking about our hope in a neat way. "In verses 3-14, Paul dealt with the facts of our calling. Now he calls on us to attach to it an emotion--hope." This hope has a foundation. We can have hope because of all that we learned in verses 3-14. We have hope because of the grace that God lavishes on us, because of the inheritance we have, because the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance, because of the spiritual blessings he pours down on us. These and more are the reasons for our hope! The emotion of hope emerges as the substance as these facts get driven deep into our hearts and minds. I must continually bring to mind these truths to have the hope that emerges from my calling in Christ.

We also have an inheritance. A rich inheritance at that! Sometimes I am the spiritual miser that Wendy described with so much spiritual wealth at my fingertips but so wretched and unhappy. Why or why do I get that way? Duh, Abbie! I let myself forget about my inheritance! I am wealthy beyond imagination because I have been left a huge spiritual inheritance. Forget about inheriting money. As nice as that might sound, how much better to inherit the rich, eternal, spiritual inheritance that God has left for us!

And lastly, power. God doesn't leave us wondering what power he's referring to either. He reminds us that the power we have access to is the same power that raised Christ from the dead, seated him at the right hand of the Father, above every name that is named at any point in human history or the future. All things are under his feet! This is THE GOD. The one and only most powerful God and His power is directed in our favor!

This is kind of a lot for one day. There is so much here! But as I meditate on these things, even in their limited scope that I understand them and describe them here, hope truly is the result. I have SO much in Christ!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Adoption... to the praise of HIS glorious grace!

I'm going to make some more comments about Ephesians study I'm going through. Nothing huge stuck out to me last Friday in my reading and study in Wendy's commentary... that is until I went back to look for something to write about. And she didn't even talk specifically about it in this way, but as I read through the passage and put together some of what she had talked about, verses 5-6 really impacted me.

5 In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Wendy says, "God has not rationed out his grace on us. Unlike me he does not calculate exactly and round to the nearest cent. He abundantly exceeds our needs. He pours his grace out on us so that it overflows. He furnishes us in rich measure." Remember what we talked a few days as far as grace goes... It is something that we absolutely, completely do NOT deserve! We have done nothing to deserve what God gives us in his glorious, magnificent, splendorous grace... But what sparkled to me so much in this passage is what was given in grace: 'In love he predestined us for adoption as sons'!!!! Not only are we adopted, but we are not destined to live in the attic like little Sarah Crew in A Little Princess (Sorry, too much Shirley Temple for me when I was a kid). No... we are adopted as sons and daughters of God to reign with Him! All this is part of HIS will and it for the praise of HIM and HIS incomparable grace that HE continually blesses us with (notice how it's all about him... not about me)!

Wow, what a God we have to choose us to be his children. We are hand picked to receive redemption through Christ's blood, have our innumberable sins forgiven, and it's all because his grace is so rich and deep. He lavishes that grace on us. Note that he doesn't just sprinkle a bit here and there. No, he spreads it all over us (maybe like I do cream cheese on a bagel? Ha! There is no comparison!) He pours His grace out so that it overflows in the rich blessings of a loving Father. I just want to revel in that truth!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Spiritual Blessings

I continued in my study through Wendy's commentary on Ephesians this morning and am really enjoying some of the details she draws out. I don't have the book in front of me to give any direct quotes, but particualry the Lord convicted my heart this morning of the way I've been looking for his blessings. Ephesians 1:3 says 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places' (ESV).

God continually blesses me beyond my comprehension, but so often I'm looking in the wrong places for it. Paul says that he blesses us with spiritual blessings. I realized this morning, just how much of that I've overlooked over the last year and half. Chris had been in a job with little income coming in and we purposefully chose for him to tough it out, looking forward to that income growing. And while it did, that growth was slower than expected and put us in some pretty precarious financial situations. I did not see God's blessings very easily during this time. Now, God provided.... we never went hungry, always made it to work on what gas we had, and really never suffered. God was good to us. But it was often difficult for me to feel 'blessed'. Mostly I think I was just frustrated wondering why on earth a good God was letting us go through this time of struggle. I knew that God was good and that this situation would be to our benefit, but I think I was looking for the material blessings, and even though I was trying to look for them, totally missing the spiritual ones! Having experienced this season of little, I know I will have more empathy with others who struggle financially in the future where in the past I might have been more unkind (at least in my heart). I know that God has shown me He IS good, even in the hard times. I don't have to wonder if He is pouring out his wrath against me. He has already poured it out on His Son! (Thank you Elyze Fitzpatrick for helping me to understand that in Because He Loves Me!). I have never been good with managing my or our family's finances, but after this difficult season, I'm ready to live within the means God has has given me and be thankful for that means, however big or small it may be.

There are so many other lessons learned and things I will carry on with me and maybe, just maybe these are the spiritual blessings that God has been granting me through what was one of the most difficult seasons of my life. When I see in Scripture that God blesses us, I need to look for the spiritual blessings. They are so much greater than anything material He could give me!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I started a new study last night through Ephesians using a study guide by Wendy Horger Alsup called By His Wounds You Are Healed: how the message of Ephesians transforms a woman's identity. I've been really excited to read through her commentary on the book of Ephesians as I really enjoyed her other published book Practical Theology for Women. She seems to have a genuine desire to understand the text of God's Word in it's literal translation, not adding to it, nor taking away from it, and not bringing any preconceived notions with her. And I appreciate her desire for strong, deep theologically rooted writing for women that is true to the text, as that can be hard to find.

As I read through her notes in the first chapter of the book she presented grace in a way that I'd never thought of it before and I found it refreshing as well as convicting and I wanted to share what I've learned. In the second verse of Ephesians Paul is greeting the saints in Ephesus and says to them 'Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. ' (I want to study out the greek for myself, and haven't done so yet, but at this point I'm trusting Wendy's research.) She says that the Greek word translated grace in this verse is charis and is used throughout the New Testament in Ephesians as well as other books. Many of us know the basic definition of grace. It's a very important term for believers! Basically grace is loving kindness, favor, or a gift. Many of us grew up learning grace as God's Riches At Christ's Expense. But what struck Wendy the most (and me!) is the way charis is not used. Grace or charis is NOT about giving what is due. And it really hit me when she showed the use of the greek word charis in Luke 6. I'll quote it here with what the words charis is translated into in italics.

Luke 6: 32 If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

This passage really drew out for me what grace is NOT! I'll quote Wendy's response. "When you give back what is earned or deserved, it is not charis--it is not grace. It is not favor or benefit, and it is not credited toward you as anything other than exactly what you are expected to do. Instead, grace does what is unexpected, undeserved, and out of line with reasonable responses."

All this really made me think... do I show others grace or do I simply show them what I am expected to? "Jesus says the evidence of our understanding of His grace is the way we show grace to others."  I have shown grace. Forgiven when I didn't have to. Loved when I was not. Given without expecting anything in return. But how often do I only do those things when I expect to get it back, or when it's already been shown to me? Ouch. This convicts me and I hope makes me continue to question the way I am treating others. God has shown me much grace and I need to share it with others.