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Falling Short of Expectations, Ephesians 2:8-10

BuddyWithBone.WP

Do you ever feel like Buddy in this photo: There are good things in life you could enjoy if you’d just make the effort to grab onto it?

Sometimes I get discouraged when I read about the great heroes of the Bible: Job, Esther, Daniel, Nehemiah, Noah and Joseph. They seem so perfect, so heroic. Job who suffered so greatly yet would not curse God nor lose his faith in God’s goodness; Esther, who was willing to sacrifice her life to save the Jewish people; Daniel, who was such a good person that his enemies could find nothing to accuse him of to get him into trouble with the king; Nehemiah, who had the wisdom to pray on the spot for God’s help in a precarious moment and to ask the king to assist him in a great and mighty task; Noah, who spent over a hundred years building a boat with absolutely no evidence there would be a flood yet believed God anyway; and Joseph, who didn’t grumble and complain no matter how unfairly he had been treated and maintained his faith in God, despite his adverse circumstances.

Sometimes I feel that being of use to God in furthering His kingdom is just beyond my grasp. I want to pick up that bone and run with it and be faithful and a good Christian. But I grumble and complain when work sucks or life doesn’t go my way; I get discouraged when I don’t see God answering my prayers; I forget to pray when under stress; and people could easily find fault with me. Despite my best efforts to serve God, I feel like I fall short every day.

Way, way short of God’s standards of how I should behave.

And then, when I start to look upward and not at myself, I remember what God says in Ephesians 2:10:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are HIS WORKMANSHIP, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we would walk in them.” (NASB, CAPS my emphasis)

  1. God didn’t choose to save me because he thought I was so wonderful. But I am HIS creation. He chose to make me and save me because He loves me. And He is the one who accepted me. He’s totally 100% good and kind, yet He chose this sinful person to be in communion with Him and His Holy Spirit indwells me.
  2. “There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus.”–Romans 8:1 God knows I cannot live up to His righteous standards. That’s why Christ had to die and take the penalty for my sin, because there’s no way I can earn God’s favor. He freely chooses to love me, despite my faults, flaws and failures.
  3. Because I’m so flawed, I can boast in a good and loving God.
  4. God loves variety. I’m different from other people because God designed me that way. I’m unique and my job to do on this earth is, therefore, unique to me.
  5. God chose what works I am supposed to accomplish in my lifetime. His plan for me is not the same as the pastor’s or my friends or my fellow Christian believers. “He who began a good work in (me) will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”–Philippians 1:6  I can trust that God, as my good Shepherd Who leads me in the paths of righteousness for His namesake” (Psalm 23:3) will guide Me into accomplishing the deeds/works He wants me to accomplish.

Sometimes we feel bad because we don’t have the gifts or the accomplishments that other “Super Christians” seem to have and we don’t win those great battles. Yet one man led Billie Graham to Christ and because of that one man’s faithfulness, Mr. Graham accomplished great things for God. (I was saved through Billie Graham’s TV ministry in 1989.)

As my dad has often told me, “There’ll always be someone greater or lesser than yourself.” If I compare myself to the superstars, I’ll feel discouraged.

I have to remind myself that my relationship with God is a personal relationship and that “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14a); God didn’t make a mistake when He made me and chose me.

“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”–Psalm 46:10

So I need to stop striving and trust that God will accomplish His good purposes in my life, and when I’ve completed my God-assigned tasks, He’ll call me home to eternal joy.

God bless you, my dear reader.

***PS. If you follow my site regularly, thank you. I try to follow your site back, but sometimes I have trouble finding the follow button.

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If you aren’t born-again, you’re missing out on a wonderful love relationship. Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean that life becomes gravy street, but God will give you strength to face life. You’ll no longer be alone. You were born with a piece of your inner life puzzle missing, and only He can complete it. Please say this prayer below to begin your faith journey.

“Lord, I’ve offended you by my sin and fallen short of your standards. I accept that I can never be good enough to atone for my sins so that Jesus was punished on the Cross on my behalf. Please forgive me and save me from myself. Change me by sending the Holy Spirit to live Your life through Me.”

“Your heavenly Father (will) give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him”–Luke 11:13

Congratulations, brother or sister on becoming born-again. Please begin to read your Bible and pray that God will lead you to a Bible-based church where you can grow and fellowship with other believers. God bless you richly. Love you, my fellow believer, Dawn

 

 

 

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Weeds, Philippians 4:8

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Picture of a swamp near a boardwalk in Renton, Washington. A picture of my beloved Silky terrier, Buddy, is much more pleasant to look at, isn’t it?

Weeds seem to sprout so quickly and without requiring any attention. It’s those happy, positive and uplifting thoughts that seem to take so much effort to bring to mind. Slowly, since becoming a Christian, God has been revealing my weedy thoughts that need to be cast out. My mind requires daily, careful pruning. As the Good Shepherd leads me in the paths of righteousness (Psalm 23:3), I’m discovering more and more weeds that need to be yanked out. It’s like, after pulling out the big messy plants, I’m discovering the ones with tough roots that have been lurking in the shadows or just beneath the surface. Slowly, I’m learning to plant lilies instead of swamp grass, lavender instead of moss, attracting butterflies instead of mosquitoes.

I frequently have to pray:

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, [may I] dwell on these things.”–Philippians 4:8 (I leave out the extra whatevers, praying just the first one.)

But the key is the word “dwell”. I cannot keep the weeds from drifting downstream into the lake of my mind from the world, the flesh and the enemy of our souls, but I can keep from dwelling upon those thoughts. I can reject them and choose to replace them with better thoughts.

I believe it’s a lifelong learning process. Be kind to yourself by not condemning yourself. Start where you are and move forward. Kicking yourself doesn’t do anything other than give you a sore butt.

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Now isn’t this a much better picture to dwell upon? I love this little guy!

God’s Bath, James 4:6

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Got a surprise tonight. I didn’t plan on spending part of my Saturday evening giving my dog a bath, but it was pointed out to me by a family member that he had a “poopie butt”. That can happen when you aren’t properly maintaining your dog’s coat and let the fur on the back end get too long near the anus.

At time God has to give me a little “bath” too. In His eyes, I am cleansed of my sins because of my faith in Jesus, which was His gift of righteousness to me, unearned (Ephesians 2:4-9) but sometimes I get my feet dirty.

“Jesus said to (Peter), ‘He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean,'”–John 13:10

At times I’ll get a little haughty and think, “I’m doing OK this week in the sin department,” and then God points His finger at me and says, “Well, what about this?”

And I’ll respond, “Augh! Oh no! You’re right, Lord. I shouldn’t be thinking or doing that or having that attitude. Please help me to change.”

God doesn’t toss me into the bathtub to punish me, but to show me where I need to improve to better glorify Him, and serve Him and others.

“God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”–James 4:6

It was pride that caused Satan to fall and become the leader of all wickedness, and pride that caused the Pharisees and chief priests and the elders of the Jewish people to hand Jesus over to Pilate to be crucified:

“For (Pilate) knew that that because of envy they had handed Him over.”–Matthew 27:18

When we become born-again and enter into God’s family as one of His beloved children, we are GIVEN the righteousness of Christ so that we can fellowship with a holy God. A parable of the Christian life that preachers often use to illustrate our changed condition from unbeliever to believer is the caterpillar which weaves a cocoon and emerges, after radical change, into a beautiful butterfly. But as Pastor Bob George points out, we sometimes don’t fly like we should. Sometimes we stay down on the ground and wiggle through the mud like we’re still fuzzy worms.

I add: Then when we try to fly it’s difficult to soar upward and enjoy the freedom of flight when we have mud coating our wings. We have to shake that mud off so that we can fly well. God doesn’t knock the mud off our wings to make us feel bad or to depress us; He wants us to fly in the freedom He’s given us from the bondage of sin and from the consequences that bad or wicked attitudes can bring into our lives.

It feels great to fly free. Thank you, Lord, when you correct me.

And Lord, thank you I can fly in the joy of faith in the sunshine of Your love although there’s still a lot of mud speckling my wings.

Thanks for your time. I realize you have myriads of choices on how to spend it. I appreciate you chose to spend a little with me.

***

End note: If you are not born-again, you may feel free but you’re actually walking in bondage to the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) Jesus said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me will live even if he dies,” (John 11:25). Please consider saying this prayer: “Father, I admit that I have offended you and cannot live up to Your righteous standards. I accept that Jesus died on the Cross to take the punishment I deserve for my sin. Please forgive me and enter into my heart and give me eternal life in Christ. Be my Lord and teach me to walk in your ways.” If you’ve said this prayer, God promises to “give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him”–Luke 11:13  God bless you and guide you to a Biblically-based church fellowship.

 

Strength From Joy, Nehemiah 8:9-10

Happy Buddy

I tried to give Buddy a walk earlier today, but the construction noise across from the park frightened him and he made a mad dash back to my car. He gave me a happy smile when he managed to claim the driver’s seat. Because he felt safe in my car, he could abandon fear and smile again.

Nehemiah was the cup bearer for King Artaxerxes of the ancient Medo-Persian empire. The great king allowed Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem in 445 BC to rebuild the city wall that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had destroyed. Inspired by God, pagan King Artaxerxes also provided the funds and supplies for the project. During those times cities were usually encircled by walls to protect them from their enemies. Because of Nehemiah’s leadership skills, the motley and varied group of Jewish inhabitants of the city rebuilt the wall in 52 days. What was particularly amazing is that these people were not professional builders: women, perfumers, goldsmiths, and all sorts of persons lugged stones for the walls and hung doors for the gates.

After the great project was completed, all the people gathered to hear Ezra the scribe bless them. He also read from the Book of the Law (Old Testament) and explained it in a way that was understandable. The people wept bitterly when they realized they fell far short of God’s requirements.

“Then Nehemiah who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, ‘This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep….Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.'”–Nehemiah 8:9-10

When we’re focused on our works and failures, rather than on God’s goodness and might, we can be self-preoccupied, cranky, bitter and miserable. But what does God say?

“For You have cast all my sins behind your back.”–Isaiah 38:17

“As far as the east is from the west, So far has He moved our transgressions from us.”–Psalm 103:12

After we’ve confessed our sins, God doesn’t continue to hold them against us. He doesn’t want us walking around with long, pious faces. I really think Jesus wasn’t like the movies portray him: serious-looking all the time. I believe he was full of joy, radiating abundant health, because people were drawn to Him and wanted to be near Him. No one is drawn toward a sour puss.

When we are focused on our sin and unworthiness, we’re self-preoccupied rather than God-occupied. Most people are unhappy. If they see Christians who are joyful, even despite adverse circumstances, they will be drawn to you and will listen to your testimony because you clearly have something they lack: joy.

And from personal experience, I feel healthier when I’m focused on God’s goodness, the beauty of nature and positive things in life, rather than where I’m failing or where others are falling short. I feel more pep in my step when I’m focused on the positive instead of being self-preoccupied.

Folks, be God-occupied and rejoice! God is good, thinks about you a lot, and He loves you. You can trust Him to “guide (you) in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3). And “Who always leads us to triumph in Christ,” (2nd Corinthians 2:14).

You can relax in Jesus. He’ll continue to guide you. “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”–Philippians 1:6

End note: If you are not born-again, you can still find temporary joy in nature but without the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, you are not being guided into triumph in Christ. Please consider saying this prayer: “Father, I admit that I have a sinful heart, have offended you and cannot live up to Your righteous standards. I accept that Jesus died on the Cross to take the punishment I deserve for my sin. Please forgive me and enter into my heart. I trust that on the third day after the Crucifixion Jesus was resurrected bodily, an acceptable sin sacrifice, to give me eternal life. Be my Lord and teach me to walk in your ways.” If you’ve said this prayer, God promises to “give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him”–Luke 11:13  God bless you and guide you to a Biblically-based church fellowship.

Quotes from the NASB version of the Bible

 

Fairy Tale Ending, 1 Corinthians 2:9

Buddy.WP.SunshinewithShawdow

When I first adopted Buddy, he was terrified of me and my family. But after several years of love and treats, walks and healthy food, he finally relaxed and enjoys our company. He was rescued from a situation where he was kicked and chased and now enjoys a loving home.

You might feel like life gives you, not love and affection, but numerous kicks and suffering. You might have chronic pain or financial problems that seem insurmountable, or family members and coworkers who torment you, or great past affliction that’s difficult to forgive or forget.

But please think of your life as a fabulous story. Every good story has conflict or it’d be tremendously boring: times of great suffering and trials that must be overcome, monsters to be slain. But the hero endures, and because he/she never gives up, triumphs.

However, if you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, your unique life story has a fairy tale ending. One day you will be present with the Lord in Heaven which is so wonderful that we cannot imagine it, says Apostle Paul,

“Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.”–1 Corinthians 2:9

Just think of your favorite book with the happy ending you enjoy so much and Heaven is far better.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”–Revelation 21:4

You enter into a relationship with Jesus by believing that He died for your sins, suffered the punishment you deserved, and maintain your relationship with Him by faith (Galatians 3). You cannot do anything to deserve your eternal salvation, nor can you do anything to maintain your salvation:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”–Ephesians 2:8-9

Jesus had the courage to voluntarily face the tremendous suffering of Crucifixion because He kept his eyes on the “joy set before Him endured the cross”–Hebrews 12:2

“Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize…”–Apostle Paul, Philippians 3:13

So when life seems hard and you want to give up, please remember to keep your focus on the joy ahead. You are the lead character in your own life story. And your story has a fairy tale ending if you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Rejoice! This is good news!

Focusing on Joy: Hebrews 12:2

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Here in the Seattle area most people look forward to watching the Seahawks football team play. As I am typing, fireworks are blowing off, signaling that the Hawks have scored. Buddy is less than enthusiastic about the fireworks, however, and is cowering near my feet.

“…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”–Hebrews 12:2

Jesus was able to endure the agonizing pain and humiliation of the cross because His focus was on the end result, the great joy of reconciling humankind to Himself, removing the sin barrier separating us from God. His sitting down at the right hand of the Father symbolizes, (I’ve been told by spiritual authorities I respect), the finished work of Christ on the Cross. There is nothing to add to His work. “…if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;”–Apostle  Paul, Romans 10:9

As Christians, we have something far more wonderful to look forward to: Our lives have a very happy ending.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”–Apostle Paul, Romans 8:18

Our lives are like fairy tales. There are great dangers and sorrows to be faced and overcome, but in the end (as in most of the traditional tales) there is a happy ending. I encourage you to imitate Christ and keep your focus on the end game, the goal line: our joyful eternity with God.

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.”–God, Isaiah 65:17

One day, all of these present sufferings will pass away and we’ll live in never-ending joy.

God bless you this Christmas Season.

Dawn and Buddy

NASB Version of the Bible quoted from.