Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Surrendering to a Life of Love and Encouragement

As I sat in church, I glanced across the aisle and saw Jeannette sitting with her family. As usual her countenance was cheerful and friendly.Although I have known her for years we have never been close friends. Even so, I have known Jeannette to be a woman of noble character, a woman after God’s own heart.

Every time I see her, my mind flashes back to a time when I asked her to critique one of my Christian talks. She was someone whose life reflected the love of God so I valued her input.
In her usual loving, kind and respectful way, she let me know that she could not offer her critique. As someone who had traveled with the Dale Carnegie Organization years earlier she had applied the principle of encouragement to her life. She was not comfortable being a critic even if it was solicited.

She seemed so sincere but I wondered if my message was lousy and she wasn’t comfortable telling me. As we continued to talk I realized it wasn’t about me. She truly could not offer a critique that would discourage anyone.

God’s Word says, “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (Colossians 4:6)

Years later, I can’t recall hearing Jeannette speak an unkind word to anyone or about anyone. Although the Dale Carnegie Organization is a reputable organization I know that it is not this company’s principles that have caused Jeannette to live her life set apart as an encourager.

As a follower of Christ, Jeannette’s life reflects the love and grace the Lord pours into a life whose heart is fully committed to Him. The Lord changes our lives from the inside out when we surrender our life into the Lord’s hands.

In 1907 Adelaide Pollard pinned the words to the old hymn, “Have Thine Own Way, Lord”. The words from the first verse, “Thou art the Potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me after Thy will, While I an waiting, yielded and still,” resonated in my mind.

Jeannette’s beauty was a reflection of the Lord’s love flowing from a woman yielded to the Lord. Her words of love and encouragement revealed what was in her heart.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

" How To Live In This World But Not Of This World"

“Let the words of my mouth and meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer.” (Psalms 19:14 KJV) This was one the first verses I remember memorizing as a child which has stayed with me throughout my life. It has been and truly continues to be my heart cry to the Lord.

For year, the Lord has blessed me by bringing this verse to my mind almost everyday of my life when I first wake up. I suppose the Lord knew that this would be a struggle for me and by His loving kindness and mercy, He has planted this verse not only in my mind but also in my heart.

Once my feet hit the floor, this heart cry to please the Lord with my words and thoughts is continually challenged all day long. No matter how much I truly mean what I prayed, I am faced almost instantly with the challenge of every thought I have and every word I speak.

Life would be so much easier if I could retreat and live apart in a monastery where I could be insulated from the world and set apart with the Lord. If I could spend all my time praying, reading the Word of God and enjoying the beauty of the Lord’s creation in quietness and solitude then perhaps, my words and my meditations would be continually acceptable to the Lord. Perhaps the things of this world that are defiled and impure would not touch my mind and influence the words that flow from my heart and mouth.

Yet isolation from the world is not the Lord’s plan for our lives. Jesus prayed to the Heavenly Father, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. (John 17:15-18 NIV)

He has called us to live in the world. A world full of imperfect people who are daily finding their own way through life as we know it here on earth. Opportunities arise all day long to be influenced by the world in which we live.  When we are in the world we are exposed to the things which do not please the Lord. These things can negatively impact our minds and potentially affect the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts.

He has called us to a challenge greater than we can achieve on our own efforts; to live in this world yet not be of this world. Jesus said, "Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You've lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.” (Matthew 5:12-14 The Message) In other words, we are called to be different. If we talk and act like those who do not know the Lord and are without hope, they will not be able to tell us apart from the world. So, how do we live in this world yet not be of this world?

Five Keys on " How To Live In This World But Not Of This World"

1) Keep a Heavenly Perspective. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:1-2 NIV)

2) Guard what goes into your mind “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things. (Philippians 4:8 NKJV)

3) Surrender your life and renew your mind in Christ Jesus.  “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. (Romans 1:1-2 NLT)

4) Realize you are a new creation in Christ Jesus. “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 NLT)

5) Take Heart for the Lord’s Mercies are New Every Morning. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"There but by the Grace of God Go I"

“There but by the grace of God go I”, how often that phrase is spoken yet I wonder how many times it’s said without really considering God’s grace in our lives.

Just like many popular phrases spoken in our culture, “There but by the grace of God go I” seems to slip out of our mouths so easily when we see a person whose life is in pain or sin.  It’s as if we’re saying, “Whew! I’m glad that’s not me!” We face the temptation to judge another not realizing that truly, “There but by the grace of God go I.”

As I look at my own life in comparison to those born and living in more challenging circumstances can I assume I am blessed because the Lord loves me more? Am I more deserving of a life free from pain because of any righteousness of my own? Was I able to conjure up righteousness making me more deserving of God’s grace?

Before giving their hearts and lives to the Lord, many people question why a good and loving God would allow the pain and suffering we see in our world. My husband like many struggled with how the Lord could let a child be born in a remote village in parts of the world where there is no mention of Jesus’ name. He questioned how it was fair in light of Jesus saying, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes unto the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).

My friend questioned why a good and loving God would take her child at a young age? Another friend questioned where was God when he lost his job and everything he owned as his family was left to suffer. Another friend cried to God when their dreams were shattered as their child was sentenced to prison. The heart breaks which come into lives because of sexual abuse, divorce, miscarriage, infertility, wayward children, broken relationships, physical pain and the death of a love one can often cause us to ask, “Where is God?’ This is a question that has been asked for thousands of years through the generations. Another question often asked is, “how could a good and loving God allow such pain and suffering?’

We cannot always understand why there is pain in suffering in our world but we know that we will face it through out our lives.  None of us are exempt from pain and suffering. Although God is a God of grace, He tells us, “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33). We see this not only in the lives of those who are suffering personally but also in our world. "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places" (Matthew 24:7).

At the end of John 16:33 the Lord completes the verse,  “ but I have overcome the world.” God is in control even when it seems that He is not. We may not always understand but we can know that the Lord is a good and just God who will do what is right even when we don’t understand.

He promises us that He will be with us when we go through the difficulties in our lives. “I am with you wherever you will go. I will never leave you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6). “ I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20).

In closing, when we see pain and suffering, do we just speak, “There but by the grace of God go I” as we go about our lives? Do we see ourselves as deserving of God’s grace because we think He loves us more than the person suffering or lost in sin? The Lord tells us, “There are none who do good, no not one.” (Romans 3:12)

Woven throughout the Word of God is a message of God’s love and God’s grace. He tells us, “I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:1).

Those of us who have recognized the Lord’s loving kindness and grace in our lives are given the privilege and responsibility of loving those who are still without hope. Will we judge or will we love as Christ loves us? Out of the overflow of the Lord’s mercy, love, and grace we are called to reach out to others. We are the answer to many prayers. God wants us to join Him in reaching a world that is without hope.

Ginger O'Neill