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The God Who Seeks Us

There are some people who seem to think that the message of the Bible is one which tells us what we have to do in order to please this God whom we have offended. That again is quite wrong. The Bible tells us about what God has done in order to reconcile us to Himself. I want to put that very strongly. Not only is God not unwilling to receive us, it is He who goes out of His way to seek us. So if we want to grasp the biblical doctrine of redemption we must once and for ever get rid of that notion which has been instilled into the human mind and heart by the devil, who is God’s adversary and our adversary, and who tries to make us believe that God is against us. But the Bible’s message is that `God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son. . .’ (John 3:16).

— Martyn Lloyd Jones

reposted from The Old Guys

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John 3:16

For God (the greatest being) so loved(the greatest emotion) the world (the greatest population), that he gave (the greatest sacrifice) his only Son (the greatest gift), that whoever (the greatest invitation) believes (the simplest way)  in him should not perish (the greatest punishment) but (the greatest contradiction) have (the strongest possession) eternal life (the greatest reward).

John 3:16

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Yesterday I attended and helped serve at a memorial service for one of the young men who faithfully attended and served my church.

I only met him a short nine months ago when I heard his story and offered to help with his quickly approaching wedding.  In the smallest nutshell- he’d had cancer, it went into remission, he met the love of his life, the cancer returned, so the wedding was moved up.  There’s so much more to his story, but that [run-on] sentence was enough to make me want to help.

The wedding was in January; the couple shared a few sweet months together, then he was called home to his Father.

As I mentioned before, I did not get to know him well.  Despite that, I can still tell you what kind of man he was.  I have heard stories from his life; I have seen the impact his life had on others.

He loved Jesus.
Not in a cheesy, bumpersticker way, but in an all out, completely passionate way.  He lived and breathed to glorify God, until the last moment of his life and through his final breath.  I’m sure he struggled; I’m sure he faced times of fear and doubt.  But his faith persevered through those trials.

He loved his wife.
People always look at the bride during a wedding (and well they should), but if you looked at him instead you would have seen a radiant groom.  He loved her the way Christ loves his church; his final wish being that his wife would be taken care of.

He loved his family.
And his family loved him.  I could see the deep loved shared among the family first in the joyful wedding, then saw in the tears shed at the memorial.  One of the most amazing moments to watch was when his brother was baptized during the service.

He loved his church.
A humble servant, he could be found serving in any way possible.  Our church recently asked people to sign up to volunteer on various service teams.  I heard this young man wanted to sign up for nearly every serving opportunity- despite his failing health!  He could be found doing anything from sweeping floors and stacking chairs to praying with people and greeting at the doors.

He loved people.
I heard story after story about how he had encouraged, prayed for, challenged, inspired, discipled, loved someone.  Though his time was shorted than many, he left an impression on many people, and always pointed them back to his Savior.

He left a legacy.
His legacy is not comprised of fame, fortune, power, or anything else typically associated with the word.  Instead his legacy is left in the hearts of those who knew him or heard his story.  His legacy is one that will encourage, challenge, and inspire people.  His legacy is not his own, it points right back to Jesus.

 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.  For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
Romans 14:7-9

 

In memory of
Nolan Roquet
http://www.nolanandkacie.com

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I worked at an equestrian center [ie a place with horses where people learn how to ride].  We teach a lot of lessons to a lot of people, including young kids.  A while back we had a young girl start riding; she was an odd child, but sweet and she loved the pony she rode.

During one of her typical lessons on a typical Saturday riding her typical pony, she started crying.  Not just sniffling, but sobbing almost hysterically, tears and snot running all over her and the pony.  Baffled, the instructor stopped the pony and tried asking the girl what was wrong.  Through her tears the girl tried choking out an explanation, but to no avail.  With persistence and concern, the instructor continued to ask what was wrong, telling the girl she wouldn’t get any help unless she calmed down and explained what was wrong.

After minutes of uncontrolled sobbing, the girl collected herself.  She took a deep breath, and said this to her instructor, “can I have a cup of water?”

Bewildered, and amused, the instructor brought her the cup of water.  The girl drank it; now satisfied, she continued with her lesson.

To this day, I still can’t figure out why the girl went hysterical for a cup of water.  I know I said she’s an odd child, but it was such a simple request that her tantrum and tears were not in the least bit necessary.

And yet, here I am, significantly older [and supposedly more mature] than the girl, doing the exact same thing with God.

Maybe not in the literal sense.  I don’t [often] throw a temper tantrum complete with crocodile tears and a snot dripping nose.  But at least in the spiritual sense.

I whine.  I complain.  I voice my opinion so loudly that I can’t even hear the soft, quiet voice whispering directly to my heart.  My frustrations are more important.  My plans should matter most.  The things I want should be handed to me on a shiny silver platter.

Seriously?

I have the  audacity to assume my plans should be more important than God’s plans? Somehow in my finite and very limited knowledge and logic it actually makes sense to demand things from God.  Am I actually arrogant enough to stand before the creator of the universe and inform him that he made a mistake in his plans?  Do I have any right to command God to act according to my desires?

No.

Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
-Job 38:2-4

Matt Chandler, in The Explicit Gospel, summarizes these verses in near perfection: “In other words, “Who do you think you are? … You think you’re so smart?  Were you there when I created the world?  No?  I didn’t think so.  Know your place, son.”

Uhmm, ouch.

Begging, pleading, whining, screaming, kicking, crying, sniffling, sobbing, demanding, commanding, threatening, bargaining, promising, imploring, proposing, requiring, negotiating, badgering, beseeching, or ordering will get you no where.

There’s nothing we have to bargain with or offer in service that doesn’t already belong to God.

That doesn’t mean that we can never question God, that we can never ask for things to be different.  But our hearts should be soft and our attitude should be one of humility.

God loves us and wants to hear from us.  Prayer isn’t a way to get what you want from God; he’s not a genie that grants our every wish.  Prayer is a way to develop and strengthen a relationship with him, bringing our hearts and desires closer in line with his.

“Prayer doesn’t change God, but it changes him who prays” -Soren Kierkegaard

In humility we can approach God, and he will answer us.  It may not be the answer we want to hear, but that does not mean God is punishing us, doesn’t care about us or is messing with us.  It means that his plans are better and we need to keep our faith in him and his plans.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Philippians 4:6

“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.”
1 Peter 3:12

No kicking, screaming, crying, whining needed.

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yet another gem posted on theoldguys.org

JOHN CALVIN: GOD’S GIFT

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23

It may however be hence inferred with certainty, that our salvation is altogether through the grace and mere beneficence of God. He might indeed have used other words — that the wages of righteousness is eternal life; and then the two clauses would correspond: but he knew that it is through God’s gift we obtain it, and not through our own merits; and that it is not one or a single gift; for being clothed with the righteousness of the Son, we are reconciled to God, and we are by the power of the Spirit renewed unto holiness. And he adds, in Christ Jesus, and for this reason, that he might call us away from every conceit respecting our own worthiness.

~John Calvin~

it really is all about Jesus

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Memories

Some memories fade away with time. Others stay in perfect focus, no matter how much time passes.

I’ve forgotten the sound of her voice. But I remember the silence of the hospital room that morning.

I’ve forgotten the warmth of her embrace. But I remember the chill of grief.

I’ve forgotten the faces of the people who gathered around us. But I remember the one I’ll never see in this life again.

I’ve forgotten plenty. But I remember more. The colors may have faded, but the picture remains. I remember who she was, not what she was. It’s those memories that I’m thankful for. It’s those memories that have encouraged me over the years.

I remember….

Her love for her Lord. She was faithful, confident in Christ through life’s storms.

Her love for her husband. She was a helper, steadfast at his side.

Her love for her children. She was an amazing mother, always there when we needed her.

Her love for others. She was a servant, helping those in their times of need.

The life she lived, the legacy she left is one I am thankful for. I learned so much from her. Even without me realizing it, she was helping shape me into the person I am today. Her heart for Christ encouraged me to have the same heart. The joy she found in serving others inspired me to follow a similar path. I’m so blessed to have had her in my life.

Grief is still felt, tears may still fall. Part of me longs for a life that would still include her. But God’s grace has brought me through the trials. The pain I thought would destroy me God used to build me. The sufferings I thought would break me God used to shape me.

I may not know how my trials are going to be used to glorify God.  But I have to trust that they will be.

Faith does not know why in terms of the immediate, but it knows why it trusts God who knows why in terms of the ultimate.
-Os Guiness

I know He is faithful.  Despite the grief and pain, I can hold fast to Him.  In him I am strong, by his grace I can keep fighting.

Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

Miss you mom.
Love you always.

in memory of Tanya Maria Clemmer

November 8, 1964 – February 12, 2004

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When It All Hits the Fan

Where do you first seek comfort when your world seems to be collapsing?

What refuge do you run to when the attacks increase?

Do you keep fighting?  Or do you lay down your sword and hightail it off the front lines?

I’ve been thinking about these questions a lot this week.  It was a rough week.  This time of year is always hard for me; next Sunday will mark eight years since my mom passed.  Add to that the physical and mental exhaustion of working 27 days straight and things are going to be emotionally messy.

And then the “bad news” started rolling in.  First one thing, then another.  From all different sides.  Devastating things I was aware may happen started happening.  Things I wasn’t expecting to happen happened.  Things in my life, in the lives of people I’m close to, in our lives collectively.

It felt as though we [I] had been thrown under the bus.  And then that bus reversed and drove over us again.

And in each of those moments I had a choice.  I could choose to be overwhelmed with grief and pain, stop fighting, and run from everything and everyone I was fighting for.

Or I could keep fighting.  Hold on to the truths that I believe in and not let the tactics of the enemy knock me down.

The God I believe in, the gospel I’m fighting for is more powerful than anything the enemy can throw my way.  Those darts may hurt, will hurt; Satan isn’t powerless.  But ceasing to fight for God means I would then be fighting against Him.  And that would destroy me:  God’s already won the war, Satan’s trying to take down as many people as he can with him.

Satan doesn’t care about me, or anybody.  He’s not trying to save me, he’s out to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).

Jesus is the savior.  He’s rescued me from myself and daily saves me from the enemy.

People say “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle”.  I can’t handle squat.  I think it’s more “God doesn’t give you more than He can handle”- I just have to trust in him to handle things.

So, by God’s strength and grace, I keep fighting.  When it all hits the fan, I’m not destroyed.  Battered and bruised, perhaps.

The Bible doesn’t paint a perfect, easy description of the Christian’s life.

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.  For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.  So death is at work in us, but life in you.”
2 Corinthians 4:8-12

But there is also this hope and comfort

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.  If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.  Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Hold on to God.  Hold on to the gospel truths.  Especially when it seems so much easier to let it all go.

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Husky Stadium, June 11, 2011.  UW Commencement ceremony.  There I was, proudly wearing my cap and gown with thousands of other students.  Together, with our friends and families watching from the stands, we listened to the ceremony speakers, and then row by row we walked up on stage, picked up a diploma, shook hands with the dean while a photo was taken, posed for a solo photo, then walked back to our seat.

It was an exciting day to be sure.  But something was still hanging over me.

I wasn’t done.  I still had 15 more credits to complete before actually earning the diploma I had just picked up.

Part of me wanted to call it quits with that.  I didn’t want to do summer quarter; I didn’t want to persevere through more homework, more tests, more papers.  But posing for a picture wasn’t enough to satisfy the requirements to be considered a UW graduate.  If I really wanted to achieve that title, I had to finish.

Summer quarter wasn’t my finest.  I felt like I didn’t really have to try.  In my mind I thought I deserved the degree; after all, I had already been presented with the diploma- I had the pictures the prove it!  So I failed a class.  Which meant I didn’t actually graduate.  Whoops.  Autumn quarter came around, this time I finished.

I did the work required of me.  By God’s grace alone I graduated (no, really- I can’t take any credit for the degree I now hold.  Ask me about it sometime).

Now that diploma means something.  Now those photos reflect what I actually accomplished.

While I’m obviously stoked about having graduated, this story reflects a much deeper life story.  A story seen in my life, and in the lives of others.

The Christian Snapshot.

You know that moment.  The moment of conversion.  The moment you wave the Christian flag.  The moment you pose with a thumbs up next to Jesus.

And then the moment passes.  You walk out of the spot light.  People aren’t clapping and cheering at your achievement.  Instead you’re left to finish the work that was started in you.

It’s tempting to say things are “good enough”.  You won’t say you’re “quitting”- but that’s exactly what you’re doing.  There’s no more drive.  No more endurance.  No more fight to finish.

Christianity isn’t a moment.  It’s a life; it’s a walk.  There’s no standing still; there’s only forwards and backwards.  If a Christian has stopped walking forward in their faith they’re not just standing still, they’re going in reverse, often without even realizing it.

The Christian snapshot is a lie.  That one moment (or even a sequence of moments) doesn’t fulfill the requirements for being a Christian.

There’s more to do after that moment.  There’s an entire lifetime’s worth of things to do after that moment.

It’s not up to you alone either.  On your own you will fail.  But, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).  God will be faithful to complete the things He has begun in you (Ephesians 2:10).

Do not be content with the snapshot.  Keep persevering, keep pushing onward, keep fighting Grow, learn, be discipled, disciple others.  Live out your faith.  Walk the path of righteousness.

Fight the good fight of the faith. (1 Timothy 6:12)

Press on toward the goal. (Philippians 3:14)

Live in such a way that at the end of your life you can say “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7)

Make the Christian Snapshot meaningful.

FINISH.

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December 11: Verses

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, bythe washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Titus 3:3-7

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December 6: Verses

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Titus 2:11-14
emphasis added

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