October 13, 2014

Positive Thinking

It is a good Monday morning, and I am praising the Lord for His goodness toward me. The Lord kept His promise to me -- He gave me the strength to tackle all the projects I had scheduled for this weekend -- AND -- the discipline to complete all the grading I needed to finish for today. God is good, so very good to me!

I was feeling the crunch last night when I thought just perhaps I wouldn't finish everything (I had a minor setback when my TA uploaded graded essays without comments in them -- turns out she uploaded the wrong documents!) in time, but the Lord gave me grace and fortitude to not give in and to hold on to the end so that I could finish my last assignment (my Twitter paper) for the week. 

Today, I am blessed to have my morning free due to ACU's fall break (Monday-Tuesday). I teach at GCU this afternoon, which means I have the entire morning to rest and get ready for my afternoon/evening classes. God is so good to me, so very good to me! He knows my limits, and He has seen to it to make sure that I am able to complete every assignment, every task, everything asked of me.

Romans 8:28-31

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called;those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

As I consider my life today, I am reminded of these verses from Romans. I love the Book of Romans! It was the very first book I studied formally. I was a young married woman (25 years old) when I signed up for a Precept Upon Precept(c) Bible Study course at my church. A friend of mine suggested that I join the evening Bible Study class. I was working full-time, but often I found myself alone in the evenings. My then-husband was involved in league sports (softball and basketball) and was out almost every night of the week and most weekends. I was alone a lot of the time, and the thought of coming home to an empty house was difficult. I decided to follow my friend's advice and I joined the Bible Study not even knowing anything about Kay Arthur or inductive Bible study.

Once I realized that I would be completing an intensive (10-hour weekly commitment) course, I panicked a bit, before I agreed to stick out the two-year program. I have to admit that this course through the Book of Romans changed my life. It not only gave me great instruction in the foundational belief of the Christian faith, but it invigorated my walk and my testimony. The Lord used Precept Ministries and this study, in specific, to encourage me in my faith, to deepen my walk with the Lord, and to enlarge my witness to my peers and colleagues at my work.

As I studied the Word deeply, prayerfully, and with commitment, the Lord opened my eyes to the world around me. I began to have a heartfelt sympathy for those who were lost, for my family, my friends, and my peers who didn't know God or even care to know Him. I loved studying the Word, and I loved the inductive method, closely reading the text, waiting on the Holy Spirit to illuminate the meaning and context of the passage. In many ways, this study helped prepare me to return to college (two years later). I consider the approach of reading closely to be  foundational for the understanding of any text, be it Scriptural or secular.

The words Paul writes in chapter 8 have stuck with me over the course of the last 20-30 years. Whenever I am faced with difficult times, hard walks, and weary paths -- I recall these words in verse 28 AMP,

We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.

I like the Message version too, which says it this way -- 

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

I take great comfort to know that God knows my needs, He understands my situation and context (relative to time and space), and He desires to create within me His plan for life. My life is not my own, and I no longer decide where to go, what to do, or how to do it. No, I rest in Him, and He provides the way for me to go. He provides the strength, the fortitude, the discipline, the interest -- He does it all -- from beginning to end in order to complete the work He started in me before the foundation of the world. My life has been planned, is planned, and the details of that plan are coming to pass. Nothing that happens to me, Lord willing and provided, is outside His plan for me. Nothing is happenstance or circumstantial so long as I am seeking Him diligently, seeking to follow after Him, and seeking to know Him more intimately. He is my first priority, my first and only OBJECT of great importance. As such, my life, the life I live, flows from His hand and moves and changes as He sees fit. My life is fluid, not constant. My life's work is formed to His thoughts and His ways. I go where He sends me, where He directs me to go.

Therefore, when the work I do becomes overwhelming I remember that He is working through me. I may feel faint, unable to keep on with the tasks, but the Lord is the One doing the actual work. It is up to Him to say "enough." Until He tells me otherwise, I remain firmly fixed on this path, firm footed and fixed (ah, alliteration!) as I move forward to the place of His choosing.

The truth is that my life is no longer my own. For many years, I lived what I would call the normal Christian life. I was a married "church going" woman. I prayed, I studied my Bible, I went to church, I served in ministry. I raised my child to know the Lord. I was involved in all sorts of Christian adventures -- VBS, day camp, Awana. I did what I believed was the "normal" for being a Christian wife and mother. Unfortunately, all that "doing" ended up leaving me dried up on the inside. I wasn't happy, I wasn't content, and I wasn't filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit. I knew about God, but I didn't know Him personally. I knew His Word well, but it wasn't living inside of me. I believed what I was taught in church, but I didn't believe the truth in my heart.

One day, adversity, hardship, pain, and suffering entered into my life and all that "Christian" doing ceased for a time. I found myself staring face to face with the hard road of life -- completely bare and naked -- with all the "Christian" things set aside. For a time, I walked a very difficult path all alone. When I thought I was at the breaking point, when I thought I could not take another step, then something wonderful happened. SOMEONE showed up. SOMEONE reached down and picked me up. SOMEONE carried me through the hardest part of the journey. Yes, that SOMEONE was my Lord. My Lord was there next to me all along, but I wasn't looking for Him. I didn't see Him because I believed that He was far away from me, up there ^ in Heaven, looking down on me with pity. Yes, I believed that my Lord loved me, but that He wasn't with me. He was on His throne in Heaven. It was up to me to walk, to suffer, to endure. It was my lot to bear, so to speak, and the Lord wasn't going to assist me, to help me, to carry me.

I had been taught the hard road of legalism through my church affiliation. I had also come to learn the hard lessons of disobedience, and the resultant guilt and shame of my choices.  I was told that these choices would stick with me, and that I would have to live with them for the rest of my life. Well meaning older Christians told me that my life would reflect my choices and that my burden would be my penance. I was reminded that had I chosen more wisely, had I listened, had I obeyed -- well -- then my life would have been less difficult. Obedience was the key, obedience to the law was what would keep me free from regret, from shame, from guilt.

Now as a single Christian woman, some 27 years later, I know the truth. I know that all the shame, the guilt, and the regret of my past choices was taken to Calvary's cross. I was set free from the penalty of my sin the day I gave my life to the Lord. Carrying the guilt and the shame did nothing for me except cause me excessive weariness. I carried a burden that didn't belong to me any more. Yet, because of the way I was taught in Church, I believed that even after being saved, it was my duty to carry that ugly, stinking, rotting bag of sin-choices.

As a liberated woman, I am free now to walk in the blessedness of grace. God's grace, His marvelous grace surrounds me, comforts me, shelters me, and covers me. I am free to be the woman God called me to be, to experience the life He purposed, He planned, and He designed for me. I am free to walk in liberty, to live my life wholly devoted to Him, and to experience His goodness every single day that I live and I breathe.

God is good. He is so very good to me. May His Name be praised today and forever more. He is good, all the time, He is GOOD!

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