Two Truths and a Lie?

We often assume Satan is all about lying, and he is—John 8:44 says he is the father of lies. But often, he gets to us believe the lies because they masquerade as truth. It’s like that game we used to play as teenagers–two truths and a lie. You said three things about yourself that all could be true, but the person had to guess which one was the lie. The lies are easy to believe because, at least on some level, many of the taunts of the devil are quite true. God does call the weak, the meek, the lowly, and the poor, and we may easily identify ourselves in that way.

If we dwell on that alone, we might be tempted toward despair or self-pity. We want our lives to look better, so we end up defending ourselves and what the world sees as important—our status, our job, our cause—instead of defending the gospel.

But we don’t have to defend ourselves, because we know a more powerful truth. We know our standing is with Christ and that His word is true. We can defend the gospel while admitting we are weak, because our strength is not in ourselves, but in Him (2 Corinthians 12:9).

So next time Satan, or the world, tells you these things or similar thoughts—cling to your standing as a child of God. It is our only sure hope.

  • When you hear, I don’t belong here. It’s true; I don’t. Nothing on this earth feels quite right. But, this world is not my home, and soon I will be with Christ in heaven forever (Hebrews 13:14).
  • When you hear, I am worthless. It’s true; any of my good works apart from Christ are filthy rags. But my worth is found only in Christ and I can never do anything to earn His love or forgiveness or salvation; it is only by grace that I am saved (Ephesians 2:8-10).
  • When you hear, I look awful (or old, or ugly…). It’s true; outer beauty is fading. The cares of this world are many, and it can show. True beauty is found in the one who created us in His image.
  • When you hear, I just did that again. I am hopeless. It’s true; I do fail often. I am a sinner and I will never be perfect this side of heaven. But God does not treat us as our sins deserve (Psalm 103:8-14), He gives good gifts to his children when we ask (Matt 7:9-11), and He is pleased to give us the kingdom (Luke 12:32). My hope is in Christ alone. However, He does continue to sanctify me and I must be teachable in order to grow in Christ-likeness.

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Like Trees in Winter

What would you do if you came across a tree in winter, and you had never seen a tree? Would you notice only the outside, and never examine the inner parts? Who are you when you are stripped bare? Would your inner beauty shine through the lifeless exterior? The outer appearance is not always as it seems, but the roots tell the story.

Like Trees in Winter

Aged and barren
Colorless and lifeless
Branches stripped bare
Dull and fruitless
With no shade to offer
Nothing to give

But underneath
Deep within the earth
The roots remain strong
Hidden buds hint toward
The promise of spring
A broken branch reveals life within

Still loved by the Creator
There is purpose yet to be revealed
Pay attention
When you see the trees in winter
Don’t give up
When you are a tree in winter.

We are loved like trees in winter. We are loved by God not for what we do and not even for who we may become, but because God is love, and we are made in His image. He shines light in the darkness, and brings life out of desolation. The weak and broken, he makes useful and beautiful. He is making all things new.

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Dear Hand, I have no need of you…

Said no one ever! As an introvert, a lot of things make me uncomfortable. I err on the side of silence and caution and comfort, instead of transparency and risk and reaching out.

Have you heard the quote, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”? How do you make yourself do something that you know will be hard or scary or uncomfortable?

I read this recently: “Why don’t we [introverts] make ourselves known better, so people don’t mistake and overlook us? It’s easy to grumble about not being known. It’s harder to make an effort, to do some action that lets people know you are there and have something to contribute.”

And it was challenging. It’s not wrong to be an introvert, but that doesn’t mean I automatically earn a get of out jail free card, either. I am part of a body. And a body functions best with all of its parts actively working. The body depends on each part, and isn’t it easier to work together when you know the strengths and weaknesses of each part?

Though I feel like a fish out of water at times, the truth is, we all are in desperate need of community. Somehow, though Jesus is ultimately all we need, God also made us to need each other. So if we need community, then that community also needs us. Each of us. Deep down, we all have a desire to be known, no matter how much we may want to hide. It is good to remember that we are all different, and there are specific ways we can love and serve each other well. The body is truly made up of different parts, beautiful parts. It can be a challenge to know who you are, know how you are gifted, know that there is always room for growth, and then not compare yourself to the other parts.

Sometimes I like to say that in the body of Christ, I am a tonsil or an appendix or something. God created them, so they serve a purpose, but when it comes down to it, the body can function perfectly well without them. This is not biblical, but it’s how I feel sometimes. But, according to 1 Corinthians, even those weaker parts are indispensable. Even the hidden parts are important.

“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Corinthians 12:21-26)

This is the beauty of community, and I want to make sure I am loving others well, considering them first, and that I am open to being known and embracing the uncomfortable, ultimately, so that Christ will be known. I want whatever part I have to function well. I want to have the same care for one another, but know that it might look different for each of us. I want to suffer together, and rejoice together, and not worry that the eye suffers differently than the hand, and the head rejoices differently than the feet. I want this because we will be known by our love for each other (John 13:35).

We are one body, and we desperately need each other.

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Grace Like Manna

I’ve been thinking a lot about grace recently. There are a lot of commands and reminders in scripture that we are to live for today. We should take heed – we are not guaranteed tomorrow.

Do not worry about tomorrow. (Matt 6:34)
You do not know what tomorrow will bring. (James 4:14; Prov 27:1)
His mercies are new every morning. (Lam 3:22-23)
Our treasure is in heaven, not on this earth. (Luke 12:20-21)

Though I know we are refined by the fire for God’s glory (Isaiah 48:10-11), I still often wonder how some people walk through so much heartache and suffering and don’t just survive but are actually made stronger. I can’t help but think if it were me, I might just give up. The orphan living in poverty, the single mother with 5 kids, the husband who just lost his wife and only son in a car accident, the woman struggling with chronic daily pain. How do they do it? By God’s grace.

Yes, but what does that mean? Why does it seem that I would never be able to handle those things? I am often reminded that grace is given for today. God tells us tomorrow will have enough troubles and not to worry about that, but that he will give us the strength we need for today. The same is true for our friends going through trials. It is like the manna in the wilderness. God provided just enough for each day, and if the Israelites tried to store it up for later, it would rot.

But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat. And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.” But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted. Exodus 16:18-21

But I am also reminded that grace is particular. If you, like me, put yourself in the shoes of your neighbor or friend, you do wonder. You say, I could never handle that! How does she do it? His faith must be stronger than mine! But their faith is God-given, just like grace. We can learn much by watching our friends’ faith in action. We receive enough grace to help carry their burdens, to comfort, to encourage, to walk beside them. And they receive as much as they need, particular to their situation, to persevere through their greatest trials. And it doesn’t look the same. We do not receive their grace.

The Israelites, or their fathers, did not even know what manna was. As far as we know, God had never provided manna in that way before and he has not since. It was God’s particular grace for the trials he had them endure in the wilderness.

And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Deuteronomy 8:3

So just as we only receive grace for today, we only receive grace for our specific trials. We trust that God will take care of all his children’s needs, even when we can’t comprehend how he is working, or how this could possibly work out for good, or how we would handle the same situation. We are commanded not to worry. He will supply. He will be faithful. He is enough. Both for today, and for all our tomorrows.

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Persevering Through Suffering

In my previous post, Everything Sad is Coming Untrue, I talked about how, though no one is free from suffering, knowing what it looks like can help us love others through suffering, persevere through our own suffering, and keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who loves us, knows our frame, and knows what it’s like to suffer. Romans 12:12 commands us to rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and be constant in prayer. I found this to be a helpful reminder as we endure trials of many kinds.

REJOICE IN HOPE.

How do you rejoice in suffering? How do you rejoice in hope?

  • Remember the gospel and where (who) your identity is. It was because Job did not put his identity in health or family or reputation or wealth, etc, that he was able to worship and say, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” when he lost everything. He lost everything that most people find their identity in. If we lose something we believe we need or even deserve, we become bitter. But if we have our identity anchored in Christ, then loss and suffering will drive us deeper into our source of joy, not away to something else we think will fulfill us (even good things can become idols). What we lose will be nothing compared to having Christ. Suffering does not rob us of joy, idolatry does.
  • Be thankful. Suffering is not only meant to draw us toward God in our weakness, but it is also assurance that God knows the end of our story. He would not allow us to go through something hard without giving us the strength to handle it. I have found seeking thankfulness in the midst of suffering to be so helpful to keep a right perspective.
  • Know that there is an end to suffering. Ultimately, the only final end to suffering is death. And death is not the end! Death is what God uses to ultimately bring you to life and fullness with him.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”  (Revelation 21:1-5)

  • Allow emotion. Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. (Job 1:20) I just think Job’s response is amazing. I can so often hide my emotion under the pretense of looking strong, or thinking that because this is for my good it shouldn’t hurt as much as it does. But look at the patterns of Job and the psalms…grief and anguish are so often in the same breathe as the rejoicing. Grief and worship are not opposed to one another. We can be free to experience our grief and still rejoice in the goodness of God.

BE PATIENT IN TRIBULATION.

How is suffering fruitful?

What does it look like to be patient in tribulation? Although suffering is not what we were made for, it can bring fruit in ways we could never imagine. I love Genesis 50: 19-21—But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

God meant it for good.

It is important to note that we may not see every (or any) good outcome, or all the fruit of our labors or suffering. Moses didn’t. Abraham didn’t. For me, because I know that God has a purpose in suffering, I want to know why he gives a particular trial, or how he will be glorified through this suffering — how will he use it for good??! I want to know! It seems like it would make the suffering more bearable.

But when Job asked why, God did not give an explanation; instead he reminds Job of His greatness and power. If God had explained to Job what was going to happen, and how everything was going to turn out, then Job would not have been relying on God alone in those dark trials. He would have been placing trust in the outcome in order to have strength to persevere. And God knows that the only way we will make it through the hours of darkness, through the silence and pain, is to trust him no matter what. Not in the outcome. Not in the explanation. Explanations are ultimately a substitution for trust, just like having faith in something you can see, is no faith at all. (Romans 8:24)

I always want to know the why and the how and the when…but his ways are higher than ours, and we don’t need to know them in order to trust Him. Here are a few of the ways we can see some of God’s purposes in suffering, as he shows us in his Word.

  • To rely on Christ. Suffering makes us cry out to God for help in a way we may not when life is going well. “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)
  • To learn obedience. “Although he was a son, he [Christ] learned obedience through what he suffered.” (Hebrews 5:8)
  • That the works of God may be displayed. “As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.'” (John 9:1-3)
  • To produce steadfastness. “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)
  • As discipline. “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:7. 11)
  • To remind us to remember the gospel. It’s hard not to think that we’ve had our fair share of suffering and it’s time for a break. But there is no “fair” in the Christian life. Well, there is, but we don’t want it. In the past I have been told that I “deserve” certain things, and was actually encouraged in sin because of it. But the reality is we deserve hell so everything else is not only mercy, but it is actually better for us than any alternative we can think of, because God has designed our steps and he is for us. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not 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 should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)
  • God’s comfort enables us to comfort others. Because we have received comfort from God, we can comfort others in any affliction. We don’t have to have experienced the exact suffering they are going through, or even anything close. We are sharing the very comfort of God. Just as we carry each other’s burdens and share in each other’s sufferings, we also share in 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.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-6)

BE CONSTANT IN PRAYER.

Plead to Father. Cry out in weakness. Sometimes all I can say is, “Oh God, please help.” At times all you may hear is silence. But He is a loving Father and hears the prayers of his children. And His purposes for you are good. Always.

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. (Psalm 55:22)

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. (James 5:13)

Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul. I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me! (Psalm 66:16-20)

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

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Undeserved Grace

Do you feel like God is disappointed in you? Like you will never measure up? Like you fail too often?

If I am honest, I think like this often. But if 2 Corinthians 5:21 is true (and it is),

For our sake he made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

and if Psalm 103:10-14 is true (and it is),

He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

then if you are in Christ, though your sin grieves him, God looks at you with the same love and delight as Jesus, his perfect son.

Even if your sin goes deeper than you could ever imagine, God’s grace goes deeper still.

You could never do enough to please him on our own, but Christ. We are weak, but Christ! He really does love you. His Word really is sufficient. His promises really are true. Trust that his sacrifice is enough for you today!

“All of the sin I have committed
Was placed upon Your righteous Son
And now You see me through His perfection
As if I’d never done any wrong”

Always Forgiven, © 2003 Sovereign Grace Worship.

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