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Grace

As a parent I believe in disciplining your child. And I do discipline my son.

I believe that discipline takes different forms depending on what it was that my son did to warrant the discipline.

I also believe in having grace and giving chances being that he’s only three and is still learning to understand the different between right and wrong, or to just simply listen to what I may ask him to do at any given moment. But all in all I don’t enjoy disciplining my son. I don’t enjoy giving him a little spanking on the bottom or even raising my voice at him.

But it must be done.

Now before you go and think it, let me clarify that this is not a post about the parallels of me as a father and God the Father and how He disciplines us, etc, etc. This is not that. But I saw something the other day that caught my attention within that realm.

At this stage my son likes to say no to everything. I tell him to do something, he says no. I ask him again, he says no. He says no to a lot of things as of late, and my wife and I are trying our best to break this new little habit.

So I had to discipline my son the other day because of this very thing. I warned him first, but to no avail. He still disobeyed. So I gave him a little whack on his bottom. Not hard, not a full swing, just enough to get his attention and to let him know he did something wrong. And like most times my son cries.

But he doesn’t just cry.

After being disciplined, my son opens his arms and wants to be held by me, or in his own words, among the tears and snot, “let me hug you”.

Now this has happened numerous times (no I don’t beat my kid, so don’t call child protective services on me), but this never stood out to me as it did this particular night.

So do you see what he did? Did you get that?

I disciplined him, I hurt him with my little whack on the bottom, and his reaction is what… he wants me to hold and comfort him.

Not that he gets mad and walks away. Not that he wants to lash out and retaliate. Not that he screams and questions why did I do that and he doesn’t agree with it. Not that he feels like I should have disciplined him another way. No, he took the punishment and then wants me, the ‘punisher’, to comfort him.

Hebrews 12 says this. (emphasis mine)

“4-11: In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children?
My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline,
but don’t be crushed by it either.
It’s the child he loves that he disciplines;
the child he embraces, he also corrects.

God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.”

God disciplines us because He loves us, because He’s forming us more into His own image, because He can’t leave us the way we are. Sometimes it’s just because we’re acting a fool and He needs to put us back in our place. But His correction is always out of love for us. It’s never to hurt us, though at times it hurts.

Now here’s the question and parallel.

What if we as His children, reacted to His loving discipline, the way my son reacts to me when I discipline him?

Silence….

I know that I’ve had numerous ‘arguments’ (if you even want to call them that), with God about and during certain times in my life where I felt like how He handled a certain situation wasn’t the best way. And instead of taking comfort in the Father’s arms and His love and intentions for me, I instead ranted and raved, shook my fist, cried, and ran away. I didn’t ask for a ‘hug’ like my son does.

I didn’t run to the only one who could then help me understand, who could comfort me, who could bring perspective, who could love on me and heal me. I ran away, and fell into pits of anger, hurt, distrust, and offense.

Now don’t misunderstand me. I’m not of the opinion that we can’t feel these things like we’re not human, but there’s a stark difference when we do it while still communicating with God as opposed to doing this and turning away from God. God is big enough to handle our humanity, He made us remember? It doesn’t freak God out when we say we’re angry or hurt and we don’t understand. If anything I can hear Him say, “Then come, let’s reason together”.

And again I admit, I’m not the best at this myself. I’ve spent a lot of time mad at God the last couple of years. And instead of dealing with it with His help, I suffered unnecessarily because I was too stubborn and immature to push through the ‘crowd’ of my emotions to touch His garment and be healed in the comfort of His embrace.

Wasted time I will never get back.

I’m getting better though.

God’s discipline can be a tough pill to swallow at times, but He’s not like earthly Father’s that discipline and then bounce. He’s there to pick us up, hug us, and reaffirm His love and approval of us. He doesn’t find joy in disciplining us, but it’s necessary, so He’ll do it because He loves us so much.

So this may just be for me, but if you’re like me at all, the next time God puts you in your place, don’t run away. Run to the Father, take comfort in His embrace, where He can speak loving kindness over you.

It’s better that way.

– Marc

“But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.”

So since I started blogging again the goal has been to write at least once or twice a week, but that obviously hasn’t gone as planned. I’ve been really struggling with what to write about. I actually started writing a post recently and then deleted it because I felt it was just too heavy. I’m sure that someone would’ve connected and related to it but I didn’t want to feed the negative emotions, so I stopped.

I needed to step back first and get out of the actual emotions before I could write about it. I know that almost seems counter intuitive, I should be writing when I’m feeling the raw emotion right then and there. It would be the most honest.

But it was too raw, i needed to step back.

But some time has passed so here it is now.

I was looking through my IG (Instagram) feed, and came across a particular friends pic(s). This friend is pretty much living the life that I wanted to live, was hoping to live, in terms of vocation, living situation, etc. And although I am happy this person is experiencing success and blessing in his life, as well as his family, I’m not happy that I’m not living that. So I started hating on him. I’m jealous.

It all starts with the comparing. I compare myself to him. “He’s more deserving than me. I’m not good enough.”

The questioning. “Why him and not me? What did he do that I didn’t do? What did/didn’t I do to be at the place I am now?”

Then comes the anger/arguing with God. “God, I thought you wanted to use me? I thought you wanted to bless me? I Thought this and that. Why? Why not?”

Then I’m all pissed and mental and crap. I hate my life. I hate everyone. I want to check out.

I don’t discount my own immaturity, poor decisions, or some real deep personal issues that I’m working through (which is a whole other argument I’ve had with God). But I just don’t understand. Isn’t God bigger than all of this? isn’t God supposed to be working things out for my good? Wasn’t God able to still keep me on track to live out what was in my heart despite all of this? I mean we hear/read stories like that all the time right?

So why not me?

I battle with the feeling of being stuck and not being able to get out and move forward. I can’t seem to get started or stay consistent with things that are important, whether it’s creative areas or just really practical areas of my life. (I have been working out pretty consistently though, I must say that. That feels great).

I’m just frustrated. I feel stuck.

And what makes this worst is this doesn’t just affect me, but it affects my wife, and eventually my son, if I don’t overcome this. As a husband and a father I want to be a good leader and example to them both, but I feel like I’m in this bubble that I can’t seem to freaking break out of.

I’ve prayed about it and asked God for help.

I have come to some conclusions as to the “why’s and what” of some of my questions, and feel confident about them. But the one thing that keeps me still feeling like I’m hanging is the question of what’s to come. I’ve come to some small level of resolution with the past, but the future is still so vague.

And that is hard for me.

I say I’m OK with letting God be in control, but just as long as He lets me in on His plan. I want details. Can someone say trust issues? Control issues? Yep, that’s me.

So anyway, I’m not sure just how to end this post. I don’t have any complete resolution, I’m still looking for it. I’m going through the process, hoping I’ll make it through with something valuable to offer by way of experience and service. Hoping that all the mess with be redeemed and made into something beautiful.

I don’t question that it can. I question if it will.

What about you?

-Marc

 

 

Last Sunday (not yesterday) was the beginning of a new sermon series at church named “Grey Matter”.

It would be a really big understatement for me to say that I needed to hear this word. It was simple, but yet direct and really dead on as to where I am, not only in my walk with God, but my life as well.

I’ve been struggling with where I’m at in life, wondering where I’m going, what is it that God is doing. And although after hearing that word, I don’t have any clearer indication of what the end result will be to this season, I’m crystal clear as to the main purpose that God has for it.

Simply to bring me closer to God and make me more dependent on Him.
That makes a world of difference to me right now.

So I got up Monday morning and was praying, thanking God for the things He spoke to my heart, and as I was praying I was reminded of the parable of the sower. But the thing that God spoke to me was not the typical interpretation or teaching on this parable.

He said “when I speak a word to you, it is your responsibility to protect that word. It’s your job to guard it in your heart”.

One of the verses in that parable says, “Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants”. And the interpretation is, “The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful”.

The truth is that the we have an enemy that hates our guts, and he will do anything to steal the hope and faith that we have in the Lord. And so we need to do whatever we need to make sure that word isn’t choked out or stolen. When trials come, when pain comes, when things aren’t going right, we have to fight to hold onto that word and the hope that it gave us the first time we heard it.

So what are some practical things we can do to do just that?

  1. Listen to the sermon, or read the scripture reference regularly so that you don’t forget it.
  2. Write it down and keep it in a pace where you see it all the time.
  3. Talk about it, share with other what God spoke to you. Not only will it re-encourage you, but it just might encourage someone else also.
  4. Remind God of His promise spoken to you while in prayer. And obviously God doesn’t need to be reminded, but we do. So when we “remind God”, we remind ourselves and reinforce that word in our hearts.

But let me also touch on something else.

There are other things that can rob a word from your heart. Things that can the drain the life, hope and peace that God gives when He’s just spoken something so clearly to you.

Things like sin.

If you’re anything like me, understanding God’s love, grace, and forgiveness has never been easy. I’m still working on understanding God’s love, and the fact that it doesn’t really depend on me, but on Him. Is that a license to sin? Of course not, but it is the truth.

But if we don’t have a good grasp on these vast, yet very foundational truth’s, it’s really easy to cave into things like guilt, fear, condemnation, doubt, and worry. Not being rooted in our identity in Christ is fatal. When we mess up, we can have the confidence that we have an advocate with the Father. If we don’t have that seared on our hearts, we’ll run away and hide instead of running to the one that can forgive and restore us.

We then start doubting the word we heard. We doubt that God can or even wants to do “that thing” in us because of our shortcomings. We look at ourselves as unfit, or maybe God made a mistake when He spoke that thing to you, he must have meant it for someone else… and it goes on and on.

That robs us of the words that God speaks.
It robs our faith to make a move.

If there’s sin in your life, get it out. Get help, do whatever you need to do so that the enemy doesn’t have a hold on any area of your life. Know who you are and that you don’t have to give in.

And whatever is it that God is speaking to you, guard it. Fight for it in your life. Stand.
You’re not fighting a fight that hasn’t already been won.

~Marc

I recently was reading a verse in Roman’s that just jumped out at me in a way that it never has before, and I needed it.

Romans 5:12, 15
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned–
But the gift of God is not like the trepass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift  that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” 

I’ve tried reading Romans several times and have always had difficulty understanding what the writer is saying most times. It’s a heavy book, with lots of deep truth that you can spend a lot of time diving into. I probably should try using a commentary or study guide to help me, but most of the times I prefer to just let the Holy Spirit reveal to me what it is that I need to see and understand at the moment.

So the words “how much more” jumped out at me in such a real way. And what I felt God telling me was this. That the grace that came through Jesus Christ is not in direct proportion to the sin and death brough into the world by Adam’s fall, it’s more than. Jesus didn’t die to just match up to the mess that came into the world through sin, He came to absolutely obliterate it. He annihilated it when He died and rose again!

His grace isn’t just enough, it’s more than enough. It’s bigger than, strongerthan, louder than, more real than any weakness, shortcoming, struggle, or addiction, that you or I may have. His grace is sufficient. It gives us what we need to say no to Godless living. It’s one of the facets of Jesus’ love that doesn’t cover our sin, but completely wipes it out.

And by the way, grace isn’t a thing, it’s a person, and His name is Jesus.

One of the reason’s the subject of grace has been difficult for me is that I never understood grace when it came to me. I grew up with parents that always taught me about how much God loves me, and is always ready and willing to forgive me when I mess up. I was also part of a church for ten years that preached heavily on the grace, love and mercy of God. So although it was easy for me to believe in God’s grace for the next guy, for some reason it wasn’t for me. I just couldn’t see it.

The truth is there were/are things in my life that I battled/battle with that skewed/skew my view of God, and what I think His view of me is. And it wasn’t until about three years ago that God began to deal with these views. I’m actually still working through these things now.

My struggles have acted like a pair of goggles through which I have wrongly viewed God and myself through, as well as everything else around me. And of course the enemy takes any opportunity to just add fire to the flame.

But that’s changing.

I’m learning to rightly see God, and therefore see myself rightly through His eyes. I’m learning that He loves me reguardless of my faults. He loved me before He sent Jesus to die for me, not because He sent Jesus to die for me.

Now I’m not talking about a sloppy grace, that makes me think that I can live however I want, and then get a pass because I can just ask for forgiveness afterward. That’s not grace, that’s stupid.

So I don’t know who you are, or what you’re struggling with, but grace is reaching out to you, wanting to pick you up and teach you about who God is and who you are in Him. He wants to teach you about what real freedom is and how to walk consistently in it.

It is possible.
Don’t give up.
Reach up and grab Jesus hand.
He’s waiting.

~Marc