My Life Has Been Transformed

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The message of Christianity is not ‘Worldliness is bad.’ It’s ‘Jesus is Lord.’ It’s not ‘Try not to sin.’ It’s ‘Think about Jesus.’

When you look to Jesus, you see that your urges to sin are suppressed on their own. When you look to Jesus, you see peace, love, joy, freedom, better than anything in the world. When you look to Jesus, you see you don’t need any worldly pseudo-religious substitutes for closeness to Him. When you look to Jesus, you see that in Him you are already dead to the world. When you look to Jesus, you see that in Him you are already alive. – Eric Pazdziora

And so now I am done.  I am done with religion.  I am done with trying.  I am done with analyzing.  I am done with doing my best.

I want Jesus.  I need Jesus.

The answer is not more introspection.  The answer is not to become more on fire.  The answer is not to read the Bible longer or to pray harder.  The answer is Jesus.  Look to Jesus.  Lean on Jesus.  Become encompassed by Jesus.

I want to not only forget the man-made rules I imposed on myself at various points in time, but I want to throw off the chains I have wrapped around myself.  The chains of guilt.  The chains of unworthiness.  The chains of lies.  The chains of fear.

After taking a break and just soaking in the truth that God brought to me, I have experienced several victories.

One night after a particularly difficult day, a Bible verse popped into my head.  This may not seem like much, but for me, it was huge.  I didn’t have to stop and try to think and pull up a mental Bible verse index card.  It popped into my head.  I wasn’t trying.  It was there.

And then, slowly, I began to want to read the Bible.  I have not jumped into a regimented “daily reading” plan yet, but I am rejoicing in those moments where it is an actual desire.  Not something I need to do to be a better Christian.

I started to pray.  Sometimes it was purposeful, when I chose to pray.  Sometimes it wasn’t, and prayers just formed themselves in my mind.

And I began to sing again.  I used to always sing…..but at some point, I’m not sure when, I stopped.  I have noticed over the past few months that my voice has come back.  Suddenly I’ll find myself singing hymns, old and new alike.

I have not finished learning my lesson.  I have not arrived at perfection.  I still have to speak truth to myself.  I still sometimes have that old familiar terror grip my chest.

But I am growing.  I am resting.  I can feel God wooing me to Himself.  I can feel my soul slowly but surely heal.

I have been reminded that I cannot do anything to make God love me more.  I can’t do anything that will make Him more pleased with me.

Why?  Because when He sees me….He sees Jesus’ blood.   Jesus truly paid it all.  I do not have that sin in black all over me.  I do not have those chains.  Jesus’ blood covered.  His blood cleansed.  His blood made pure.  His blood made whole.  That is what God sees when He looks at me.  He sees His child.  His redeemed.  His friend.  His own.

My sin?  It doesn’t make Him push me away.  It doesn’t make Him love me less.  He saw me in the midst of my unrepentant sin and He chose to touch my heart and draw me to Him.  He saved me out of sin.  Salvation is through God’s work alone.  Sanctification is through God’s work alone.

And for that I am thankful.  So, so thankful.

It took a lot for me to write this.  And then to share it publicly.  I truly hope that it has encouraged someone.  There is hope.  There is.  I would absolutely love to hear from you and pray for you.  If you want, you can leave a comment.  Or you can email me privately at lifewithyou1222 (at) gmail (dot) com.

God bless.

-Bonnie

Part One Part Two Part Three
Part Four Part Five Part Six
Part Seven Part Eight Part Nine
Part Ten Part Eleven

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I am Spoken For!

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Another book that I needed.  Spoken for by Robin Jones Gunn and Alyssa Bethke.

I knew that God loved me.  I grew up singing “Jesus Loves Me.”  I don’t know when or how I started to doubt.  But somewhere along the way it happened.

Could God really care for me?  Doesn’t my sin push Him away?  Didn’t that sin I just committed push Him over the edge?  Doesn’t He get tired of me?

This book talks about how God is relentlessly pursuing you.  It talks about the verses where God is likened to a bridegroom rejoicing over you – His bride.

So often I have heard God’s love downplayed.  That phrases like “passionate love” and “great romance” lower God’s love to us to the realm of a touch-feely romance.  I must beg to differ.

When I think of how much my husband loved me on our wedding day…..that is a ton of love.  If God is likened to a bridegroom….that is some serious, passionate love.

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us.” – 1 John 3:1

“As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.” – Isaiah 62:5

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in
Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end.  They are
new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
-Lamentations 3:22-23

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is,
there is freedom.”  – 2 Corinthians 3:17

That is some deep, deep love.

At one point in the book, Robin shares a story of how her husband told her she apologized too much.  Always apologizing for things that she didn’t even do.  My husband and I have had that very conversation many times.

“That’s a trap of the enemy,’ he said.

‘A trap? What do you mean?’

He reassured me that if I apologized or asked forgiveness for my mistake, then that was the end of it.  In God’s eyes, my sin was tossed into the deepest sea.  It was ridiculous for me to paddle out and fish around to pull my failures back up just so I could hold them high to say, ‘Look at how I messed up.  I’m so sorry.'”

That is exactly how I have acted so many times.  But the Bible tells us that our sins are removed as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).  And the Bible also says that God’s word is completely true (Joshua 21:45, Numbers 23:19, John 17:17).

This book talked about how I am precious to God.  Me.  Precious.

I don’t believe this concept is too far fetched.  God is likened to a Father many times throughout Scripture.  When I think about my love for my son and how precious he is to me….I realize that that is the kind of love God has for me.  Not stoic, stagnant, theological love.  Real love.  Real feelings.  Real delight.  Real joy.  For me.

This book talked about how God pursues me.  Even in the Garden of Eden, God set the precedent.  Adam and Eve sinned, and still God came to them.  He knew 100% that they had sinned.  That they had failed Him.  And yet He still came.  He initiated.  He pursued.

This book talked about how God loves me.  I realized how much I was believing that love is temperamental….it can come and go.  That one day a person can be happy and in love, the next day they can be cranky, frustrated, and upset at you.  But God is not a person.  He is true love.  He is pure love.  God’s love came to me when I was yet a sinner.  He began the pursuit when I was a sinner.  He is not shocked now by my sin, by my mistakes.  He chose me in the midst of my sin.

This book was huge.  I desperately needed to know and believe the love of God toward me.  It spoke to my heart.  The knowledge of God’s love is absolutely life-changing.

-Bonnie

When the Darkness will not Lift

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In the midst of all of this, I remembered a book that has been sitting on my shelf for years.  I decided to finally pull it off the shelf and read it.

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When the Darkness Will Not Lift by John Piper……oh my goodness.  I needed that.  It wasn’t a long, in-depth, “religious” book.  It’s 79 pages and written perfectly for the depressed, discouraged, jaded, and weary.

He talks about that mustard seed of faith.  Even if it is minuscule…even if it is a mustard seed….it is still faith.  I don’t have to try to increase my faith.  I don’t have to try so hard to get mountain moving, earth shaking faith.  I just need faith.

I don’t need to be so ashamed at church because I am not focusing on the hymns and because my heart is shaky repeating some of the lyrics.  Those parts of the lyrics I can sing?  That is my faith.  I can own that.  Rejoice in that.  That part of my heart is real.  That is Jesus working.

“Stop looking at your faith.  And rivet your attention on Christ.”  – page 41

Over and over and over this book ministered to my very soul.

“It is utterly crucial that in our darkness we affirm the wise, strong hand o God to hold us, even when we have no strength to hold him.” – pg 37

It was so reassuring to know that I am not the only one who has felt like I simply cannot hold on any longer.  And so reassuring to realize…..I don’t have to.

“Our faith rises and falls.  It has degrees.  But our security does not rise and fall.  It has no degrees.  We must persevere in faith.  That’s true.  But there are times when our faith is the size of a mustard seed and barely visible.  In fact, the darkest experience for the child of a God is when his faith sinks out of his own sight.  Not out of God’s sight, but out of his own sight.  Yes, it is possible to be so overwhelmed with darkness that you do not know if you are a Christian – and yet still be one.” – pg. 38

Again…..hugely reassuring to know that I was not alone in feeling this way.  I was not a bad Christian.  And even on my darkest days, God’s vision never faltered, His hand never wavered.  He could still see me and He was still holding me.

He quoted from Richard Baxter: “Say not, that you are unfit for thanks and praises unless you have a praising heart and were the children of God: for every man, good and bad, is bound to praise God, and to be thankful for all that he hath received, and to do it as well as he can, rather than leave it undone….Doing it as you can is the way to be able to do it better.  Thanksgiving stirrteth up thankfulness in the heart.” – pg 52

“The decisive blow against Satan’s destructive power was delivered by the death of Jesus for our sins (Col. 2:15; Heb. 2:14).  This means that Satan can harass us and even kill us, but he cannot destroy us.  Only unforgiven sin can damn the human soul.  If Christ has covered all our sin by his blood, and if God imputes to us the perfect righteousness of Christ, then Satan has no grounds for any damning accusation, and his case against us fails in the court of heaven.” – page 57

Yes!!  Yes, yes, yes!!  My heart soared as I realized anew that all that guilt piled upon me was not from God.  Satan’s case against me…my case against myself…..fails!!!!

Just because I struggled with all those things does not mean that I was not a Christian.  Real Christians have these struggles with pain and deep anguish.

This book was life changing.  Or rather….the truth contained within it was life changing.  I am so, so thankful that years ago my sister gave it to me and that I kept it.  I am so thankful that I thought of it that day and decided to read it.

-Bonnie

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Part Four Part Five Part Six
Part Seven Part Eight Part Nine

God, I Need You Now!

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One Sunday at church we sang a song I had never heard before.  But I instantly fell in love with it.

It spoke so well to my journey.  It talked about having faith….but small faith.

I was so encouraged.  Faith the size of the mustard seed.  It’s still faith.

As soon as I got home I looked it up to listen again and read the lyrics.  I love how it talks about a side of Christianity that isn’t often discussed.  It is so easy to feel like you are alone or that you are a bad or shallow Christian if you deal with deep pain and anguish.  This song talks about clinging to God in those times.

 

 

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Part Seven Part Eight

When I Pondered My Love as a Mom

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I pondered my love for my son.

I thought about how just looking at him makes my heart swell with love.  How he can be in his own little world, not even knowing I’m watching him, and my heart skips a beat.  He can bring a smile to my face when he isn’t even trying.

I thought about how I want to protect him.  To care for him.  How I want him to come to me when he is hurting or sad or scared.

I thought about how I take care of him.  I feed him, I play with him, I comfort him.

I thought about how much I just delight in him.

And then I thought…..is this Your love, God?  Is this how You love Your children?

This post is amazing.  So powerful.  So true.

As I wrestled these questions, I began to ask God the thing I really wanted to know for so long: “Why do You love me?”

Imagine your child asking you this. It would be a baffling, heart-paining question to any mother or father. “What, do you mean, ‘Why do I love you?’” But your child’s face is earnest; they really don’t know what you thought was obvious all along.

“God, why do you love me?”

And at last, He answered,

“Because you’re Mine.”

And suddenly all the doubts and fears and striving for perfection are all—gone. I am His. And for the first time, I know it. He has pledged Himself to me. He has made a way through His Son Jesus to atone me. To cleanse me with His blood. To make a way. Not because of what I have done, but because of what He has done. He has made me His own. And no one can pry me out of His hands. Ever. When He sees me in the End, seeing Him, He will look at me and shout, “Mine!”

“She is Mine.”

 

She points out Isaiah 49:15, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?  Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.”

The thought of forgetting my child is….impossible.  For one….his cries would quickly remind me.  But on top of that….he is the son of my womb.  He is my baby.  My child.  My sweet precious son.  There is no way in the world that I could ever forget him.

I belong to God.  I am His.  As inconceivable as it is for me to forget my son….it is even more so for God to forget me.

Part One Part Two Part Three
Part Four Part Five Part Six
Part Seven

-Bonnie

When the Love of my Husband Spoke to Me

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I began pondering the love of my husband.

His forgiveness.

His grace toward me.

His complete and utter acceptance.

I had realized that before and been blown away at various points in time.  But I started to think about it again.

I sinned toward him.  A lot.  I have snapped at him, thrown jabs and barbs at him, and been selfish.  Countless times.  Over and over.

And yet….he never got mad at me.  In our three years of marriage, I can think of only a few times that he has ever raised his voice.  And even then it was mild.  He did not jab back.  He did not find those little moments to insert a harsh comment.  He didn’t snap.

And when I came to him and asked forgiveness?  He gave it.  Every time.  Every single time.

He told me he loved me.  He told me that nothing I did would ever change that.  I couldn’t hurt him so badly that he would give up on me or want a break from me.

Is this the love of God?

Is this what it is like?

Yes.

And more.  If my husband can love me so powerfully….so unconditionally….God’s love is just that much greater.  God is love.  He is the epitome of love.  He is love in perfection.

I held onto this truth and filed it away in my heart.

Part One Part Two Part Three
Part Four Part Five Part Six

-Bonnie

The Struggle

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After about a week of just quietness and resting, I started to turn to music.

I was desperate for comfort, for hope, and for truth.  I started listening to some amazing Christian songs.  Raw.  Gritty.  Real.  Songs that are almost organic in how they dig down into the angst and struggles that sometimes come to His people.  Songs that reached into the struggle.  Songs that were real.

I love what Randy Alcorn said in If God Is Good.  “Laments make up more than one-third of the psalms.  The contrast between Israel’s hymnbook and the church’s says a great deal about our failure to acknowledge suffering.  If we don’t sing about suffering and struggle, why shouldn’t our people feel surprised when it comes?”

Enter The Struggle by Tenth Avenue North.  I don’t know how many times I listened to it.  Lots.  It is still one of my favorites and often brings me to tears.

“Hallelujah!  We are free to struggle.  We’re not struggling to be free.”

For quite a while, that was the only part of the song I could remember.  I sang it over and over.  Finally I pulled it up on YouTube and watched the lyrics video.  I remember one day that I sat on the couch, hands lifted, tears pouring from my eyes.

This.  This.  We are free to struggle, but we’re not struggling to be free.  Hallelujah!

“Your blood bought and makes us children.  Children drop your chains and sing!”

And then I realized.  That was me.  I was that child whose chains had been broken.  And yet I was living as if I was still shackled.  A clear image came to mind of me sitting on the ground, weeping in deep anguish, slashing the air like a mad woman, chains rattling and clanking every time I moved.  And then I saw it.  Those chains binding me were severed.  They were not attached to anything.  I had picked up those chains and I was holding them myself.

God had freed me.  His Word is truth.  Because I confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in my heart that He rose from the dead, those chains do not bind me.

Or to go back to the analogy of drowning from my first post….I have been sputtering around, thrashing wildly, clawing at the rope…..while sitting firmly on the deck of the boat.  I wasn’t drowning.  I was safe.  I was secure the whole time.

Wow.

Wow.

I didn’t dissect.  I didn’t try to start running ahead and putting other pieces together in my head, based on what I already knew the Bible was saying.  I waited.  I held on to this truth.  Clung to it.  And waited to see where it would take me.

Part One Part Two Part Three
Part Four Part Five

-Bonnie