I am Grateful

Gratitude Challenge Day 4

I will offer a You a sacrifice of thanksgiving and will worship the Lord. Psalm 116:17

Sometimes, thanksgiving is truly a sacrifice.

I’m so thankful that at this point in my life, with blessings abounding, that’s not the case for me. But it has been in the past.  And it may be for you at the moment.

Sometimes, life is so bleak and the pain so sharp that nothing but moaning wants to escape from our lips. And in those times, wresting our thoughts off our suffering and placing them on the hope to come takes a supernatural effort – an effort born of self-control that is empowered by the Holy Spirit Himself.

Every time one of God’s children, writhing in pain, chooses thankfulness, God recognizes it as a sacrifice. True sacrifices please Him.  It is a “fragrant aroma” to Him.

When the cancer strikes, when tragedy slams you from behind, when a child rebels or dreams are crushed, offer God a sacrifice. Find something to thank Him for.   There have been times in my life where I looked at my circumstances and could find nothing there to be grateful for.  But when I look at my God – well, then, thankfulness abounds.

Shifting focus is excruciating sometimes, but always pleasing.  And it will lift you up, too.

Choose thankfulness today.

http://blessedart1111.wordpress.com/2014/11/01/21-day-gratitude-challenge/

I am Invited to Live

On Life and Grace

I assure you: Anyone who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life. John 5:24 HCSB

I’ve been a Christian since I was 8 years old.  That’s a mighty long time, and you’d think I’d have this Christian-living thing down pat by now. Decades of practice should have already made me perfect.

Except that it hasn’t.  Daily, I make mistakes.  I sometimes act selfishly.  Just last week, I messed up big time and hurt people I love.  Let’s just call it what it was – sin.  If anyone deserves judgment, if anyone has her punishment “coming to her,” it’s me.

And yet, what I got was grace – undeserved favor.  God forgave me. My family forgave me. All is restored and well, and I am a wiser woman because of the ordeal.  Last week, I felt the weight of the yuckiness upon me. This week, I am praising God for the fresh breath of life He’s given.

How can this be?  How can I deserve one thing and receive another?  Because John 5:24 is active in my life.  I have heard Jesus’ words, and I believe them.  I believe God sent Jesus to earth to become my sacrifice, to take my punishment for me.  He died – so I don’t have to.

I will not come under judgment, now or later. While I walk on this planet, I am forgiven and free.  When I step off of it, I will still be forgiven and free.  I have life here.  I’ll have life there.  Eternally.

But this grace didn’t come cheaply.  Christ gave his very life to win it for me.  So, I’m not saying a person can just live however she wants to live, sin as much as she desires, and in the end it’s all ok.  No.  Becoming a Christian means giving your life to Christ, making him Lord and boss.  There is a difference between living your life in willful rebellion and in living it while striving to please Him but tripping over your own humanness every now and then.  I’m in the latter category.

I have passed from death to life.  My sins are paid for.  Christ was judged in my place.

I am free to live.

I am forgiven

The Price of Forgiveness

If his gift is a burnt offering from the herd, he is to bring an unblemished male. … He is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering so it can be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. Leviticus 1:3,4

Every Friday for about a year, I met under the stars with about six African women to tell Bible stories.  We sat in the shadows of their mud huts often until midnight.  It was the only time they had free after a day full of working in their fields, hauling well water, chopping fire wood, and cooking dinner over open fires.  Those dark hours were quiet – except for the occasional donkey throwing a braying fit – so we were able to weave our way through the Old Testament.

My African partner and I explained the Jewish sacrificial system to them, and we told them about this verse – how, by laying a hand on the sacrificial animal’s head, the sinner’s sin was symbolically transferred to the animal.

Friday after Friday, we worked our way through the Bible until we reached the stories of Jesus.  The women were non-literate, and they had never heard the stories before. I was amazed at the spiritual truth they could mine out of the Biblical passages.  Unschooled does not mean un-smart.  Some of them were enthralled with this Jesus. Some just came to listen out of curiosity.  One, I’ll call her “Jill,” was a skeptic.  She asked wickedly astute questions, but it was obvious she didn’t believe anything we were saying

The full moon bathed the whole group in silvery light the night we told the crucifixion story.  I asked a question: “Why do you think Jesus said, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,’ as he hung on the cross?”

I watched Jill’s face, and I saw the Holy Spirit reveal it to her.  She spoke slowly.  “Because that was the moment that God laid his hand on Jesus’ head and put the sins of the whole world on him.”

Indeed. 

This forgiveness I enjoy?  It came at a terrible price.  Jesus became a sacrifice – a bloody heap of physical suffering. But when uttered those anguished words, he was separated from God himself. Spiritual suffering.  He’d never been separated before.  And why?  Because my sin had just been laid on his head.  It had just rolled off of me and on to him.

He died in my place.

The wages of sin is death.  Death is separation.  Physical death is the separation of the soul from the body. Spiritual death is the separation of the soul from God.  Jesus endured them both. For me.

So I could be forgiven.

May I never cease to be awed.