A gentle whisper from the LORD...

"Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper." 1 Kings 19:11-12

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Naughty List

“For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.” Hebrews 4:2

I know God loves me. This is a truth I learned in my childhood. I know the Bible stories…the stories of the dreadful first day of sin, the crazy old man who built an ark, the scared prophet that tried to run from God but was swallowed up by a big fish, the baby that was born in a lonely stable in Bethlehem, the healing of the blind, lame and death and ultimately the resurrection of my Lord and Savior. I’ve heard it all. I’ve studied and read it. My Bible is outlined and highlighted, marked with sticky notes. I’ve eagerly written down notes and filled in blanks during sermons and teaching sessions. I’ve written Bible verses on note cards to put them out as a reminder of His Word throughout my day. I’ve taught these truths to my kids and repeated the lessons over and over. My life has been immersed in the Bible.

But do I really get it? Do I completely understand the grace Jesus has lavished over me? Do I grasp how deep my sin really goes?
I tried to sum up some of the things I’ve struggled with in my heart and mind. I decided to write them down to have a visual aid to show myself the crazy ideas and struggles I have dealt with and continue to deal with in my life, somewhat of a “naughty list”. Some are blatant sins. Others are daily struggles I never give over to God or ask for His help. Here are a few…

A cluttered mind
A constant nagging of Satan
Being exhausted
Being fake
Aches & pains
Ugliness in my heart
Wrong perceptions
Surrounded by unseen evil
Feeling overwhelmed
Quick temper
Being too busy

And that is only the beginning! You would think, looking at my “impressive” résumé above, that the list would be much shorter! When am I going to get it? All the Bible knowledge in the world is worthless by itself! This knowledge must be meshed together with faith.

I am eternally grateful to God for His holy Word. But I want more. I want a relationship that runs so deep that the list above grows shorter and shorter. I want a relationship that invades every part of me. I want knowledge and faith.

The bad news is we all have a list like this and no one will completely overcome their own lists this side of heaven. We will always struggle on this earth. But the good news is we have a day coming when our list will be erased forever…no more to be seen…no more to be remembered!

“…though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:6-9

Usually something happens in my day that the Lord will use to lead me to writing a post. Today I came to a place of complete defeat. I fell to my knees and came to the Lord with a broken heart and spirit. I didn’t even have words to pray but the Lord heard my unspoken and tearful prayers. And after I laid it all before Him, he gave me renewed strength and a peace that passes understanding! My list of faults and failures brought me to my knees. The knowledge I’ve learned combined with a true faith prompted by the Holy Spirit led me to praise, glorify and honor our Lord, Jesus Christ!

Continue to seek His Word! Keep the faith! Endure for a time! And all praise be to God, our Savior, our Lord!!!

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Blog of Honesty

“Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Romans 8:34

“Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” Hebrews 8:25

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

Yesterday was a typical day. As the children began to wake, I felt refreshed from a good night’s sleep and from some peaceful time alone. I was ready to face the day and take on any challenge the kids would throw at me. And I did pretty good at the start! I was patient. I was using a calm and quiet voice. And with one complaint or argument, I calmly dealt with it. But as the day continued, my patience wore thin. My voice became more firm, with quick answers as to get through the moment. And the calm serenity moved to a more chaotic, self-centered mood that settled in the house like the dense fog over the ground that morning. My heart was filled with frustration if, at one single moment, things didn’t go exactly the way I thought they should. To top it all off, Troy told me that Henry thought I didn’t like him. “Crack!” And there goes the sound of my broken heart!

And that was just yesterday. I am so sad to admit that I feel this way most days. And many would say something like this in response, “Well, you have three small children!” “Things are just overwhelming right now. It’s understandable.” But I say, “No! It isn’t ok!” When Christ explains how we should treat others, he gives no excuses for any wrong behavior! So at this point, the guilt sets in and the accusations overwhelm and condemn me in every way.

But as I was praying about the sad situation this morning, I was led to the verses above. And I was not seeking them either! It just “happened” to be what I read in a book I was reading at the time! Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah, who was perfect, is interceding for me right this very moment! He is talking to God about me, taking up for me! Wow! What an amazing thought…or might I say an amazing reality! I do not know how people can live in this world without His grace and mercy. I cannot comprehend living without knowing I am forgiven, I have one who intercedes for me and I have a Holy Spirit that is and will change me and strengthen me. And this same truth is for you as well!

I put a lot of thought into the purpose of this blog and my main goal is to be open and honest about my struggles in life. I hear so many people speak or write about all the great things happening in their Christian lives. And I praise God when I hear those things because I truly believe God is in the business of changing lives. And I know from His Word he is the great and mighty God! So we must keep on telling of His greatness. However, from personal experience, life is without struggles. And it’s the daily struggles of sin that really seem to bring me down so often. So might I be so bold to ask you to say a prayer for my day? And in return, I would love to pray for you! We are in this thing called life together and I would love to partner with you in prayer for each other! As His word says, we can go boldly to his thrown and speak with honest hearts. (bagraybeal@gmail.com)

I guess the beauty of it all is that “where sin increased, grace increased all the more,” (Romans 5:21) So may grace fill my heart today. May grace fill your heart as well! And may we rest in the assurance that Jesus is taking care of us. He is taking up for us! And this is where we write and speak of all the goodness in the Christian life! Praise God!