Thursday, September 26, 2013

Knowing God

It made me chuckle just a bit to think that the post I am about to write now comes right on the heels of my high recommendation of a parenting book.

Let me explain.

I am so thankful for good, sound Christian living books. So very thankful. God has used them to grow me in my parenting, my role as a wife and pastor's wife, in spiritual disciplines, in homemaking...and I could go on. Their value has been immeasurable and the list of those I still want to read is sky high.


My heart has been stirred and a wee bit convicted that I spend much of my reading time trying to learn and know what God wants me to be and not nearly enough time seeking to "simply" know God!

"But let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”  Jeremiah 9:24

The more I read, study, and meditate on GOD means the more I will KNOW Him. And the more I know Him, the more I will become who He wants me to be in all the other areas of my life.

"We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit." 
2 Corinthians 3:18 

“Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life's problems fall into place of their own accord.” 

“The healthy Christian is not necessarily the extrovert, ebullient Christian, but the Christian who has a sense of God's presence stamped deep on his soul, who trembles at God's word, who lets it dwell in him richly by constant meditation upon it, and who tests and reforms his life daily in response to it.”
                                                                                                                                                  -  J.I Packer

So, one of my aims this year is to read fewer books about "how to be_____", and more books on the attributes, character, and words of God.

Above all, though, may we all be students of THE Word, the Bible, as we seek to know God!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Glimpses of Grace

I've had some help in the "glimpsing grace" department through a fantastic book that I read over the summer. You'll never guess the title?!

"Glimpses of Grace" by Gloria Furman is chock full of encouraging and insightful tid-bits that got my soul savoring and celebrating God's amazing grace. If you have not picked up her book yet (it's only been out since May), here are some quotes that just might get you asking for a copy for Christmas!

"If God doesn't rule your mundane, than He doesn't rule you. Because that's where you live." (a "re-quote" from Paul Tripp

"Peace and quiet are not ultimate. Activity and responsibility are not ultimate. Because Christ is ultimate, the loss of any of these things - solitude or circus- makes no difference in the sufficiency of Christ or in His ability to give you everything you need for life and Godliness." (Wow! I want to paint that one on my walls!!!)

"To live in the reality of the gospel each day.....means that you see things as an opportunity to talk with God, talk about God, and receive wisdom from the Bible throughout your day." (I love this quote because, in the recent years, we keep hearing so much about "gospel-living" but it is often not defined. I love the practical way she put exactly what that looks like.)

"A cheerful attitude and a sense of hopefulness are wonderful by-products of rejoicing in God while in the midst of our homes. But that's just what they The source of our faith, hope, love, joy, and gospel-grounded optimism is God Himself and not our stuff or our circumstances." 

"If there is discontent bound up in your heart, then there is no room in your house where you can go and feel peace. You will, as I have, attempt to create the perfect environment that is rid of distraction so you can focus. At the end of the day you will find out that the chaos isn't your environment - its in your heart." (How often I forget the sin that is bound up in my OWN heart!)

"We need faith to trust that God doesn't merely "know what's best for us," but that He IS what's best for us no matter what our circumstances are."

Hmmm...after reading those quotes, will you even make it to Christmas to read this book?!:) 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

When it feels like grace has gone on a vacation...


As born again believers, it's a word we hear so often that I fear it doesn't impact our souls as it ought to. Pastor John MacArthur has an article in which he shares some truths about grace...what it is, and what it isn't. It's a great starting point...keep reading!:

"Many professing Christians today utterly ignore the biblical truth that grace "instruct[s] us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age" (Titus 2:12). Instead, they live as if grace were a supernatural "Get Out of Jail FREE" ticket-a no-strings-attached, open-ended package of amnesty, beneficence, indulgence, forbearance, charity, leniency, immunity, approval, tolerance, and self-awarded privilege divorced from any moral demands.
But here's what I propose — let's start by laying down a biblical definition of grace with this simple question: What is grace?
Grace is a terribly misunderstood word. Defining it succinctly is notoriously difficult. Some of the most detailed theology textbooks do not offer any concise definition of the term. Someone has proposed an acronym: GRACE is God's Riches AChrist's Expense. That's not a bad way to characterize grace, but it is not a sufficient theological definition.
One of the best-known definitions of grace is only three words: God's unmerited favor. A. W. Tozer expanded on that: "Grace is the good pleasure of God that inclines him to bestow benefits on the undeserving." Berkhof is more to the point: grace is "the unmerited operation of God in the heart of man, effected through the agency of the Holy Spirit."
Grace is not merely unmerited favor; it is favor bestowed on sinners who deserve wrath. Showing kindness to a stranger is "unmerited favor"; doing good to one's enemies is more the spirit of grace (Luke 6:27-36).
Grace is not a dormant or abstract quality, but a dynamic, active, working principle: "The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation…and instructing us" (Titus 2:11-12). It is not some kind of ethereal blessing that lies idle until we appropriate it. Grace is God's sovereign initiative to sinners (Ephesians 1:5-6).
Grace is not a one-time event in the Christian experience. We stand in grace (Romans 5:2). The entire Christian life is driven and empowered by grace: "It is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods" (Hebrews 13:9). Peter said we should "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18).
Thus we could properly define grace as the free and benevolent influence of a holy God operating sovereignly in the lives of undeserving sinners."

Did you read all that? I mean...really read it? Go back, read it again! :) God's grace wasn't just appropriated when we were saved...we live by that grace....we are strengthened by grace. 
So, why do I sometimes feel that my life is not full of grace, as though grace has gone on a vacation and left me behind? Why do I often feel dry? Why are there times when I feel like there should be more but nothing seems within reach? 
Because I forget. Plain and simple.  I am not steeping myself in the truths of God's Word so I am unable to preach God's Word to my own heart and let it permeate my thoughts, actions, and focus (think tea here ladies! ) When this happens, my gaze never goes UP, it looks all AROUND me. And when I look all around me I start seeing mess after mess...inside my own heart and in the lives of those around me. At this point, because my eyes are not fixed on Jesus, the ONLY Author and Perfecter of ANYONE'S faith, I start trying to control situations and people. Of course, if you have ever tried that, you have learned (and, unfortunately, I seem to be a very SLOW I keep having to learn it over again!) that this sort of control only leads to hopelessness. Hopelessness breeds discontentment and, once we are there, we can't find grace anywhere.
Feeling discouraged? DON'T! As the saying goes, "the beauty for ashes" is that the reason I can't find grace anywhere is because of my sin, my warped perspective, and my ungrateful heart. God's grace is still amazing and unchanging. His mercies are still new every morning...and every minute thereafter. I don't have to live one more moment in hopelessness, because the God of hope is my Saviour and Lord! I can repent of my sin, find forgiveness at the foot of the cross, and run to Him and sit on the "lap" of His Word! 
God's marvelous grace can be ours...and ours in abundance...not tomorrow, not next Monday, not at the beginning of the new year...but RIGHT NOW. Let's take off those glasses that make everything look like one big mess and put on our eternal glasses that help us see everything through the sovereignty of the Lord.  Let's open God's Word and start "steeping" not just reading!
If we do that, we'll see "Glimpses of Grace" everywhere!

Monday, September 9, 2013

What you don't hear often.... about all the bad days people have. The sinful, ick ones that you wish you could redo, but simply have to rest in what Christ has already done on your behalf (praise the Lord)....and then go back to everyone in your family, including the dog, and say sorry!

I had one of those "days" this morning. It started with doors slamming and too much noise way too early in the morning, followed by a peed in bed. Add that to kids who forgot to do things they needed to do what needed to be done today was taking far longer and throwing everyone's routine into a tizzy. Did I mention that I stayed in bed a few minutes too long, and Al Mohler's "The Briefing" (which really is great and so helpful!) ate up more time of Bryan's and my morning "date" than I would have liked which led to almost no time to talk or pray together. (Insert irked attitude right about here) So, off I rushed to pull an egg bake out of the oven that had been in the oven a few minutes too long, only to have children not ready to eat on time because of all the "need to dos" that didn't get done.

Everyone is sitting at the table somber, I'm grouchy, and at this point, family devotions have officially been pushed back to dinner time as we have run out of time. None of us are all too happy with each other and the conversations that have flown around have most certainly not been "pleasing in His sight".

Yes, there were hugs and "I love you's" as they all headed off to school, but it might be safe to say that we were not "rejoicing in the day the Lord has made". The "one big happy family" balloon had popped before it had even been blown up all the way!

I don't share all this with an attitude of indifference, nor do I find it something to laugh about and forget. (Although, some laughter might have done a world of good this morning!) I don't share this to tear down my precious family or make light of our disobedience. I share it simply to say...

God is good and we are not. God is perfect and we are sinful. God is "gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness" and we are in desperate need of that grace and mercy every single day. God is faithful even when we are faithless. God's power is magnified through our weakness.

THEREFORE, I will boast...not in my own greatness as a wife and mom (that lasted a whole 2 seconds this morning!)...but I will boast in Christ, and Him crucified. We can be forgiven because Christ bore our sin on His perfect body. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!

Days like today remind me that there is not one moment of any day in which I do not need to run to Jesus and hide myself in Him. For there I find hope, joy, peace, patience, forgiveness, and strength for all that He has planned for me!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

To-Do Lists

This blog is not just a way for me to share with others what God is teaching me or what is going on in the life of the Pichuras. It is also a way for me to document the journey God is taking us on, print it off in a book form, and have it to remind my family and me of the faithfulness of God. To remind us that He is at work, changing us and molding us into His likeness...even if it feels like baby steps much of the time!

Having said that, there are times when I come across other articles or blog posts that are fantastic. I don't want to just read them and then lose them in cyberspace. I want to be able to read them again...and I want my kids to read them, too, one day.

Here is one such post:

In my ideal world, I would have my to-do list completed at the end of each day. My plans would go smoothly, with no interruptions or unexpected events. And my memory would be so good, I wouldn’t need to put post-it notes everywhere as a backup in case I forget to read my to-do list.
I laugh even as I write that because I know it’s not reality. I don’t remember the last time I finished all my tasks in one day. And since I recently attempted to put back the milk on the shelf where the cereal goes, rather than in the refrigerator, I’m certain my memory is far from improving.
Keeping lists and making plans is something we all do. For some of us, interruptions to those plans are hard to take. It makes us uncomfortable when our day’s plans get interrupted or when we can’t accomplish all we set out to do. Sometimes, those lists and plans become idols in our heart, in first place before God.
In my own life, interruptions to my plans often make me uneasy and stress-filled. A couple of weeks ago, I learned from my husband that he wanted to take us with him on a business trip. I had two days notice to prepare to leave. This trip was an interruption to my plans to officially start our new homeschool year that week. So the school plans were put on hold, doctor’s appointments were cancelled, bills paid, plans with friends changed and suitcases packed.
Yet, rather than the interruption putting me into panic, I found myself switch gears and go with the flow. Over recent years, God has been using unexpected changes to my plans, like a trip out of town, to refine me. He has used all the little interruptions to my comfortable schedule and routine to burn away my sin and help me grow deeper in faith. He knows that my plans often become so important to me that I respond with worry, stress, frustration and panic when they don’t go the way I expect. He also knows that I need to learn to hold my to-do lists and plans loosely, trusting him for the outcome of my days. So each time unexpected events come up, like my husband’s business trip, my fingers are pried back a little more on my to-do lists.
“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.” James 4:13-16
“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” Proverbs 16:9
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21
We know what Scripture says about our plans and God directing our steps, yet it’s not always the posture of our heart. In reality, many of us prefer to be in control of all the events in our life. We want to know what’s going to happen next and be fully prepared ahead of time. How often do we make plans without thinking, “If God wills”? How often do we become upset when our plans fail? How often are we anxious or irritable in the face of such interruptions to our life? How often do we blame others when our plans don’t work out?
This desire for control makes us live as though we are lord over our lives. Like our first parents, we think we know better than God what we need. Whether it’s our daily schedule or even our life plan, we’ve invested time and energy in putting it together. We’ve researched all the possibilities on-line. We’ve pinned all our plans for everyone to see (and hopefully re-pin, of course). We know what we want and we intend to follow all the steps to get it.
Yet, the truth is, our all-knowing and all-sovereign Creator-God knows what we need better than we do. He knows the plans he has for us. He knows what needs to change in us for us to become more like Christ. He knows just what needs to be chipped away, refined, and sloughed off for us to grow in faith.
While we would prefer to drive where we want to go and have the GPS adjust to our change in direction, God lays out our path and directs us where to go. When changes in our well-laid plans come our way, they are opportunities for us to trust and rely on him. Instead of worrying about our plans, we can instead turn our eyes away from our lists and say, “What is it you want for me, Lord?” The interruptions to life become just another detour in the road that God has laid out for us. Detours and road blocks give us an opportunity to obey him and follow his lead.
The Bible doesn’t say to never make plans. We can make plans but we must know that God will direct us. We can’t hold tightly to the plans we make. Our heart’s posture needs to bow to God’s plan for us and not our own. Not only that, but we are called to seek God’s will when we make our plans. We need to evaluate our heart to see if it is in line with what Scripture tells us pleases God. And then we need to place our trust in his sovereign care and know that whatever arises in our day is for our good and his glory.
As for me, I still write to-do lists, but they are more like “if God wills lists.” That trip that came upon me all of a sudden was a good reminder for me to not rest in my will but in God’s. Because the truth is, his plans are always far superior to mine: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:11-13).
How about you? How do you respond when your plans are interrupted? Do you hold tightly to your to-do lists?