Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that the Gospel is real—that it has really changed us. We would rather grasp at our perceived good works and lists of accomplishments than cling to the only accomplishment that really saves us. I had been feeling like I needed a good dose of the Gospel in my life to refresh my delight in Christ’s work on my behalf, so I picked up a book called Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life by Elyse Fitzpatrick. It has been so helpful, even in the short amount of time that I have been reading it. I will leave you with a few quotes that ministered to me tremendously.

“God first transforms our hearts, then it changes our behaviors. He does transform our outer, more noticeable behavior (where we usually focus), but this transformation has its genesis in the renovation of the hidden inner person. Without the recognition of this prior and ongoing work of love, we won’t have the courage or strength we’ll need to fight sin in the way he is calling us to. We won’t have the faith to continue to say, ‘Yes Lord,’ unless we’re resting securely in the eternal yes he has spoken over us.”

I love the last line. All of God’s promises find their “yes” in the work of Christ, and if we are in Christ those “yes's” are ours. What an amazing gift that we have received. So often I focus on external behavioral changes, rather than heart changes. I get angry and react against behaviors without ever attempting to discern the heart behind the behavior. If the heart is not first dealt with, these same sin patterns will continue to manifest themselves in other ways until the heart has been changed by Christ. This is a good, but continually needed reminder.

She also says,

“Most of us view God’s love and the gospel as elementary topics meant to get us in the front door of faith, and they are that. But we’ve forgotten how these truths are to transform us every moment of every day—when we’re watching our favorite team lose, when the roast is still as raw as it was when we left for church, when we’re tempted to believe that we’re nothing more than unloved, disrespected, hungry losers.”

Every circumstance that pans out contrary to our expectations is a test, whether it is a friend failing to call us, unemployment that will not end, or a husband who doesn’t remember to take out the trash when we have asked him three times. Will we respond in a way that recognizes that, in Christ, we have received far better than we deserve? Or will we respond in anger and frustration because we feel like we deserve better than we are getting in that moment. I appreciate this conviction because so often I do not respond well. I react. I get angry. I pout. This is not the attitude of a redeemed sinner. Instead of living out of the truth of the Gospel’s work in my life, most of the time I live out of the fleshly woman still raging inside of me.

So, as I read this book (and I hope you will, too!) I want to love the Gospel more when I get to the last page. It’s not because I first loved Him, but because He first loved me.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I Am Romans 1

Often when I read Romans 1 I am prompted to think of other people—the ones who really do suppress the truth of God with lies, the ones who murder innocent babies while they are in their mother’s wombs, the ones who deny the very existence of God. But very rarely do I read Romans 1 with my name in it. And I should. Not because I am doing those things right now. But I could be. Apart from the grace of God sustaining me, his hand would be off of my life in the exact same way as those “haters of God.”

Romans 1 should drive me to prayers of thanksgiving for my own salvation. The only reason I have not been given over completely to my sinful, depraved mind is because of sovereign grace. Nothing else. We see in verse 28 that God gave them over to their sinful passions. God is the one who gives people over to their sin and God is the one who keeps people from their sin. This is no small matter. How humbling to know that the salvation of lost souls is hinging on the keeping power of the God of the Universe.

Reading Romans 1 should make me so utterly thankful for the provision of Jesus death and righteous act, but so often I read other people into the verses. I think of my neighbor, or my friend, or the person I saw on the side of the road. I should be thankful that I am not wallowing in my sin any longer and thankful that I am now a child of the King. If my immediate thought when I read Romans 1 is someone else, then I do not fully grasp the horror of my own sin and the magnitude of God’s forgiveness. This does not mean that the passage should never apply to other people in our lives, but so often we are quickly drawn to the other person before we see how it directly applies to us. It is through the Bible’s light in our own lives that we are able to shine that light into the lives of others.

As I am reading through Romans I want to get this early on. If I don’t get this simple truth of the terrible nature of my sin and my need of a great Savior, then everything else won’t make sense. My prayer as I read through Romans is that God would open my eyes to see my Savior in greater measure this time, and that I would be thankful for the Cross like never before. One of the greatest temptation's for a believer is to grow tired of the Gospel, to find it boring. I must continually remind myself that I am Romans 1 apart from the provision of our Christ. But Christ has come and shone light on this darkened heart. Hallelujah.

"And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you once walked...But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ." -Ephesians 2:1, 4-5

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Big News!

This is something I have been meaning to do for some time—actually for almost a month now. But, every time I say “I really need to write this up” something else steals my attention away. So today I am committed to putting to paper the story of my engagement! I know. For those of you who don’t know yet, I am engaged to Daniel Reissig!

Here is the story. It’s quite wonderful, I think.

I’ll start with a little background information. Daniel and I were introduced by a good friend on September 6. It was after our initial meeting that Daniel suddenly was “around” a lot more. More than he ever had been before, considering I didn’t know him before September 6. Immediately upon meeting him I enjoyed talking to him and was drawn to know more about him, so I didn’t mind his being “around.” A couple weeks after that he asked me to lunch and after lunch told me he wanted to get to know me more, but wanted to do so in the context of other people and group things. I was so grateful for that, and I happily obliged. All of this hanging out made me like him even more because I really saw his heart for ministry, heart for people, and was able to observe his character. And on October 12 he asked me if I wanted to be in a relationship with him. After asking my dad for permission we were officially in a relationship. It has been a blessing of a whirlwind ever since.

Now to the engagement. On December 21 I flew to my parents house in Florida for Christmas. Daniel took me to the airport, and in my mind it was a sad occasion because I wasn’t going to see him for eight days. I kept thinking “he doesn’t seem like he is going to miss me at all.” Later he told me that he was trying really hard to try to act like he was going to miss me because he didn’t want to give it away. Little did I know, he had much different plans for Christmas. All this time my dad had been telling me how opportune of a time it was for Daniel to ask his permission to marry me at Thanksgiving, but he didn’t. So I was thinking that this whole proposal thing wasn’t coming at Christmas. Daniel had been telling me that he was going home. My mom kept asking me if I was “really sure” that he was thinking marriage. To which I replied “I think so.” I was clueless. On December 23 Daniel told me that he needed to go to bed early because he was driving home the next day and he was tired. He told me he would give me a "ring" tomorrow. I thought a telephone ring, but he meant something else. Once again, I was clueless. So we said goodnight and I went to bed excited that the next day was Christmas Eve. Christmas is my favorite time of year. My family has a lot of traditions and it is very sentimental to me. So when I wake up on Christmas Eve I can hardly wait for church that evening and all of our family festivities. That morning I woke up, wrapped presents, helped my mom in the kitchen, and watched Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. In all of that I failed to take a shower, and I was still in my pajamas. Around 1:00 Daniel called me like he said he would. We had small talk while I ate a salad and then his entire tone changed. He asked me if I could do something for him. I said yes, a little confused by him asking me that.

He said, “Courtney, every year you ask if you can open a present on Christmas Eve and what do your parents say to you.”

I said, “They say no, all or none.”

He then said, “Well, I thought we could start a new tradition this year and I sent a gift ahead for you. It’s under the tree.”

Immediately I ran to the tree to look for the gift, chastising him for not allowing me to send him a gift. As I came up from the tree he was walking through the back door in a suit. I had not changed out of my pajamas and hadn’t showered in two days. I screamed through the entire proposal, so I am glad my family filmed it for me! He said, “Courtney, I love you and I can’t imagine my life without you. You help me to love Jesus more and I think we are together better than apart. I want to start a new family with you, with some old traditions and some new ones. Will you marry me?”

And I said yes! The date is set for May 25, 2009 (Memorial Day). We couldn’t be happier. The Lord has used Daniel to point me to Jesus in so many ways. I am so thankful for him. He is far better than I deserve. I admire his leadership of us on so many levels and I can't wait to marry him. I had always wondered what "knowing" would feel like. I can't describe it, but you just know. I do believe we are better together than apart and I am excited to begin ministering with him.
And he did ask my parents at Thanksgiving. My dad just lied to me. He has since apologized. It was for the greater good.

Also, I will be back to blogging now. I have my bearings and some ideas. Both helpful things. Thanks for reading. See you soon.