Aug 252015
 

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I want us to sit with about another Old Testament woman that I studied along with the girls at She Reads Truth.  Today I want to urge us to think about Hannah.  I love that the Bible doesn’t cover up the interpersonal nastiness in these Old Testament stories.  The New Testament went for brevity – but these passages give us little juicy nuggets to think about.  Here’s what caught my eye in the Hannah story found in I Samuel chapter 1:

Deeply hurt, Hannah prayed to the Lord and wept with many tears.

Hannah replied, “I am a woman with a broken heart…I’ve been pouring out my heart before the Lord…I’ve been praying from the depth of my anguish and resentment.

The next morning Elkanah and Hannah got up early to bow in worship before the Lord.

We all know the visual – she was praying quietly but moving her lips and seemed so distressed that Eli thought she was drunk.  Nope.  Just a woman with a broken heart, pouring out the depths of her anguish and resentment.

And I pause.

Honestly and emotionally spending her time at the sacred place in Shiloh to pour out the depth of her anguish and resentment.  Not nice public prayers.  Not pretending that things were great between her and Peninnah (who was causing the deep hurt, tears and resentment).   She took the moment to get real before the Lord.  Deeply real.  She wasn’t playing.  She wasn’t trying to impress anyone – God or Eli or anyone else watching.  She knew she had a moment of prayer and went straight to the depths of her broken heart.

It says the next morning she bowed in worship before going back home.  Worship that follows truthful prayer.  Worship from those same depths of her broken heart.  Worship mingled with tears.  Worship knowing what she was walking back into when she returned home.

I’m challenged by Hannah.  I want to hide how deep some of the hurts & resentments are in my heart.  I don’t even want to get that deep in prayer.  Or I hold all the pieces together and pretend everything is alright.   Sometimes the pain & resentment shut my heart to worship.  Worship and weep?  In public?

I love Hannah’s prayer in I Samuel chapter 2:

My heart rejoices in the Lord;

my horn is lifted up by the Lord.

My mouth boasts over my enemies,

because I rejoice in your salvation.

There is no one holy like the Lord.

There is none besides You!

A heart change.  Broken heart is now rejoicing.  Still has enemies in her life – but now she’s boasting and rejoicing…in the Lord’s salvation.  Of course, this song ends with worship that is mixed with cheering and exclamation marks.  There is none holy like the Lord.  There is none besides You!

Pour your heart out.  To the depths.  Stop pretending in prayer.  Got to the bottom of how hurt & resentful you feel.  In that deep place worship, even if it’s mixed with weeping.  And continue to get up and pray & worship until your heart turns and begins to rejoice.

I’ll join Hannah is saying, “There is none besides You!”

Jan 282015
 

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THY MERCY, MY GOD, IS THE THEME OF MY SONG
by John Stocker, 1776

Thy mercy, my God, is the theme of my song,
The joy of my heart. and the boast of my tongue;
Thy free grace alone, from the first to the last,
Hath won my affections, and bound my soul fast.

Without Thy sweet mercy I could not live here;
Sin would reduce me to utter despair;
But, through Thy free goodness, my spirits revive,
And He that first made me still keeps me alive.

Thy mercy is more than a match for my heart,
Which wonders to feel its own hardness depart;
Dissolved by Thy goodness, I fall to the ground,
And weep to the praise of the mercy I’ve found.

Great Father of mercies, Thy goodness I own,
And the covenant love of Thy crucified Son;
All praise to the Spirit, Whose whisper divine
Seals mercy, and pardon, and righteousness mine.

I had never heard this song until today’s devotional with the She Reads Truth community.  I’m a lifetime lover of hymns – old & new.  This one is an uncovered jem.   Sandra McCracken is the guest writer at She Reads Truth and tells the story of finding these lyrics and brining them to melody.  Get over there and read her story and let the beauty of this hymn refresh your heart today.

If you were here on the Martha Street porch, we’d play it several times to learn the melody, drink coffee and then sing it together!  Join me in lifting up the praise of God’s incredible mercy.

Jan 262015
 

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I just wasn’t ready yet for the cross.  It seemed too jarring & stark.  I wasn’t ready for Jesus to die.

Let me explain…

Advent was such a meaningful season for me.  My soul guzzled Scripture as I waited for a Savior to arrive in places that were dark, quiet & unfulfilled.  Oh, the joy I felt at the arrival of our newborn King.   Emmanuel – God with us!

I remember asking myself what I’d read every morning now that my two Advent devotionals were complete.  Where would I encounter truth and hope and life?   Ever had that feeling at the end of a powerful Bible study?  The end of a school year that has a life-changing Bible professor?

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The community of women at She Reads Truth jumped into a month long study on the book of John.  They wanted to follow that newborn King into his life and ministry.  To watch him grow and minister to those around him.  I jumped into John with passion.  My heart was fed by the Shepherd of my Soul.  I kept a growing list of the names of Christ and meditated on their meaning in my life.

I was loving the book of John…up until chapter 12.  Mary anoints his feet with ointment and he starts talking about dying.  I actually cringed at these words.  “No, not yet!   It’s been less than a month since I rejoiced at your birth, I don’t want you to die.  Not yet!”

And so I procrastinated with the following chapters.  Jumped ahead to  the devotional writing without first prayerfully reading the chapter.  Squinting at the words on my phone so I could only half-read them.  I just didn’t want to face the cross so soon after rejoicing at his birth.

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I’ve got to admit that this surprised me a bit.  I’m so used to the eternal story that I fail to emotionally respond to the cross.  I quickly  console myself with the resurrection.  “Don’t worry.  He rises again!”   I know where the plot twists & turns.   But I was stopped by the awfulness of the cross – as if I didn’t know what was ahead.  As if this was the end of my Christmas King.

I hope the brutality of the cross always catches my heart.  I hope the reality of his suffering continues to stop me in my busy tracks.  I hope the life, death & resurrection of my Shepherd continue to impact me.

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The team at She Reads Truth has put together a fantastic resource for the Lent season – a devotional full of Scripture, hymns, and art that focus on the cross.  A whole season of drawing near to the cross.  I may be ready to walk towards the cross step-by-step during the 40 days of Lent.

If you’re interested in taking this journey with me, be sure to order your Lent devotional pack now so that you have it ready when we jump into it three weeks from now.  It always creeps up quicker than you expect – so get your order in so it arrives in time.  Let’s prepare our hearts for drawing near the cross.

Jan 222015
 

 

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I’m behind on my reading of John with the She Reads Truth community.   Life & kids overwhelmed my quiet time this week.  When I sat down this morning, I picked up where I left off – even though the community was 3 chapters ahead of me.  I”m so glad I didn’t skip ahead.  There was a truth sitting in John 10 that my heart needed to hear.

We’re introduced to Jesus as the Good Shepherd, the Gate for the sheep.  I love this image of loving leadership and tender care.  Here are some thoughts that I drew from this chapter:

  • Not all the sheep in the pen are His.  Not all sheep hear his voice and follow his call.   So I can’t take my cues from other sheep!

They may not be hearing what I’m hearing or headed where I’m going.   Following other sheep leads me astray – quickly.

Think about your life for a moment.  Where are you tempted to follow other sheep?  Other leaders in ministry?  Bloggers and online voices?  The girls in your Bible study?  Parents at your children’s school?  Entertainment personalities?

I’m so quick to look around, listen in on other sheep’s conversation and drift in the direction they’re walking.

The one who entered through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  The sheep recognize his voice and come to him.  He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow because they know his voice.  (John 10:2-5)

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I sat with that truth for a minute.  Recognize his voice.  Know his voice.  Follow his voice.

  • One of the ways that I stop following other sheep is by tuning in to his voice.  Listening only to him.

But there are so many voices in my life.  So many voices externally in my world.  So many voices in my mind & heart that keep me from hearing my Shepherd.  I took a second to write down all the voices that drown out his voice:

Voices of lies

Voices of comparison

Voices of judgement

Voices of accusation

Voices of guilt

Voices of complaint

Voices of criticism

Voices of fear

Voices of despair

What a horrible list! No wonder I get shut down, frustrated and confused.  No wonder it’s easier to follow others than to listen quietly.  No wonder I want to amuse myself to keep from being quiet.

But my shepherd is talking.  Quietly.  Constantly.  Lovingly.  He knows my name.  He knows everything about me.  He knows why I was created and what my purpose is on this planet.  He loves me so much that he gave up everything to be my Shepherd.  His voice is the One that will bring peace, purpose, validity, and direction.

They follow him because they know his voice.

Dec 012014
 

Enjoy this Advent song:  Hope is Alive performed by Ellie Holcomb

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Advent arrived yesterday morning – in the midst of leftover turkey, shopping bags, Christmas decorations and loads of college-student laundry.   It always seems to jump up on me.   Maybe it’s fitting that the first week brings the message of Hope.

Hope to those who are waiting,  Hope in the chaos.  Hope in the middle of daily tasks.  Hope of a Savior who will enter the darkness as the Light of the World.

If you haven’t got all your Advent plans in place, let me recommend a couple of resources that I’m enjoying this year:

  • She Reads Truth has a spectacular Advent plan.  Daily Bible readings, devotionals, Spotify playlist, printables..and carols & recipes (if you have their Advent book).   You’ll want to enjoy all this goodness with the community of women at She Reads Truth.
  • Ann Voskamp is posting a weekly advent video.  You’ll want to watch her video on Hope.   Her book, The Greatest Gift, is a great Bible journey for this month.
  • Rachel Hackenberg, who writes our Weekly Prayer Prompt, is emailing daily Advent prayer prompts.  Her prayer prompt fit perfectly with my pastor’s sermon yesterday.  I love when God works out details like that.  I”m listening, Lord!
  • I am participating in an Advent Instagram challenge   #Adventword     This is an international challenge and its been wonderful to see photos of each topic from Christians worldwide.   Check it out on Instagram #Adventword

If you’re aware of other Advent resources that have been helpful in your life, leave me a comment and let me know about it.  I’d love to pass the information on to others on this global front porch.

May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,

so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in Hope.  

Romans 15:13 (ESV)

Nov 242014
 

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I stood on holy ground twice last week.  Not in my church building.  One was a life-alterting conversation that took place in my favorite around-the-corner nook in Starbucks.  Another happened around a school table in my Guidance Counselor office.   The holy ground of people’s hearts that were transformed in the middle of the mundane, weekly schedule.

The Starbucks conversation involved a fearless friend.  She found release and healing of things she’s been carrying for over a decade.  I love that she found it in an unexpected way  – through an unplanned phone call.  It was holy ground to hear her speak of forgiveness, grace, and mercy.   I left that afternoon loving my Savior and the freedom given at the cross.  What amazing grace!

The second conversation was hard.  Tears and a anxiety.  A ministry couple being bitten & eaten alive by the tongues of those in their congregation.   People they’ve invested in for years are now quibbling over the smallest fault.  A damning list of sins was written and sent to the church leadership.   A list of sins?   Let’s get those to the cross – immediately!

Instead of bringing shame, that list needs to be the ink of my freedom.  The list is true – and so much more.  My heart is desperately wicked.  Good thing I have a Savior!   The opportunity to bring this list and our hearts before the throne of grace and ask for help is incredible.  Forgiveness.  Mercy.  Healing.  Encouragement.  Filling.

I left this conversation hurting for the trial they’re walking through at this time.  I beg Jesus to show up for them just as he did with Daniel’s friends in the fiery furnace.  I ache that the church can get so religious that we forget that we’re all sinners in need of a Savior.  I love the heart of those giving their lives for the sake of the gospel – even when people are petty & mean & difficult.

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Today’s topic on She Reads Truth is giving thanks in sorrow.  I began my morning with Psalm 31.   These powerful words moved me to pray for my friends who are in hard spots this week.  I prayed for you on this global front porch.  I don’t know your details, but can assume that some of you are in similar ministry situations.  These are the verses that  I prayed for you today:

I am trusting you, O Lord, saying, “You are my God!”

My future is in your hands, 

rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.

Let your favor shine on your servant.

In your unfailing love, rescue me.

How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you.

You lavish it on those who come to you for protection,

blessing them before the watching world.

You hide them in the shelter of your presence, 

safe from those who conspire against them.

You shelter them in your presence,  far from accusing tongues.

(Psalm 31:14-20)

Picture his face shining on you – right in the middle of your hard spot.  Imagine Him throwing a life preserver to you in the midst of overwhelming wind & waves.   Try to get your mind around storehouses of good things that he’s wanting to lavish on you.  In this life.  In this season.

Notice that his presence is the key to this whole thing.  Hidden in his presence.  A place of utter safety and protection.  Sheltered in his presence from accusing tongues.

May you sense His nearness in the middle of whatever is happening in your heart this week.

I’ll leave you with this truth:   No matter what is happening, He sees you & He cares.

I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love,

for you have seen my troubles,

and you care about the anguish of my soul.

(Psalm 31: 7)

Nov 212014
 

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I was having church in my living room last night with the girls from She Reads Truth.   Martha Street has been a huge supporter of this ministry – since back in the day when they were still using You Version devotionals to supplement their writing!   Things have improved, grown and taken root since then.  I still love their vision:

Getting Women into the Truth of Scripture Everyday

I love that it’s gospel centered.  It’s written by women.  It’s enhanced by the online community of women from around the world who are making it a priority to read & live in the truth of Scripture.   This is a ministry that I’m proud to support, encourage and enjoy.

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The party last night was for those who backed the Kickstarter campaign to help develop the She Reads Truth app.  I sat alone in my living room joining  Raechel & Amanda, Annie Downs & Ellie Holcomb.

Ellie kicked the night off with a song that set the tone for the entire hour.  Praise.  Thanksgiving.  Connecting together around the glory of our Savior.  The first song got everyone a little teary.  “Blurry joy”  they called it!

The conversation went immediately to the truth of Scripture:

  • Ephesians 3:14-20.   “Now to him…”   This is all about Him.  The glory of this project & function of this app is all for Him.
  • Luke 1:37.  “No word from God will ever fail.”   This is a She Reads Truth favorite.  An angel talking to a scared, young girl.  A promise for each of us as we step into God’s calling.  A promise as we tuck truth into the corners of our hearts & creases of our minds each morning.  No word from God will ever fail.

Ellie sang her song based on Lamentations 3 & Hosea 6.   Passages we’ve studied recently were lifted up in song.  Oh, that we may know the Lord!

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Annie Downs carried a powerful message for us.  Embracing that scripture is TRUTH is a game changer in life.  Nothing else is TRUE in that same way.  She urged us to consider that those in Scripture never knew what the outcome of their story would be.  Noah didn’t know the rain would ever stop.  Jonah didn’t know the whale would be sick after 72 hours & vomit him out.  Daniel’s friends didn’t know how God was going to respond when they were sentenced to die in a fiery furnace.

Bravery isn’t knowing the end of your story.  Courage is taking the next step…regardless of how this story takes shape.  Courage walks forward without knowing the end.  (We do know that mercy wins in the END…but you know what I mean!)

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We couldn’t end the night without some news & secrets for the upcoming year.

  • Today is the last day to order your Advent packs.  I got mine in the mail and it is FANTASTIC.  Get your order in today.
  • There are some site changes coming in the New Year.  Love the great design & ease of the site as well as meaningful content.
  • There is going to be a “Read the Bible thru in a Year” track if you want to take on that challenge in 2015.  All the info is coming soon on the site.

We concluded with Ellie singing her new Christmas song.  Yep, gave us all permission to blare it out even before Thanksgiving!  It’s available for purchase on iTunes, Hope is Alive.

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I continue to love the women’s hearts and voices at She Reads Truth.  I want Truth to permeate every aspect of my life.  I want to always be in community with other women who have the same desire so we can stand together and encourage one another.  I’m thrilled to be a small part of She Reads Truth.

 

If you made it through this long re-cap, you deserve a little perk – how about listening to Hope is Alive?


Oct 222014
 

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We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 

II Peter 1:19 (NIV)

I walked into the summer in need of soul rest.  I knew that it would come through the living, breathing, life-giving Word.  Time with my Savior.  Time in His Word.  Washing & refilling all the empty cracks in my soul.

Weirdly enough, God took me to the Prophets.  Yep, those pages in our Bibles that are still stuck together because we don’t thumb through & read them frequently.  Those long sermons about consequences of bad choices.  A few verses of beauty & imagery about a glorious Redeemer who would make all things right in the end.

Several times in my life God has brought me to the prophets.  I muddle through.  I put pieces together.  I grope around for concepts and details that I can assemble into a coherent message.

I think I get it…and then it goes a little blurry…

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I’ve joined with the women at She Reads Truth for the study through First & Second Peter.  This week we spent a morning in II Peter Chapter One.  Verse 19 of this chapter jumped out of the text with flashing lights.  My struggle with the Prophets is explained in this tucked-away verse in II Peter.

The message of the Prophets is completely reliable and inspired by the Holy Spirit as they were moved by God.  Worth studying.   But, the Prophets are like a lamp – a candle – in the middle of a large, dark room.  If you sit in the room long enough your eyes will adjust and you will see by the light of the candle.  Shapes.  Images.  Movement.

But you and I aren’t in a dark room lit by a candle.  We’re on the other side of the cross.  The Morning Star has risen and taken up residence in our hearts.  We live in full sunshine all the time.  Our eyes are used to being outside in direct sunlight.

Then we walk into the dark candlelit room of the prophets.  We blink and can’t see a thing.  The candle looks impotent.  We’re forced to stand still and wait for our eyes to adjust.  If we sit in the message of the Prophets long enough, our eyes will adjust.  We’ll see their movement and images.

But it will never feel bright enough for our sun loving eyes.  We want the see it all – in the detail of it’s blazing beauty.  Fumbling around in candlelight feels clunky and slow.  Our eyes are used to the dawn and the morning sun.

I’m still spending time fumbling around with the candlelight in Jeremiah.  I’ll sit in the dark a little longer waiting for my eyes to get used to the candle of his words.  I’ll ask the dawn to shine into this dark room and give me understanding and wisdom.

I’ll draw close to the candle and give thanks for the Dawn & Morning Star.

 

Jun 022014
 

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Welcome to Summer Bible Study – already?!   I’m feeling that way as June starts off and the “summer” schedule kicks into gear.  My daughter is in a week of final exams.  My son still has awards banquets and graduation ceremony (June 12&13).  We’re feeling like we’re in “finishing up” mode and the Summer schedule has already started!

Many of you are preparing for missions teams (either going on a team or hosting a team in your country of ministry).   Some of you are getting ready to leave for Summer Furlough.  I know you’re feeling overwhelmed by the amount of details and are asking yourself, “Is it Summer – already?!”

It’s Summer.  Already.  It’s here!

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Martha Street is a global front porch for women in ministry.  My personal goal with this blog is to nourish your roots so that you can continue to bear fruit.   Anyplace in the world.  Any season of life.  Any denomination or mission group.   I want my writing, counsel, prayers & ministry to nourish your roots so you can continue to bear fruit.

I was reminded of the importance of Bible study in nourishing our roots in a sermon on Psalm 1 that was preached at my church yesterday.  The importance of going deep.  Being “weighty” with the Word.  Being rooted and fruitful in & out of season.  It was like compost for this week’s kick off of Summer Bible Studies (you know I’m married to Farmer Ken with that mention of compost!)

She Reads Truth has a motto of  “Women in the Word”.    It’s why Martha Street partners with SRT & cheers on this ministry.  I want US to be Women in the Word.  Every day.  Every season.  Even the busy ones!

Women in the Word – this Summer.   Whether we’re ready for it or not.  Whether your details are overwhelming or not.  Whether you’re going on a trip or hosting a team.   Regardless of how full your calendar is crammed, you must be a Women in the Word this Summer.

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There are a couple of studies that we will join & talk about on the porch:

  • She Reads Truth is kicking off the new series on the book of Titus.  If you’re wanting gospel-centered, daily-applied Bible study, this is a great time to jump into the book of Titus with this community of women.  You can read it on your phone – so this is a good one to participate in if you’re crazy busy and doing your quiet time in the van, on-the-go.

 

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Let’s talk scheduling for a minute:

I’m going to keep up with the She Reads Truth community in real time.  I’ll stay on their daily schedule and will post anytime they ask for a She Shares Truth link-up.   I’ll also write when the Biblical passage moves my heart and touches my life.  This is one we’ll talk about on the porch concurrently with their schedule.

It is my goal to get through Beth’s study by the end of the Summer.  Yep, I’m going to cram that 9 week study into my 14 weeks before school starts in September.  I will not be able to keep up with Beth’s video & blog timetable.  However, I will find pockets of time this Summer to dig deeper into the Word and listen to the teaching & video messages on the blog.   This one I’ll plod along at my own schedule, adjusting for trips & guests & graduation.

If I write a blog post about either of our Summer Bible Studies, I’ll tag it with “Summer Bible Study” and the name of the study  “She Reads Truth”  or “Children of the Day”.    If you come to the porch and want to join in conversation, search the tags and jump in wherever you are in the study.  Community support is part of the fun at Martha Street, so jump in & talk whenever you get to that spot in the study.

Feel the freedom to work at the pace of your Summer calendar.  Study when you have time.  Keep your roots refreshed daily with She Reads Truth.  Catch up on teaching & community when that will touch your heart.  No matter what you’re facing this summer, commit to facing it with the Word dwelling richly in your heart.

Let’s all be Women in the Word this Summer.

 

May 302014
 

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The book of Nehemiah ends with a jarring U-Turn.  These people who’ve worked so hard, accomplished so much, repented & celebrated together, lived life together….totally fall apart.   What?!

Why does it always end this way?

Why did their sincere, written commitment to follow God’s commands fall flat in such a short time?

What happened to the crying, prayerful, face-to-the-ground repentance that came from the public reading of the Word?

All the same old traps.  All the same old sins.  All the same old stories.  They’ve done it again…after such a radiant victory, repentance and commitment.

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I love that the Bible never glosses over the humanity of us all.  People rally together, repent sincerely, commit to follow anew and then take a U-Turn into their old pits.  The Israelites did this.  I do this.  We know people who are famous for this tendency.

Why does our human nature always end this way?

Because our human nature will ALWAYS fail.  It will never seek after God.  It will never please Him.  The Law is a scream for grace, mercy and unfailing love.

The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature.  So God did what the law could not do.  He sent his own Son in a body like the body we sinners have.  And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.  He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

Romans 8: 3-4

There better be some cheering from all of us who are so good at taking three steps forward and then making a massive U-Turn back to our sinful ways.  I don’t have to follow my sinful nature any longer.  It no longer has control over me!

Here is more good news:

God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were.  But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.  So just as sin ruled over people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 5:20-21

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Grace rules instead…

     instead of old sinful ways of thinking & living

     instead of U-Turning to every whim of the flesh

     instead of guilt & condemnation.

Grace Rules Instead!

Why does Nehemiah end this way in chapter 12?  Why does it always end this way?

Because this is the way of things…without grace.

So thankful that Grace Rules in heart today.