10.11.2014

Incredible!!



It has been a joy to study Romans together! This week we turn to Romans 3 and find "the greatest paragraph ever written." Chapter 3:21-26 begins unpacking what God did to make us "right" before Him. What was required is often referred to as "double imputation." This term describes an exchange whereby our sins are "imputed" or reckoned to Christ who bore them on the cross. The other side of that "double" is that Christ's righteousness is imputed, reckoned to believers whereby they are seen by God as cloaked in the righteousness of Christ. ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE and worthy of MUCH, MUCH rejoicing

Whether you are studying Romans with us or not, you will be blessed to listen to R.C. Sproul unpack the glorious truth of Jesus taking our sin while giving us His righteousness- the great, great exchange!

Warning: it's dated! Click HERE to watch.

10.07.2014

S'more Party on the Deck!


Please join us for the last Sweet Mercies meeting of 2014! We'll be gathering around the fire pit in Julie Parsons' backyard for a sweet time of casual fellowship. Please bring yourself and a friend- s'mores will be provided. Julie lives just down the road from the church. We would love to see you there!

October 26th at 6pm.

1501 Birch Leaf Rd.
Chesapeake, VA 23320


8.27.2014

Sweet Encouragement!!




Please don't miss out on strong encouragement from Romans 8!

Listen HERE.

Vaneetha Rendall: Nothing Can Compare


It was a joy to be together Sunday night! Vaneetha blessed ALL of us with her God-honoring, faith-infusing testimony. For those who were unable to attend, please be sure to give it a listen. You will be fed and encouraged. "The suffering caused by shattered dreams must not be thought of as something to relieve if we can, or endure if we must. It's an opportunity to be embraced; a chance to discover the highest blessing God wants to give us: an encounter with Himself. At the end of our shattered dreams is God's presence, and God's presence is the very best present."

Please click here to LISTEN.


8.23.2014

ROMANS BIBLE STUDY


We are THRILLED to be studying the book of Romans this Fall and Spring! After focusing on Romans 8 in our Sweet Mercies meetings over this last year, we were eager for more from this wonderful book. It can be argued that no book of the Bible has had a greater effect on Christianity than the book of Romans. Chrysostom had it read aloud to him once a week. Augustine, Luther, and Wesley all came to a greater assurance of their faith through its impact. Luther described it as "the most important piece in the New Testament," and wrote: "It is well worth a Christian's while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul." If you haven't participated in bible study before, would you please consider joining us? It provides a wonderful structure for consistent study of the Word and the time spent hearing from one another is priceless. 

This is the study guide we will be using. Study guides are available in the bookstore.



8.14.2014

A Legacy of Sovereign Joy


This summer, Sweet Mercies completed several book clubs. Charlotte has agreed to share a little about her experience reading through, A Legacy of Sovereign Joy, by John Piper.

My name is Charlotte Parker and I wanted to take a moment to share how the Summer Book Club was such a blessing to me. I attended the book club hosted by Sarah Hennessey to study The Legacy of Sovereign Joy by John Piper. It was a wonderful time of sweet fellowship with the other ladies as we jumped into the deep end of the pool to learn about the lives of three influential men in church history: Aurelius Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Calvin. John Piper wrote this book to help us see that God in His sovereign design used 'flawed men' to not only change church doctrine in their generation but for generations to come.

Let me start by telling you that joy has been a fruit of the Holy Spirit that's been a struggle for me - one that I have had to fight for. All too often I have allowed circumstances and even people to dictate my level of joy. As I meditated on Augustine's life and his revelation of sovereign grace which led to sovereign joy, I came away with a deeper desire to hunger and thirst for God which would enable my life to be joyful in spite of circumstances. Not a life without trials and sorrow but with a joyful assurance that God's sovereignty is for always for my good. Augustine wrote that no other subject but grace gave him greater pleasure. John Piper summarized by saying, “Grace governs life by giving a supreme joy in the supremacy of God.” I'm so thankful that the Holy Spirit has reawakened this truth in my heart. I realize with more clarity that as I embrace the supremacy of God over all creation - supreme joy will follow.

There is one more defining moment that I experienced during this study in regards to Martin Luther and his uncompromising view and commitment to the study of the Word of God. Piper writes the following: “One of the great rediscoveries of the Reformation – especially of Martin Luther – was that the Word of God comes to us in the form of a book. In other words, Luther grasped this powerful fact: God preserves the experience of salvation and holiness from generation to generation by means of a book of revelation...” Luther held the supremacy of the Word of God as sacred and should be studied with diligence. Piper presents his readers with a profound question. He asks: “Do we work at our studies with rigor and diligence or are we slothful and casual about it, as if nothing really great is at stake?” That question drove me to my knees asking the Lord to forgive me for my casual attitude to the study of his glorious Word. Luther's life and example has renewed my love to cherish the Word of God and to study it with diligence. Let me close with Psalm 119:18 & 27:

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law. Make me understand the way of Your precepts.”

A little about Charlotte:


I have been married to my best friend, Chip Parker, for the last 40 years come this September. We have two wonderful children who live out West. My husband and I had the privilege 27 years ago to be part of the original church-planting team from northern Ohio. It has been (and will continue to be) an exciting journey experiencing the Lord's amazing grace and faithfulness as He uses Redeemer Church for His glory. I love our church!

I also love to get together for coffee-chats with the dear ladies of the church - ones I've know for a long time as well as those who are new to the church. It's a time of sweet fellowship that blesses my heart. Coffee + sweet fellowship.....what's not to like!

My favorite seasons are autumn and winter. I like to take longs walks when the cool breezes of autumn arrive which offers the pleasure of marveling at God's glorious kaleidoscope of colors. After autumn departs, I eagerly anticipate the hope of winter snow. Anyone who knows me well knows that I really love SNOW! Strolling along freshly fallen snow is invigorating and certainly brings out the kid in me! Enjoying the snow also brings a Scripture passage to mind in Isaiah 1:8 which says: "...though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow..." What a glorious truth to make you want to do the "happy dance."

Finally, I enjoy cooking & baking, trying new recipes, gentle rainy days, and watching movies from Jane Austen's classics.

8.06.2014

A Praying Life


This summer, Sweet Mercies completed several book clubs.  Katy has agreed to share a little about her experience reading through, A Praying Life, by Paul Miller. 

A few months ago, I wrote on a chalk board in my kitchen the verse, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me" (Ps 51). Praying this prayer felt easy & so right; who wouldn't want God to create in them a clean heart & renewed spirit? (assuming you're a Christian). I was pumped at having such a perfect and simple life-changing prayer on my wall. I wanted a light switch transformation. Off with my sin & on with purity! But after reading Paul Miller's book, A Praying Life, this verse looked much different to me.

Paul's book explains that relationship with Jesus is the purpose of prayer. Prayer in my life has typically been how I approach many things...as a task to accomplish. Especially as I've gotten older, I have both gotten more cynical & lazy when it comes to my 'verbal' relationship with Jesus. It's kinda easy for me to read the Bible & think of Jesus as a third party. Me and his Word vs me and Jesus himself. Paul gave an example which still stands out to me of a couple getting to know one another. I didn't fall in love with my husband by hearing other people tell me about him or by viewing his life from a safe distance. I fell in love with him by spending time with him. Getting to know him and talk with him and walk through all sorts of situations with him near me. The same is true with Jesus. Spending intimate time without an agenda with Jesus helps me know him. How can I trust and give my life away to someone I don't intimately know? By starting with 5 minutes a day in prayer (recommended by Paul) I've been much more eager to know him more. I also have held my tongue (esp. towards my daughter) with others and voiced it more with Jesus. Paul said on pg 59 "It didn't take me long to realize I did my best parenting by prayer. I began to speak less to the kids & more to God. It was actually quite relaxing." I love that! More than anything for my kids I desired them to have a deep relationship with Jesus, so instead of banging them over the head with Bible verses & constant correction I want them to see me have that deep relationship.

What about specific unanswered prayers? We've all been there. Some of us have stopped praying specific things because we've wised up and don't want to deal with disappointment. Recently I have prayed many times, "Lord, I am tempted to be judgmental and manipulative towards my husband today, please change that into love", and many times I follow through with a hurtful word and use manipulation to try to change him. I saw the temptation, prayed ahead of time & yet still did the very thing I had not wanted to do. One friend from book club shared a request for their finances, they simply need to make more more for them to eat & pay bills. My response is, 'I'm going to network & by golly find this family a better job- this kinda pressure on their family has got to stop!' Each week her situation was the same, in fact she was looking to start working a side job to help her family out (which she didn't want to do as she stays home with her kids). What's the point of praying? Could God be using my repetitive sin or their trial with finances for our good & his glory? Paul talks about God being the author of our 'life story'. He says 'living in our Father's story means living in tension. How boring life would be if prayer worked like magic. there's be no relationship with God, no victory over little pockets of evil. What makes up a good story? Drama, heart-ache or suffering are typically there- right? Chapter 21 says, "The hardest part of being in the dessert is that there is no way out. You don't know when it will end. A desert can be almost anything. It can be a child who has gone astray, a difficult boss, or even your own sin or foolishness. God customizes deserts for each of us. God takes everyone he loves through a desert. The still, dry air of the desert brings the sense of helplessness that is so crucial to the spirit of prayer. You come face-to-face with your inability to live. to have joy. to do anything of lasting worth. Suffering burns away the false selves created by cynicism or pride or lust. You stop caring about what other people think of you. The desert is God's best hope for the creation of an authentic self. Desert life sanctifies you. The best gift of the desert is God's presence." Chapter 23 goes on to say, "Sometimes when we say 'God is silent,' what's really going on is that he hasn't told the story the way we wanted it told. He will be silent when we want him to fill in the blanks of the story we are creating. But with his own stories, the ones we live in, he is seldom silent. When the story isn't going your way, ask yourself, 'what is God doing?' Be on the lookout for strange gifts."

That same week, I prayed for love instead of disrespect and failed miserably. It was in font of some friends. It was embarrassing & I looked like a fool. But the Lord helped me see that failing & falling flat on our faces is part of the 'creating of a pure heart'. An 'on/off' switch would be a lot easier & less embarrassing for me but our friends were actually encouraged by being able to witness my weakness & talk through what God is doing in our lives. It was humbling for me. I don't want to be brought low (esp in front of others!) but when I'm down there who do I find (like Eric said on Sunday)... Jesus. It's in the tough places, the deserts, that Jesus is nearest. 

So now when I pray 'created in me a clean heart O God' I'm looking for Jesus as the author of my story (not a light switch) and I can almost predict there will be some form of suffering along the way because he's after 'thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine'. I'm still praying to be a respectful wife & finances for my friend but I'm filled with faith & not despair when I don't see immediate change...the Author is writing a beautiful drama and I want to see him at work.

A little about Katy: 
My season of life right now consists of lots of clean up time; dishes, laundry & stuff everywhere. When I'm not cleaning I'm typically sitting outside watching my kids play (& breaking up fights!). I also adore being outside especially when it's hot. My hubby, Clay, is the most discerning man I know, which is a love/hate attribute for me because he's very often "right"! My kids are very calm & quiet & never run up on stage during church. Everyday that passes I'm more aware of how fast time is rushing by & I find myself often praying for wisdom and direction. "Lord, may I not float through life with blurry vision- I want to be close to you & do your will"

7.24.2014

Nothing Can Compare!



It is our joy and privilege to introduce you to Vaneetha Rendall, guest speaker for our last Sweet Mercies meeting of the year on August 24th. Some of you may know Vaneetha as Melanie Wasko's dear friend, or you might know her through her popular blog: danceintherain.com. Vaneetha is an accomplished...everything! :) She is a gifted writer whose articles appear on the Desiring God blog, and is a skilled public speaker. We are DELIGHTED to have Vaneetha with us!!

The evening's theme is, "Nothing Can Compare." Scripture tells us that our present sufferings cannot begin to compare with the glory that will be revealed to us. Even while we affirm that truth, we know that the struggles we face are real and that they threaten to destroy our faith if they seem purposeless. In Vaneetha's own life, understanding a fraction of that purpose through various trials has enabled her to draw nearer to God and to see that nothing can compare with the joy of walking with him, even in our darkest days. Vaneetha speaks as one who has seen trouble- the death of an infant son, a husband who abandoned she and two daughters, and the debilitating effects of post-polio syndrome. It will be a blessing to hear testimony about a God who is FAITHFUL to uphold and sustain. Please don't miss being with us!

To whet your appetite and to bless your soul, please read more about/from Vaneetha:

Vaneetha's blog

Desiring God articles

From our lowest emotional points come our most significant growth. Our greatest dependence on God. Our platform of ministry. It is in these low points that God does His deepest work in us.

Can't wait for August 24th!

7.18.2014

Coffee with Jen


Jen talks about God's expectations of us compared to our own.  She loves to drink a cup of green tea in the mornings with a teaspoon of honey. 

I am my worst critic at all times! I am very hard on myself. I feel like I always set myself up for failure because I have this high standard that is unachievable for the way a "Christian" should live. I also try to apply those same standards to my life which causes a lot of disappointment on my part. I am somewhat "OCD" which adds even more pressure to my supposed high standards because I always want my house to look perfect which with kids is impossible!  My husbands always telling me, " it's ok you didn't finish the dishes or have clothes neatly put away in everyone's drawer before bed". My family is afraid I'm going to turn my kids into little OCD children because I require them to do things a certain way and everything must be in its place before they go to bed. I make my daughter get up early for school so that she can make her bed and make sure her room is just so before she leaves for the day.  

I need to adjust my expectations for my life and reading Romans 8:1-4 helps me do that. 

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

God knew I couldn't be perfect.  He loved me so much He gave me a way to spend eternity with Him despite myself. I often have to just take a breath and get a hold of myself and use this chapter as a reminder that I can't do this without His grace. God's grace fully covers me. He expects me to try my best. Some days I feel my best is only 20%, but I know even if it's a bad day he will meet me that other 80%. In verse 38, it speaks of how nothing can separate us from His love. I think of how much I love my children and want them to succeed in everything they do, and to know that our Father wants that even more for us is comforting.

A little about Jen: 
I have been married to my best friend Josh for 10 years.  We have two beautiful children, Keira Marie, age six and Seth Alexander, age two.  My husband is a Firefighter/EMT for the City of Norfolk and I get the awesome opportunity of being a stay at home mom. Being a stay at home mom is something I have wanted since I was a little girl. We prayed for five years for me to be able to stay at home with the kids and last year my dream finally came true.  So for all of the working mom's who share this same dream, continue to believe for it! God can and will provide a way. It is just not always in our timing.

7.17.2014

5 Points, God's Glorious Sovereignty in Salvation: Perseverance of the Saints


The fifth point of the “Five Points of Calvinism” is known as “Perseverance of the Saints”—the teaching that nothing, NOT ONE THING, can separate us from the love of Christ! God will enable and preserve His people to walk in faith to the end of their days. Of all the five points, this is the one that I call to mind most often in my Christian walk because it informs my future and gives me great hope. The other five points instruct my thinking about what God has done for me in the past—which is AMAZING in itself—but, this point contains sweet assurance for the future, as Jesus describes in John 10:27-29:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 

“Perseverance of the Saints” is often misunderstood as teaching that it does not matter what Christians “do,” but that is NOT at all what it means. Paul tells the early church in Philippians 2:12-13:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

This verse is so interesting because it speaks of both our responsibility to obey the Lord and yet, it brings everything ultimately back to God: for it is GOD who works in you. In other words, make every effort to “BE who you ARE” (2 Peter 1:3-10).

This “point” also magnifies God’s faithfulness, power, and continued compassion for His people. Let these promises steep in your heart:

-God’s covenant of peace will not be removed from you (Isaiah 54:10)

-God will put the fear of Himself in your heart so you will not turn from Him (Jeremiah 32:40)

-It is the will of God the Father that Jesus lose none of His own (John 6:39)

-there is an unbreakable chain that begins with your predestination and ends with your glorification (Romans 8:29-30)

-NOTHING can separate you from the love of God….even your own wandering…. (Romans 8:38-39)

-Jesus will sustain you to the end (1 Corinthians 1:8-9)

-the work that God began in you will be brought to completion (Philippians 1:6)

-you are being guarded through faith by God’s power (1 Peter 1:5)

-God will keep you from stumbling in order to present you blameless (Jude 2:24)

As I reflect on this particular point, I am blown away by God’s love for me!!! I can think back to times that I have wandered away, and I KNOW that Jesus—my very GOOD Shepherd—took it on Himself to come and find me, to call me by name and remind me of my first Love. What a wonderful PROMISE this is for the future and what wonderful HOPE for those who have wandered away. If a person is truly a Christian, Jesus will go after him/her just as He has gone after me!!! Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah!!!!

God’s love for you extends from before the foundation of the world and into all eternity! Your salvation begins and ends in Him…what better assurance is there!?!?

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things (Romans 11:36).

Soli Deo gloria!!!




A little about Debbie:

Debbie is a secretary/receptionist at Redeemer Church. She and her husband, Isaiah, live with their two dogs just a stone's throw away from the church, but somehow they still end up at least 5 minutes late on Sunday mornings. Debbie loves to sing, read, tutor math, encourage people, and listen to her husband tell stories. One day, she and Isaiah want to live on the family farm in North Carolina with a big garden, lots of kids, and the laundry hanging out on the line.

7.04.2014

Sunset Party on the Deck!


Please join us for a party!! On Saturday, July 19 at 6:30pm we'll be enjoying wonderful food and fellowship, along with a wonderful view, at a party on Linda Benson's deck in Virginia Beach. There will be music and refreshments and an opportunity to relax and enjoy one another's company. We would love to have you!! Bring a friend!

Linda's address:
1420 N. Woodhouse Rd.
Virginia Beach, VA 23454

To help with directions, click on the map below.

Map

If you are able to come, please consider grabbing a friend and carpooling! That will help us with parking.

Hope to see you there!!

7.03.2014

5 Points, God's Glorious Sovereignty in Salvation: Unconditional Election


The fourth “point” of the “Five Points of Calvinism” is the doctrine known as Unconditional Election. The doctrine of God’s sovereign election means that God chose specific individuals to be his children before the foundation of the world. The unconditional part means that God chose us according to his own purposes, not because of anything we have done.

The doctrine of election can be a difficult concept for people because it doesn’t seem fair that God would choose some people and not others. But, it must be important to God that we understand it because it is all over the Bible:

Deuteronomy 7:6- For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
John 15:16- You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.

Romans 8:29-30- For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Ephesians 1:4- …he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

Colossians 3:12- Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

1 Peter 2:9- But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Our natural sense of entitlement leads us to believe that God must have chosen us because we are somehow more righteous than those who are not chosen; BUT this is NOT what the Bible says. God tells us that God chose us before the foundation of the world:

-because of his GREAT love for us (Deuteronomy 7:8; Ephesians 2:4)

-because it pleased Him (1 Samuel 12: 22)

-so that his purpose of election might continue (Romans 9:11)

-to give us an underserved GIFT (Ephesians 2:8-9)

-so that no one can boast (1 Corinthians 1:29)

The thought that God has the prerogative to do whatever He chooses is terrifying…until we call to mind the character of God: He is righteous, He is just, He is loving, He is merciful, He is kind, He is faithful, He is good!!! God’s sovereign election flows out of His perfect attributes.

Even though the joint ideas God’s prerogative and his unconditional choice are hard for us to wrap our minds around, they are not so foreign to us as we might imagine. Why does your earthly father love you? Is it because you were such a good baby when you were little? Is it because you made really good grades in school? Is it because you are talented and responsible? OF COURSE NOT!!! Our earthly fathers love us simply because we are their children….there is NO OTHER REASON! Why does it surprise us that our Heavenly Father’s love is any different? God’s love for us stems from His love for us!!! This circular reasoning is maddening because we all want to take at least a little credit for our relationship with God, but the truth is, you have never done anything to warrant, secure, or maintain God’s love for you. God loves you because He loves you. Period.

There is actually great JOY in this truth: when we understand that our election is all of God (not by our merits), we will burst with praise and worship before our merciful God. God receives all the glory!!! Paul tells us in Romans 8:38 that “from him and through him and to him are all things.” ALL THINGS…even the details of your salvation are to the praise of God’s glorious grace! There is also plenty of room for HOPE for the lost: we know that we did nothing to warrant God’s loving choice, so this should encourage us to pray boldly for the salvation of our loved ones and preach boldly….even to the worst sinners.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

What kind of emotions does the thought of being chosen by God—not because of anything that you have done—stir in your heart?


A little about Debbie:

Debbie is a secretary/receptionist at Redeemer Church. She and her husband, Isaiah, live with their two dogs just a stone's throw away from the church, but somehow they still end up at least 5 minutes late on Sunday mornings. Debbie loves to sing, read, tutor math, encourage people, and listen to her husband tell stories. One day, she and Isaiah want to live on the family farm in North Carolina with a big garden, lots of kids, and the laundry hanging out on the line.

6.27.2014

Coffee with Maggie



Maggie talks about the hope found in Romans even when we are overcome by our sin. If it’s a rainy, cool day Maggie drinks a large cup of strong coffee with cream and a little bit of sugar, but if it’s a hot, sunny day she loves Starbucks iced coffee with 2 pumps of classic sweetener and plenty of cream.  

Hope for the Very Angry Mom: Hearing & Believing Romans 8 

As I care for my children, the temptation to anger is always close by my side. When my two year old son is having a tantrum, it’s there tempting me to scream back at him with a scowl on my face. When he is repeatedly disobedient, it’s telling me to say hurtful things. When my son is persistent and stubborn about what he wants, it’s begging me to give him his way and let my heart fill with bitterness. And oh how I give into these temptations more times than not! I feed my flesh time after time, choosing not love but unkindness, believing the lie that my anger will quicken my son’s road to obedience, and then, soon after, I am filled with guilt. I am overcome by condemnation and my conscience accuses me of being “that mom” whose kids will remember her as always angry and always yelling.

This is what my days have consisted of the past few months – battling a toddler while caring for his baby sister. I have experienced some of my worst days as a mom, days I feel like I am a two-year-old fighting my own two-year-old. I have repeatedly given into ugly, childish anger and then been completely enveloped in shame and condemnation for the way I have treated my son. I have felt completely stuck in my sin, not having the desire or the energy to fight against it.

One thing I am sure of, however, is that I have never been more desperate for Jesus. I am desperate for his help, desperate for his forgiveness, desperate for his power to strengthen me, change me and preserve me to the end, and I am more grateful for his perfect life, sacrifice and resurrection than ever before.

This desperation for Jesus and desire to go to battle against my sins of anger and condemnation drove me to listen to a message series by John Piper called How to Kill Sin. In his sermons, Piper explains that Christians fight sin by hearing and believing the word of God. When we “set our minds of things of the spirit (Romans 8:5)” – meaning the word of God – we in turn “by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body (8:13)” – our sin. The primary weapon for battling our own flesh is to hear the word of God and believe it with our all of our hearts.

After listening to the series I searched to find what Piper likes to call “fighter verses,” bible truths that speak specifically to my sins of anger and condemnation. I have been writing them out, posting them on my walls, making them backgrounds on my phone and singing them to my kids, so that they will be close at hand to cling to, to HEAR and to BELIEVE! I kept it simple and stuck with these three verses:

Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20

Love is patient and kind. I Corinthians 13:4

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. II Corinthians 12:9


It is so helpful to have these on notecards posted throughout my house. Before naptime/bedtime routines (some of my most challenging times of day) I try to read them, and when I am in the midst of fighting with my son and feel that prick of conviction after something I said, I lift these verses up in my prayers asking God for help.

But then a few weeks ago, I had one of my most angry days ever and the “fighter verses” just seemed trivial. My expectations of my son’s obedience were in no way being met, and my dreams of catching a “break” slowly shattered to pieces while we fought for two hours about the afternoon nap that never happened. I could feel how ugly the anger on my face looked. I completely gave into my flesh. I blew up at my son countless times. Bitterness was creeping into my heart, and I felt completely numb to the word of God. I had no desire to run to my “fighter verses,” and was feeling totally conquered by my sin.

By evening, during that peaceful hour between dinner and bedtime, scenes from the day flashed in my mind and so began my conscience’s list of accusations:

What kind of mom are you? How can you say such hurtful things? How can you shame a little boy? How will he ever forgive you for the way you have treated him?

I willingly dove into that black pool of condemnation, swimming around in all of its shame and self-pity. Then, when my sweet mama’s boy asked for his dad to tuck him in bed that night for one of the very first times, I sank to the bottom of that black pool. My heart was broken.

As I rocked my baby girl to sleep that night, I cried over the way I had treated my son, I cried because he asked for his dad to put him to bed and not me, I cried because I felt so sick from the anger I had given in to all day, and I cried thinking about the mom I was and the mom I wished I could be. After I rolled around in my condemnation and tried to beat myself up into “getting it together” for the next day, I knew what I really needed was truth – truth to hear and to believe! The Spirit was prompting me to stop listening to myself but my “fighter verses” just weren’t coming to my mind and I didn’t have any desire to open the word and read it.

So there in the dark room, I found a reciting of Romans 8 on YouTube, held my phone to my ear and just listened.

I was hearing – hearing the wonderful news that there is no condemnation, even for a very angry mom, who is in Christ Jesus, because it was already used up on him! I was hearing – that though my body is dead because of sin, I am alive because the very Spirit who raised Christ Jesus from the dead is in me! I was hearing – that I am not a debtor to my flesh, I don’t live according to its wishes of angry outbursts and condemning accusations, because I have been adopted and made an heir of God with Christ! I was hearing – that the suffering and struggle of my day is absolutely nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed to me one day. I was hearing – that the Spirit is interceding for me, that he knows I am a very weak, tired mom, prone to anger, a mom who doesn’t know how to pray like I should, yet, he takes my simple cries for help and turns them into perfect prayers just for me. I was hearing – that God foreknew me, and he picked me before time to be conformed into the image of his Son, that he justified me and that yes, even I, the most angry mom on the planet, will be glorified! I was hearing – that the same God who didn’t spare his very own Son, but gave him up for me, will graciously give me all that I need to persevere to the end. I was hearing – that no one, not even my own conscience, can bring any charge against me, one of God’s elect. I was hearing – that nothing in all of creation, not even my huge ugly sin of anger I repeatedly give in to, can ever separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus!

As I listened, my tears of shame and guilt turned into tears of relief, and joy, and gratefulness, as my soul was filled with assurance and hope. When the reciting finished, I prayed over and over that the Spirit would empower me not to just hear but to believe all that I had just heard.

 


I sneaked into my son’s room that night and stole a kiss from him as he soundly slept, my heart feeling lighter and warmer, and my love for me sweet little boy overflowing, completely resting in the fact that the truth found in Romans 8 would be the only way I could wake up the next morning and find strength to keep mothering my children.

I can’t say that since I have been making a more purposeful effort to hear and believe the word my sins of anger and condemnation have become less. In fact, in the middle of typing this I have already yelled at my son a handle of times! However, my Savior is becoming all the more beautiful to me as I let the truth of the word warm my soul. He is the one who already battle the flesh and won the war against sin! I will fall again and again because I still live in a fallen world but I I know that I can “take heart” for he has overcome the world. I will see that in full one day and I will be glorified! This is my hope and it drives me to stay in the “good fight of faith,” by hearing and believing the word, writing and rewriting it, hanging it on my walls, singing, memorizing and praying it, and teaching it to my children so they can remind me of its truth when my eyes are too tired to read and my mind to think. His word will not return void.

So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:11

A little about Maggie:
Maggie Davis is a stay-at-home mom to Josiah (2) and Evelyn (9 months) and despite her battles with anger, really loves everything about being a mom. She is married to Matt who graciously reminds her of the gospel each day, and knows popcorn, m&ms and a movie is just what his wife needs after the kids are in bed. They love playing with their kids, hanging out with their parents, brothers and sisters, and drinking lots of coffee.

6.26.2014

5 Points, God's Glorious Sovereignty in Salvation: Particular Redemption


Debbie Ruhl is currently leading a discussion of John Piper’s book, Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God’s Grace, on Monday evenings through the month of June. We thought it might be helpful for her to blog about the material, helping all of us understand more clearly what is known as Reformed Doctrine or Calvinism. 

Historically, the third “point” of the Doctrines of Grace is known as “Particular Redemption.” It is the teaching that Jesus died for individual people in particular. This is the one point that takes the most time and energy to explain, and of the “Five Points of Calvinism” it is also the one point that is most misunderstood and most hotly debated in evangelical circles. So, instead of discussing it in detail here on the Sweet Mercies blog, I want to give several book recommendations that do a much better job than I ever could. Some good discussions can be found in:

1. Chosen By God, R.C. Sproul

2. The Doctrines of Grace, James Montgomery Boice and Phillip Graham Ryken

I do want to leave you all with one mind-blowing thought. Revelation 13:8 tells us that our names are written in the “Book of the Lamb who was slain,” and not only that, but that our names were written in this book before the foundation of the world. What?!?! Jesus loved me even before the world was formed?!? YES!!! This means that Jesus called you to mind when He said “Father, forgive them,” and that He had your name on His heart when He breathed His last.

Jesus’ love for you is a personal, name-knowing love that extends to the furthest reaches of time. HOW AMAZING IS THAT?!


Soli Deo gloria!


A little about Debbie:


Debbie is a secretary/receptionist at Redeemer Church. She and her husband, Isaiah, live with their two dogs just a stone's throw away from the church, but somehow they still end up at least 5 minutes late on Sunday mornings. Debbie loves to sing, read, tutor math, encourage people, and listen to her husband tell stories. One day, she and Isaiah want to live on the family farm in North Carolina with a big garden, lots of kids, and the laundry hanging out on the line.

6.20.2014

Coffee with Sarah


Sarah chats about living under God's grace, rather than the law.  For Sarah, coffee is a must every morning.  She takes it with a little cream and a little sugar, nothing too fancy.

Recently God has been teaching me about grace and, that is a theme I see as I read through Romans 8. Starting in verse 12, Paul states that we are heirs with Christ -us, the broken, sinful, majorly flawed, mess-ups of humans. All those who trust in Christ are heirs with Him. My favorite verse is verse 15, "For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!'"

What a picture of grace! He not only saves us, made us His heirs, but we no longer have to try to live by the law.

I find that when I focus on my fears and the law then I miss God's grace. I miss how in spite of my sin and failures He still calls me his own. I go back to the very thing He saved me from. Instead of trying my best to be righteous through the law I can now just call out to Him, because I am his daughter.

In the very beginning of Chapter 8, it says we aren't condemned when we are in Christ and that we have been set free from the law of sin and death. Yet somehow I keep thinking if I live a certain way or do a certain things He will love me or bless me more. Most of the time I may not even realize that is what I am thinking. I find myself saying things like, "Wow, God, I can't believe you blessed me like that when I don't even know the last time I picked up my bible." God blesses me because I am His daughter and He loves me not because I deserve it. Let's face it, we never deserve any good thing from the Lord.

I don't want to live my life focused on the steps I have to take to please God or how I think life is supposed to look. When I do that, I am placing myself back into the law. Instead, I want to live in grace. I want his grace that saved me and adopted me to inform my decisions. I want my love and desire to spend time with Him to flow from that grace. So today, this week, this month I will meditate on his grace. I will let it penetrate into my life and let love and gratefulness flow from it.

A little about Sarah: 
I love going running with my husband, traveling, spending time with friends, baseball, the summertime and playing ridiculous games with my family. 

6.19.2014

5 points, God's Glorious Sovereignty in Salvation: Irresistible Grace




Debbie Ruhl is currently leading a discussion of John Piper’s book, Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God’s Grace, on Monday evenings through the month of June. We thought it might be helpful for her to blog about the material, helping all of us understand more clearly what is known as Reformed Doctrine or Calvinism. 

2. IRRESISTIBLE GRACE

In the previous post, we took a good, hard look at our natural selves: that before we were saved we were certainly "dead in our trespasses and sins…children of wrath like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:1-3). Needless to say, dead people are DEAD: they cannot turn toward God, renew their own hearts, or breathe life into their spirits. This really is the bad news of the gospel, isn’t it? But the rest of Ephesians 2 tells us the GOOD NEWS:

“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 2:4)
Even when we weren’t looking for Him, God came and found us: he called us out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9)! It’s the call of our loving shepherd, Jesus, who took it on himself to find us in our wandering:

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).
Look at the last part of that verse: “and they follow me.” This is not the possibility of salvation : this is the assurance of salvation!

God has changed our hearts so we want to follow Him. This is what is meant by irresistible grace. It’s that call from the Lord that is so loving, so powerful, so beautiful, SO IRRESISTIBLE that we have to say YES, I love you too!!!!!! This is exactly the call that Song of Solomon speaks of:
“My beloved speaks and says to me: ‘Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away…’” (Song of Solomon 2:10).
How can you say “no” to the one person who loves you perfectly and fully?!?! Another way to look at is in the birthing language that Jesus uses:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
Can a baby will NOT to be born? Of course not! A baby cannot decide when he will be born any more than he willed himself into being. Nor can a baby resist his mother’s birthing pains. This is another way to look at irresistible grace: God’s will to save sinners—to give them a new birth—cannot be thwarted (Job 42:2).
But what about people who say “NO” to God—and there are many who do: they resist God’s call to salvation, don’t they? This is where we must admit that Scripture does not give us all the answers. Somehow, Scripture seems to point to a special, heavenly call that results in salvation apart from the general call to salvation that is given to everyone:

“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out…No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day…” (John 6:37, 44).

Ladies, let this knowledge fill your heart with worship!!!! You have been given to Jesus by God the Father Almighty through grace that is inexpressible, undeniable, and IRRESISTIBLE!!! Even before you knew Him or loved Him, Jesus called you out of darkness: you are His lovely bride and He delights in you!!

Soli Deo gloria!



A little about Debbie:
Debbie is a secretary/receptionist at Redeemer Church. She and her husband, Isaiah, live with their two dogs just a stone's throw away from the church, but somehow they still end up at least 5 minutes late on Sunday mornings. Debbie loves to sing, read, tutor math, encourage people, and listen to her husband tell stories. One day, she and Isaiah want to live on the family farm in North Carolina with a big garden, lots of kids, and the laundry hanging out on the line.

6.16.2014

6.13.2014

Coffee with Jessica


Jessica discusses clinging to truth of Romans 8 in moments of doubt and unbelief. Since breaking her caffeine addiction, she now takes her occasional cup of decaf with a bit of coconut sugar and a heathy dose of heavy whipping cream.

I've been in quite the funk lately... Which isn't new for me. Battling chronic pain for half my life has come with a generous side of 'depression'... Now, just mix in three adorably disobedient children (ages 5,3 &1), and a husband that can't read my mind to save his life... and there you have it... Me... In a desperate state of mind, body and spirit.

Some days I just wish I could hit the 'reset button'. I want to know that my dear Evangeline appreciates the double French braids I painstakingly perfected, as she wiggled and complained. I want to know that my precious Elliot meant to kiss me instead of spitting in my face while yelling "YOU NO CHARGE!" ... or that my sweet Adeline meant to say... "Thank you, mom, for letting me scarf down what measly morsels you had left on your plate instead of yelling "EAT! EAT! MORE!"

When I'm emotional and doubting my husband's love for me... I just want to hit RESET.

"Hey baby," he would say, while perhaps giving me a foot rub, "I love you and I'm committed to loving and caring for you, no matter how many mugs you throw across the room or emotional meltdowns you have. I am for you... and I'm praying for you. You are beautiful. Those jeans do not make your butt look big... and, by the way, you have a bit of cream cheese frosting dangling from your bottom lip... Let me get that for you." (warm embrace)...

For me... Romans 8 has been just that... my spiritual RESET BUTTON. What a glorious chapter of Holy Scripture, packed full of exactly what we need to be hearing above all the other noises and hallow words this world has to offer.

When I find myself surrounded by the dark clouds of pain and depression... 'for I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.' (vs 18). 

When I'm tempted to be overwhelmed by the sin that so easily entangles... ' There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.' (vs 1).

When I'm feeling weak in body and Spirit, and there are no words to contain the sobs... 'Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness... the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.' (vs 26).

Doubting God's love and faithfulness seems almost silly when held to the backdrop of verses 29 and 30... These words...' He foreknew me... He predestined me to be conformed in the image of his son. He called me... and those he called, he also justified... and those he justified... he's also glorified!' ... these sweet words have been a lifeline to me. A life preserver thrown out to me as the storms of life are threatening to pull me under... and the one on the other end of this lifeline... the anchor of my soul. The ONE who spoke and there was light. The ONE who calmed the storms. 'The ONE who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all (vs. 32)... how will he not also with him graciously give us all we need?'

Reading Romans 8, and knowing that it's about us... those of us who have believed and are hidden in Christ Jesus... should bring hope, assurance, boldness. When our eyes are cast down at ourselves or our circumstances... the words of this chapter are meant to revive us, to remind us of who we are... and who is for us, interceding on our behalf. It's a reset button when unbelief and doubt creeps in.

'What then shall we say? He is for us. He is at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. We are more than conquerers through him who loved us... and nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.' (paraphrased)

When we HEAR Romans 8... it brings truth and hope... the storms of life seem to grow smaller. When we BELIEVE Romans 8... we grab hold of this truth, tethering ourselves to the Anchor... and when we start LIVING Romans 8... we proclaim that truth with boldness and we follow in the footsteps of Christ... no are no longer overcome by the waves... but begin walking above them.

A little about Jessica: 
Jessica Rockey has been married to her dear husband, David, for nearly 8 years. They have 3 sweet and energetic children Evangeline, Elliot and Mary Adeline. Jessica is a former ballerina and dance instructor... and has just taken on the role of Choreographer for a local Passion Play. She loves being a full time mom at home, and spends most of her time aimlessly wandering around the house, trying to remember what she forgot... and saying things like "Stop picking your brother's nose!" and "You have to put on pants if you want to go to the store."

6.12.2014

5 Points, God's Glorious Sovereignty in Salvation: Total Depravity

Debbie Ruhl is currently leading a discussion of John Piper’s book, Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God’s Grace, on Monday evenings through the month of June. We thought it might be helpful for her to blog about the material, helping all of us understand more clearly what is known as Reformed Doctrine or Calvinism. 

1. TOTAL DEPRAVITY

Last week we started off our study of John Piper’s Five Points. These five points do not exhaust biblical theology or Reformed teaching, they simply summarize God’s glorious sovereignty in salvation. Let me say that again because (as one woman in my study commented) it is so helpful in understanding why people make such a big deal about these doctrines: the Five Points of Calvinism are about GOD’S GLORIOUS SOVEREIGNTY IN SALVATION.

We spent a good deal of time talking about seeking to know the mind of Christ (albeit "through a glass dimly"), and how it's okay if one is not quite convinced of a certain “point” at end of the study. Great men (and women) of the Lord have had different understandings throughout history, but we are all the Body of Christ! The real “point” of the study is to read the Word and let God's teachings steep in our hearts.

We tackled the “first point” of Calvinism: total depravity. First of all, let’s clear up what total depravity is not: it does not mean that man does as much evil as he can. It simply means that without God’s grace in salvation, we are more sinful than we could ever realize. Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Total depravity is the natural state of man before regeneration. Piper summed up this teaching by commenting on its four aspects.

First, in our unregenerate state we were in total rebellion against God. Let’s face it: before we knew the Lord, we were not on the fence about whose side we were on! We were on our own side….not God’s side. As Paul writes in Romans 3:10-12: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

Second, everything man does (without Christ) is totally sin. This is a hard one to swallow. We do not like to think that everything that mankind does on his own is sin: after all, people all around the world do “good things” every day, right?!?!! What does the Bible say about this? I Corinthians 10:31 states that “whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.” Do most people around the world do “good” things because they want to glorify God? Hmmm….probably not. (I can honestly say that I often do “good” things for the approval of man, not for the glory of God). Romans 14:23 is even clearer: “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” Wow, this is getting uncomfortable: whatever I do without faith is counted as SIN by God! Ouch. Well, this does not seem like very good news!!! But, God does not leave us without hope: as Christians we have God’s daily regenerating work in us through the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 4:16). Hallelujah! “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

Third, man is totally unable to reform himself. Really? What about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps?!? Yeah- that’s not in the Bible. Romans 8:7-8 states that “the mind that is set on the flesh [that is, the natural condition of man] is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” We cannot submit to God without God’s intervention. Ephesians 2:1 says it a different way: we were once “dead in trespasses and sin.” Dead people cannot raise themselves up! We were totally enslaved to sin and trapped, as Romans 6 repeats over and over.

Fourth, we are totally deserving of eternal punishment. This aspect is, perhaps, the most mind-boggling, but I think it is the key to understanding why only Jesus can save us. The seriousness of sin is not really about what we do- it’s about who we do it against. We have rejected an infinite, eternal, holy, and righteous God. Consequently, the separation between us and God is infinite!!! Only God can bridge that gap because He is the only one big enough to do it!!! As Piper puts it: our sin is not about us, it’s about God. Talk about reorienting our self-absorption: even our sin is not about us!!

To close our time on Monday: we talked about how the "terrible truth" of our natural depravity should not be a heavy burden for Christians- it's actually wonderful news because our salvation does not depend on us pulling ourselves up with our boot straps. It's terrifying because we bring nothing to the table but our sin, but so comforting because we don't have to bring anything to the table! As Piper writes, “knowing the seriousness of our disease will make us all the more amazed at the Greatness of our Physician.” I hope that the truth of your total depravity causes you to fall on your knees in worship!!!

Soli Deo gloria!

Debbie



A little about Debbie:
Debbie is a secretary/receptionist at Redeemer Church. She and her husband, Isaiah, live with their two dogs just a stone's throw away from the church, but somehow they still end up at least 5 minutes late on Sunday mornings. Debbie loves to sing, read, tutor math, encourage people, and listen to her husband tell stories. One day, she and Isaiah want to live on the family farm in North Carolina with a big garden, lots of kids, and the laundry hanging out on the line.

6.06.2014

Coffee with Jennifer


Jennifer talks about placing our hope in future glory, not current circumstances.  Her drink of choice is an iced chai latte. 

I get married and three months later my husband gets laid off due to economic downturn. (groan)

Three months after that…My younger sister who is also my best friend dies while 30 weeks pregnant in a car crash. (groan)

Pre-term labor for three of my four pregnancies. (groan)

Five babies in six years time. Apnea monitors. Oxygen tanks. Breathing tubes. Reactive airway disease. Chronic lung disease. PICU. Acute Asthma. Feeding Tubes. Cleft Palate. (groan)

One of my sons is diagnosed with Hypertonic Cerebral Palsy. (groan)

Eight months later another son is diagnosed with Embryonal Metastatic Prostatic Rhabdomyosarcoma. (Really bad, rare, aggressive, pediatric stage four cancer had metastasized to both lungs.) 15 + months of chemo and radiation. (groan)

And I’m still groaning. The kids spill milk. I find a myriad of spices all over the kitchen floor and laundry piles. My kids scrape their knees. Toilet overflows. Air conditioning is broken in the car. (more groans)

My hope is Future Glory. It comes not from my current circumstances, fleeting distraction or short-term wins. It comes in knowing that in God’s full and complete work there is a Glory to come that will surpass all the suffering, all the consequences of sins, all the trials, loss, grief, heartaches, heartbreak, and death. All the groaning.

Romans 8:22-25 speaks about groaning and waiting…

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Without Christ, the trials I have experienced offer a grief narrative that offers only self pity. How sad and empty, a story by itself.

In Christ my groan-filled story is being redeemed to bring glory to God as I await resurrection, glorification, New Creation and life everlasting with God as my reward.

My story is incorporated in the great story of God redeeming all of Creation. Suffering will melt away in the light of His glory. For now, I am sustained by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Yes I still groan, however, …I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)

A Little About Jennifer:
I’ve been married over a decade to my best friend Mike. We have 5 children (1 girl, 4 boys). Our life is busy and LOUD. I love writing and finding hidden treasures at thrift stores. Our family has recently relocated from life on 99 acres in Chesapeake to the City of Norfolk to be a part of the Redeemer church plant.

6.04.2014

To Completion

"Spiritual growth to maturity is God's work from beginning to end, and he alone will get the credit. The same God who made the universe out of nothing and who counts the hairs on your head will have his way with you in all things. He does not ordain the beginning and end of your story only to leave the middle part - your life as a believer here on earth - up to you!"

Barbara R. Duguid, Extravagant Grace

Posted by Heather Kneisler

5.30.2014

Coffee with Jessi


Today, Jessi highlights the promises outlined in Romans 8 and the freedom they give us.  She enjoys a warm cup of peppermint tea. 

hi sweet mercies! i’m jessi hunt=) i’ve been a part of redeemer church since i was five years old & i must say; i absolutely love sweet mercies!! every time we come together, i look across the room & my heart becomes full of gratitude. i see so many dear women that have poured into my life & each other’s lives for years upon years, women who have served one another, prayed & interceded for each other, friends & mentors, spiritual mothers & sisters…how i’m so thankful for you all! and romans 8!!! what a rich passage to be studying together!

at our last meeting tambra tested our memory on these verses, & i for one was quite disappointed with how rusty i was. this passage is full of the depth of god’s love for me, full of the truth of my identity in christ, full of his promises to me & that christ himself is interceding for me! this is definitely not a passage that i want to be rusty on. after our meeting i was compelled to memorize romans 8 & know it with my whole heart. i would encourage you women to memorize it afresh as well! for as i’ve been hiding this word in my heart, the spirit has greatly encouraged my soul. verse 28 says: “and we know that in all things god works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” its so easy to quickly skim over a verse like this one. one that you’ve heard a thousand times can just become a dull saying. but friends, i would urge us to fight against this for a moment! for this is the living & active word! this is scripture that is breathed out by god himself! may the lord bless us right now with fresh eyes to see & ears to hear what the spirit is saying! “and we know that in all things, god works together for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” this is absolutely amazing! so what does this mean specifically for me? he works out all things for my good?

it means that he has a purpose for every circumstance that arises.

it means that i can trust in the lord with all my heart,

& lean not on my own understanding.

it means that he who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion!

i’ve been “called according to his purpose.” what good news! this truth gives assurance that “he knows the plans he has for me, plans to prosper me & not to harm me, but to give me a future & a hope!” because he works out all things for my good, i can be anxious in nothing & can count it pure joy when i face trials of various kinds! if it’s hard to believe these promises, just consider the life of daniel…he was taken into captivity by a foreign king, became the victim of jealous schemers, was thrown into a den of vicious lions – and even then, god had a plan! his mighty power was displayed! joseph’s very own brothers betrayed him & sold him into slavery, he was lied about & unjustly thrown into prison for years, & yet, in the end he can still say “you intended to harm me, but god intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done…” gen 50:20

this same sovereign god, is lord over my life. his ways are higher than my ways! his thoughts are higher than my thoughts! what shall separate us from the love of christ friends? “shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? no! for nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love that is in christ jesus!” he is faithful.

i pray you are encouraged by his promises as i have been!

“the lord will fulfill his purposes for me.” ps 138:8

A little about Jessi:
i'm a musician. i love creation. jesus is my favorite. waking up early is my least favorite. my best friends are my five bro's & my twin sis. i'm 10 minutes late to everything & lose my phone at least once a day. i'm addicted to the word of god. i've been to mexico, haiti & india for missions & hope for more! my future in christ is clear, & my heart is content with that.

it takes me about an hour to write a short bio about myself.

5.27.2014

All Other Ground is Sinking Sand


Two weeks ago, we sang an old favorite of mine, "On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand."  As our congregation sang, familiar words and familiar voices filled the auditorium. Yet, the refrain struck me in a new way.  On Christ the solid Rock, I stand. All other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand. So often, when I'm faced with a dilemma, I don't remain on the firm bedrock I have in Christ.  I run to something that feels more tangible. I need to take action NOW.  I need a solution TODAY.   Instead of quieting my soul, I crank up the volume, run around like a crazy person, and try my hardest to create a solution. 

In light of all that we are learning in Romans 8, my usual response not only seems childish, but so wasteful. If I was known by God before my birth, if I was predestined to be His child and changed into the image of Christ, if I was called to Him, justified by Him, and, if one day, I will be glorified with Him, then why do I still feel the need to solve my problems alone? Why do I think my timeline is better? Why do I put more faith in my ability then His? There is no rest in my ability.  Romans 8:6 states, "To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirt is life and peace." When I forget his promises, I'm lost.  I've forgotten my identity. I'm on sinking ground.  It's only a matter of time before my solutions disappear.  But, He promises rest and life. 

This week, I hope to set my mind on Him when problems arise. To stand on His firm foundation rather than running to shallow fixes. To remember, "If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:31-32) To sing again and again, "When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my Hope and Stay."

Posted by Heather Kneisler