Monday Morning Grace: The Sabbath

“Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God… You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” – Deuteronomy 5:12-15

As the sounds of coughing and sneezing fill the air with the changing of seasons and I find myself fighting off bouts of sickness, I began to wonder why God created sickness.

Why create something, God, that simply slows life down and causes everyone unwanted pain or discomfort?

Not the first time I have thrown that question at God I might add, and not the first time He has reminded me with much patience and a fatherly smile that He allows me to undergo short-term sicknesses that bring coughs and sneezes to remind me of my humanity.

It reminds me of the temporary nature of my body.

“Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day…For we know the if the earthly tent in which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven…” 2 Cor. 4:16-5:1-2

I was not designed to operate and live all by myself, but rather I was designed to operate under a strength outside myself.

“I lie down and sleep. I wake again because the Lord sustains me.” – Psalm 3:5

So thank you Lord for being my sustainer and the reason I wake up every morning.

Beyond that, Lord thank you for reminding me that I was not made to walk through each day fueled by my own desire to succeed or accomplish.

If I succeed and accomplish according to my own strength, I am bringing myself glory.

Rather, it is my desire that I might decrease and Christ might increase. (John 3:30)

So, I want to live according to His strength so that He may be glorified in my weakness. However, once He walked me back through this train of thought, He took me one step further.

I was praying for the Lord to convict my heart of any ways I had failed to walk out in His strength and instead of pointing me to a specific instance, He walked me back through the last semester to allow me to see how little I had truly rested in the Lord.

At first I didn’t find this worthy of something to repent about.

I thought, “Well that’s good God, but resting seems more about me.” It seemed a little self-focused to repent of not resting well.

And then He replied, “But I commanded it.”

Oof.

It had been awhile since I had been reminded that “Sabbathing” or resting in the Lord is not jus a suggestion for those weeks that have felt particularly rough.

It’s not up to me to decide which weeks are good weeks to Sabbath, and God showed me why.

When I left it up to me to decide when to rest, I didn’t do it all. I simply found more things to fill that time with.

Resting in the Lord is a commandment. If God rested on the seventh day, it seems awfully high of me to think its in my or anybody’s best interest to just keep trucking seven days a week.

It’s a commandment both for our good (my sanity and peace) and for His glory.

As responsibilities heat up each day I get older, I sense a crash and burn coming if I don’t learn to Sabbath well now.

Plus, just like He looked really good when the Israelites kept the Sabbath and then produced more from their farms than neighboring tribes, He looks really good when I keep the Sabbath and then work just as efficiently (and usually more efficiently) as when I don’t Sabbath.

Furthermore, “Sabbathing” is a discipline in and of itself.

It takes discipline to not fall into the American mindset of more work=more money/fame/happiness.

We have been called to embody a different mindset, one that trusts our sustainer and provider to provide more than we need if we obey His command to rest and remember the ways He has brought us out of slavery into freedom.

“So thank you Lord for reminding me through sickness that I am meant to find my life in You and part of how You desire to breath life into me is through rest. So Lord, teach me to rest well and teach our American culture to rest well. Show us what that looks like to remember the Sabbath in our present day and for each of us individually. Let us find a joy and peace that come only from You as we enjoy You in our Sabbath. I am sorry Lord for disobeying your command to rest and I pray You make me into one who finds deep life in the weekly Sabbath rest and that You would receive much glory when I keep Your Sabbath holy. I trust You with that time Lord. In Your precious Son Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Shalom (Peace)

-Matt

 

Matt Larsen, a sports writer for the Lariat, writes the Monday Morning Grace posts on faith and Christianity.

Monday Morning Grace: Eikon

“So God created human beings in His own image. In the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.” -Genesis 1:27

I just finished leading a Disciple Now weekend with the teenagers of my home church, First Baptist McKinney. The Lord was good to bless us with enough volunteers, leaders, and an incredible youth staff to be able to serve 492 students this year! Our theme verse for this year’s retreat was Genesis 1:27.

Not only did God create us, but He made us in His image! And not only did He make us in His image, but He made us with a specific intent and purpose! And not only did He make us with a purpose, but He blessed us with talents and spiritual gifts! And not only did He grant us unique spiritual gifts at the moment we chose to follow the Lord, but He gave us passions in which to use those gifts! And not only did He give us passion, but He gave us a story that we can share in love with those the Lord places in our lives each day!

As we near Thanksgiving, I feel it is extra-fitting to count our many blessings before the Lord, and those were just a few! Imagine what just writing down all of the ways God has blessed you in thanksgiving would do – not things you think you deserve or have earned, because we deserve nothing, but in Christ we find EVERYTHING.

“Eikon” is a Greek word that means likeness or image. So this weekend teenagers learned all about how we were made in the image of God and are to be made into the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ, with each day.

“For God knew His people in advance, and He chose them to become like His Son, so that His Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” -Romans 8:29

My challenge to my sophomore girls and guys this weekend is the same challenge I bring to you this morning:

Each of my teens hit a crossroads this weekend where they needed to decide whether they are going to chase after the things of the world – continuing to act as slaves to sin, or if they will pursue the Lord and HIS righteousness – desiring that Christ would daily be formed in them.

Here’s the thing: you can’t do both. For some that means salvation, but for others that means coming to a greater realization about what our salvation means.

When the Lord saved me at seven years old, my life was no longer my own as I gave it entirely over to Him. When my Heavenly Father saved me 14 years ago, I said YES. I said yes to whatever He asks of me, wherever He leads me, whenever He calls me, however much it costs – I said YES.

So it doesn’t matter if I get fearful about leaving my family for six months to go to South Africa, because I said YES. It’s not about me, and it’s all about HIM.

I desire to be daily transformed into the likeness of Christ not for my sake, but for His Namesake.

So many times we fall into the trap of believing that the freedom that is found in God’s grace is just an excuse for us to continue to live as if we were in chains – but we have been set FREE in Christ! We have been set free to follow the Lord in obedience, which leads to righteousness.

Think of it this way, look back to the days of slavery in the states, and the abolition of slavery due to the Emancipation Proclamation. Imagine that a slave, who had been set free, was still out picking cotton for his former master. That’s wild! I would run and say to him, “You have been set free! Let go of everything and live in the freedom that you have been given!”

I say the same thing to you this morning: You have been set free from the power of sin! Let go of everything, all of the burdens that you carry, and live in the freedom that you have been given through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ!

Jesus took our sins upon Himself when He faced excruciating pain as He was nailed to the cross, so that we don’t have to suffer the pain and shame of our sins today. The only one holding you down in a place of defeat this morning is yourself – because the Lord set you free 2.000 years ago and desires that you lay everything at the foot of His cross so that you will be free to be molded into His EIKON more and more each day!

“Father, I pray that You will continue to daily remind me that this life is not about me. Convict me once more that the salvation You give is free, but it’s not cheap. May You continue to stir in the hearts of the over 800 people involved in this Disciple Now weekend, and in those reading this devotion, and in me. May we desire to truly live as we embrace the Eikon of Christ You created us to be! Thank You for not only listening to my prayers, but answering them. I love You Father, thank You for loving me.”

Monday Morning Grace: Child of God

I had the blessing of spending this past weekend at home with family, including my cousin’s six month old twins, Reid and Ava Lyn. It was incredible to see the love that was displayed for those babies throughout the weekend from every member of the family as they got passed from relative to relative to be cradled and cuddled.

Just before lunchtime on Sunday my cousin’s husband was washing his babies’ bottles before they hit the road to travel home, while I was holding Reid nearby in the kitchen. With this tiny child on my lap, I couldn’t help but notice how he was eyeing his father washing the dishes. Reid never took those big blue eyes off of him. Even more, when his dad would look in his direction, Reid would burst in delight as he smiled and softly cried out in desire to be carried by his daddy.

Driving back to Waco Sunday night, I couldn’t get the image out of my mind. What a beautiful picture of our relationship with God I saw in Reid’s relationship with his father.

In one of the earlier devotions the Lord led me to talk about the importance of fixing our eyes upon Him in every moment, so I won’t dedicate this week’s devotion to the same topic. But this I know: I want to be like Reid when it comes to my heavenly Father – I never want to take my eyes off of Him. I’m not there yet, but I pray that the Lord will enable me to remember to seek after His help each day as I desire to eye my Father as He washes away my sin and looks in my direction to see His Son, interceding for me.

The truly captivating aspect of Reid’s demeanor was the fact that despite his attempts to sit up on his own, or be held by several loving relatives – he desired, more than anything, to be carried by his dad. Too many times I find myself trying to hold up my head on my own as I carry myself, or finding someone loving in my life to help me carry the weight, or hiding away in something that can distract me from the burdens I tote around. Each instance I find myself humbled before the Lord, sometimes in tears, as He convicts me once again to let Him carry me through – but even more, to desire that He carry me.

“Praise the Lord; praise God our Savior! For each day He carries us in His arms.” –Psalm 68:19

God promises that He will pick us up and carry us through whatever storms or sunshine this life brings. He says in His Word that we are adopted as children of God.

This weekend my aunt pointed out how many kids there are in the world that do not get to experience the love that Reid and Ava Lyn are permeated with each day. We talked about the orphans in America and across the globe that are in need of love from someone willing and able to adopt them.

Before we came to know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we did not know love – for Christ is love. We were orphans, born into sin. But God, in His mercy, was willing and able to adopt us as His very own children, through His one and only Son, Jesus – so that we might be called “children of God.”

I am a child of God. You are a child of God, if you have given your life to Him. We are children of God. So why do we not delight in that

identity? Why do we not find joy in our salvation?

God is our Father, but more than that, He is to be our Everything. Cry out to your heavenly Father this morning – desire to be held tight in the arms of our Lord as He carries you through now and forevermore.

This week, read and pray through these lyrics that Kutless wrote unto our Most High Father in their song, Everything I Need:

When every step is so hard to take and all of my hope is fading away, when life is a mountain that I cannot climb – You carry me. Jesus, carry me.

You are strength in my weakness and You are the refuge I seek. You are everything in my time of need. You are everything, You are everything I need.

When every moment is more than I can take and all of my strength is slipping away, when every breath gets harder to breathe – You carry me. Jesus, carry me.

You are strength in my weakness and You are the refuge I seek. You are everything in my time of need. You are everything.

You are everything – I need You! You are everything I need! I love everything about You.

You are strength in my weakness. You are the refuge I seek. You are everything in my time of need. You are everything, You are everything!

You are strength in my weakness and You are the refuge I seek! You are everything in my time of need! You are everything, You are everything I need. You are everything, You are everything I need!

“Father, help me to listen. Your Word commands that I pray continually, I ask that you help me to do that. But even more, I ask that I would delight in being called Your daughter, and that I would daily see my need for You – and that You truly would be my everything in every moment of every day. Thank You for not just listening to my prayers, but answering them. I love You Father, thank You for loving me.”

– Meghan

Monday Morning Grace: Promise

This weekend I was able to witness my dear friend Vanessa enter into a covenant of marriage with her beloved, Travis, at a lovely ceremony in downtown Austin. As my mom and I filled out a guestbook card for their custom guestbook, one of the questions asked, “What do you hope we remember most about today?”

I said, “The promise. When hard times come your way, always remember the promise you made to each other before the Lord today.”

Seeing Travis and Vanessa exchange their vows under the trees with the sun peaking through to bring us warmth, all I could think about was the promise of salvation that was made to me and the vow I made to follow my Lord and Savior 14 years ago.

The words I had written to the newlyweds just moments before rang loud in my soul. Why do I so often lose sight of the promises that Jesus made?

When trials come, I must remember the promise that He made, and the promise I made to Him.

The Lord makes several promises to His children in Scripture:
He promises that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that no one can come to the Father except through Him.
He promises that He will throw out our transgressions as far as the east is from the west.
He promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us.
He promises that all things work together for the good of those who love Him.
He promises that each day He carries us through.
He promises that His Word is truth.
He promises that when we call out to Him, He will answer.
He promises that surely, He is with us always, even to the end of the age.
He promises that in Him we may have life and have it to the full.
He promises that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.
He promises that we will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon us.

The Lord’s promises are endless. Just as His love makes me incapable of finishing this sentence because it is so far deeper than my mind can reach.

With all the promises that God makes to us, there is only one we can make to Him: “I promise to love, honor and cherish You for all of the days.”

Friends, I ask that you remember the promise of our Redeemer. And I challenge you to share that promise with just one person this week.

Friday I had the chance to take my friend, Yu Ting from China, to the mall to get her very first suit for the Baylor business school. On our way I was able to talk to her about my leaving to serve on mission in South Africa for six months this spring.

Throughout our time together, the Lord continued to provide opportunities to share the Gospel with my friend who is so blind beneath the veil – but I didn’t. I didn’t tell her about the only promise that can never be broken.

I know that she appreciated my kindness and hospitality, but when this dark world turns to grey, my kindness and hospitality will get her nowhere.

I was so adamant that she find a great deal on a suit she loved, yet I found myself behaving as though I was completely unconcerned that she find the promise of everlasting life from the One who is Love.

I believe so many of us get lost in the fog of good deeds that we forget about the Good News.

Pray with me as the Lord uses me to reach out to Yu Ting this week and the rest of the semester. I am praying for you as you think about who you need to talk to for the sake of the Holy Name of Jesus.

Remember the promise.

As I watched Travis and Vanessa journey forth in love as they were joined together in holy matrimony, all I could think of was the love that their marriage represented that morning – Christ’s love for the church.

It’s the greatest love story ever told… So let’s get out there and truly love one another by sharing it!

“Father, may I not retreat in fear when You open the door for me to share Your story with those who are desperate to call You Abba. Help me to remember the promise, and grant me a heart that is ready and willing to surrender in obedience to Your leading. Thank You for not only listening to my prayers, but answering them. I love You Father, thank You for loving me.”

 

-Meghan

Monday Morning Grace: Awake

After participating in a national college media convention in Louisville, KY this week, I thought that I was going to elaborate upon an incredible truth the Lord showed me this week as He enabled me to discern the difference between gifts and passions.

This revelation was huge to me as I realized that I have been chasing after the wrong thing, as so many of us do, trying to find my passion in a career – only to discover this: my passion is not writing.

My passion has been, since the moment the Lord saved me at seven years old, for other people to know God – that they would truly desire Him with every breath. God has gifted me in writing, but I wouldn’t be happy if 10 years from now I have a successful career writing, but I’m not allowed to write about God.

My passion is not writing – it’s that other people would know God. God uses my writing to manifest my passion in the lives of people I may never get the chance to meet.

Writing is a gift, not my passion.

So I was ready to share all this and more as I hoped to encourage you to find your passion, and experience how your gifts can partner with that passion to further God’s Kingdom in an incredible way as you surrender to serve the Lord.

But then I came across this Scripture in Ephesians 5 and stopped dead in my tracks as the Holy Spirit compelled me to share it with you all this morning.

I pray that the Spirit speaks to you through God’s Word as He convicts and leads us into a life of worship before the Father. Please take the time to read through each line slowly, as every word runs deep with truth and direction.

“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dear children.
Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered Himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.
Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you.
Such sins have no place among God’s people.
Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes – these are not for you.
Instead, let there be thankfulness to God.
You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God.
For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.
Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey Him.
Don’t participate in the things these people do.
FOR ONCE YOU WERE FULL OF DARKNESS, BUT NOW YOU HAVE LIGHT FROM THE LORD.
SO LIVE AS PEOPLE OF LIGHT!
FOR THIS LIGHT WITHIN YOU PRODUCES ONLY WHAT IS GOOD AND RIGHT AND TRUE.
Carefully determine what pleases the Lord.
Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.
It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret.
But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible.
This is why it is said,
‘Awake O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’
So be careful how you live.
Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.
Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.
Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.
Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life.
Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.
And give thanks to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Paul was not messing around when he wrote this. As children of God, these are the standards God is calling us to. No exceptions.

“Father, I am sorry that I have grown so tolerant of the sin in my life and the lives of my brothers and sisters. We keep making excuses for sin instead of exposing it in the lives of one another. Do we just not care? I pray that You will awake my soul and the souls of Your children to live like children of light. Your Holy Spirit reigns in my heart – it is time I start reflecting You in everything I do. Don’t let the fear of tension keep me from speaking up about the sin that so easily entangles my brothers and sisters. I pray that those in my life will no longer tolerate my sinfulness I can be so blind to as well. I am not guaranteed tomorrow. I don’t want to waste another minute in foolish surrender to evil, but rather, take every breath in faithful surrender to righteousness. May Your light shine bright in the lives of my brothers and sisters, and in my own life, both now and forevermore. Thank You for not only listening to my prayers, but answering them. I love You Father, thank You for loving me.”

 

– Meghan

Monday Morning Grace: Believe

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really BELIEVE it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you BELIEVE that you’ve received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”
-Mark 11:22-25

Right now my Christian Scriptures class at Baylor is covering the Gospels. In reading through Mark earlier this week, I could not help but be overwhelmed with both awe and conviction when I reached this section of chapter 11. It seems like since I was reading this on Wednesday, the Lord is continuing to ingrain a deep truth within me about BELIEVING that God is who He says He is, but even more than that – that He is ABLE to do more than anything I can ever ask or imagine.

I worry a lot. Though some may not know it, I stress frequently. Just say the word “stress” and I will tense up as thoughts flood my mind about all that needs to be done, or fixed, in my life that I haven’t done, or fixed, yet.

BUT THIS LIFE ISN’T ABOUT ME. And without God I am NOTHING. Time and time again I find myself trapped in a pitiful state of anxiety purely because of the fact that I have once more tried to fix things on my own.

But there is nothing to fix. God, in His perfect strength is molding me each day. And no matter how much it hurts, His will is good and pleasing and PERFECT. I must have FAITH that He is more than ABLE to carry me through the circumstances of this life.

I found this to be the main idea of Hebrews 11 (note: I am not referencing these verses in the order they appear)

“All these people died STILL BELIEVING what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth…
And it is impossible to please God without FAITH. Anyone who wants to come to Him must BELIEVE that God exists and that He rewards those who SINCERELY SEEK Him…
FAITH is the CONFIDENCE that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see…
He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward. It was BY FAITH that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the One who is invisible.”
-Hebrews 11

Numerous times throughout each of the Gospels Jesus tells those He has healed to “Go in peace. Your FAITH has made you well.” Jesus is offering us a life of PEACE as we sincerely seek Him in confident FAITH! Are you ready to not just believe in God this morning, but truly BELIEVE GOD?

“You are BLESSED because you BELIEVED that the Lord would do what He said.” -Luke 1:45

“Father I love that You are Lord of all creation, Lord of my life, and Lord over every detail. Thank You for continuing to teach me to have unwavering faith in You. Your strength is greater than the deepest pit. Your love goes further than the greatest hurt. Surely, as You care for the birds of the earth, You must care for me, Your daughter. Remind me, as You spoke through Your prophet Isaiah, that unless my faith is firm, You cannot make me stand firm. Father, I am begging You to be my sure foundation. Help me believe that anything is possible in You. Thank You for not only listening to my prayers, but answering them. I love You Father, thank You for loving me.”

– Meghan

Monday Morning Grace: Run

In lieu of my 21st birthday weekend and my recent acceptance of my appointment to serve on mission in South Africa for six months this spring, I have received several kind words from those near and dear to me… But one thing I have found: our words are meaningless compared to the living and breathing Word of God.

So often we treat our Bibles as a form of home decor or something we pull out whenever we need something. There is something incredibly disturbing to me about the fact that we keep our cell phones closer than the only written Word of our GOD.

Encouraging words liven the spirit for but a moment, and even those we hold in the highest esteem are bound to hurt us at some point… But God’s Word is rich and satisfying to the soul – He will never forsake us – He is who He says He is and is forever FAITHFUL.

Instead of getting caught up in someone’s ramblings about God this morning, I am begging you to RUN to the Holy and Precious WORD OF GOD.

It was written for YOU. Go dive in to find out how deep and how great the Father’s love is… Now.

 

– Meghan