Jesus, cast a look on me. Give me sweet simplicity. Make me poor and keep me low. Seeking only Thee to know.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Virtue is easy??

The Holy Spirit is truly working in me! I am so thankful and grateful that our God is a God of second chances (and third, and fourth, and fifth, etc.) because I ignored Him for many, many years. You see, I thought that I could do it all myself. I am a reformed perfectionist-by the grace of God. I used to think that I had to "fix people". I knew the best way and they didn't so it was my "job" to show them.
That is not my job.
My job is to use the gifts that God gave uniquely to me for His glory.
Criticism, nagging, frustration, sarcasm (well, sometimes sarcasm is just funny) are ways of controlling others. And when we try to control others we are basically saying that we are superior to them. Either that, or we are acting out of fear of losing control that we don't really have.
In the past several months I have noticed that I respond differently to unpleasant situations than I ever have in my life. This is the power of the Holy Spirit working thru me. How do I know that? Because I, in the flesh, have a lot of anger, resentment, sadness, confusion, and those other nasty attributes I listed above like controlling and perfectionism. These are a result of experiences throughout my life and just a reflection of how I sometimes view this old world. But with the Holy Spirit working through me I possess love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal. 5:22,23).
(Please ignore the thunderous laughter you may hear at this time. That is just my husband responding to the idea of me having some of those attributes.)
But seriously, I have seen them. I have seen some (okay, not all) of the fruits of the Spirit expressed at times when the former me would have pouted, scoffed, ranted and raved until the point of exhaustion.
It is a beautiful thing. And it is all because of Jesus' mercy and grace. I am a sinner. A bIG sinner. And I have no business enjoying "the peace that surpasses all understanding"(Philippians 4:7).
But I am.
Glory, glory!
I am because God never gave up on me. Not when I was partying. Not when I attended church but never spent any time with Him. Not when I lied. Not when I questioned His goodness. Not when I lived selfishly for 33 years gathering treasures and trinkets that will one day rust and ruin. Not even when I failed as a daughter, as a sister, as a friend, as a wife, as a mother, as a teacher, as a person. God waited on me. Patiently. Lovingly nudging me towards Him. I can imagine that His heart would break with each disastrous choice that I made. Every time I disrespected myself. Every time I hurt others. Every time I ignored His whispers. He waited. And when I finally fell to my knees in desperation, lost to all that I thought I knew in this world, and cried to Him for help because I was wrong-I didn't know it all and I am not in control-He gently lifted me up and wiped my slate clean. Not only did I get a new start but He is showing me the way to not continue down the same path to ruin. Actually, the map was there all along. You can read it too. It is found at your local dollar store and in every bedside table drawer in every hotel room across this country. You may even have it on your bookshelf-way up high there-may be a little dusty.
Its the Holy Bible.
Read it.
Read it not as a list of rules that you are expected to follow but as a way of getting to know Jesus. His character. His love for you.
So now I find that virtue is easy. Wellll let me elaborate. Richard Foster explains it better...
"There is a saying in moral theology that 'virtue is easy'. But the maxim is true only to the extent that God 's gracious work has taken over our inner spirit and transformed the ingrained habit patterns of our lives. Until that is accomplished, virtue is hard, very hard indeed. We struggle to exhibit a loving and compassionate spirit, yet it is as if we are bringing something in from the outside. Then bubbling up from the inner depths is the one thing we did not want, a biting and bitter spirit. However, once we live and walk on the path[with Jesus], we will discover internal changes.
We do no more than receive a gift, yet we know the changes are real. We know they are real because we discover that the spirit of compassion we once found so hard to exhibit is now easy. In fact, to be full of bitterness would be the hard thing. Divine Love has slipped into our inner spirit and taken over our habit patterns. In the unguarded moments there is spontaneous flow from the inner sanctuary of our lives of 'love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control'(Gal. 5:22,23). There is no longer the tiring need to hide our inner selves from others."
Amazing Grace.

Now, if you know me, please don't point and laugh when you see me mess up. If I give you a short answer or seem a little grumpy or tell you to "Hurry it up already!". God is not finished with me yet. I am still a baby christian in many ways and I am just human.

Philippians 3:13,14 "Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

God has promised that He will always be near and will never leave me.

Deuteronomy 31:6 "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."
Hebrews 13:5 "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

God will never step away from me, but I may step away from Him (Thanks, Kim, for that awesome comment at Bible Study!). And when I do, that old scary self will rear her ugly head.
At that time, I know that I need to get back in the Word.

Isaiah 34:16 (King James Version)
16Seek ye out of the book of the LORD, and read: no one of these shall fail, none shall want her mate: for my mouth it hath commanded, and his spirit it hath gathered them.

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