Friday, April 1, 2016

Where I'm At: Emily

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Where am I at? I put off writing this post because, honestly, I’m not sure where I’m at so I’ll do my best to give you an answer. My plans are all over the map and seem to change daily. I approached this post feeling a little guilty because by the world’s standards and even those of the modern church, I’m supposed to have it all together. I’m supposed to have some excellent plan that’s probably far superior to those of the majority of people my age…. But, I don’t and that’s actually okay. 
In a few months, I’ll be graduating with my associate’s degree and I don’t have any idea where life will take me after that. Farrier School? Work with foster care children and orphans? A bachelor’s in communication? Texas? Another year at home? A bachelor’s in animal science? Vet school? Oklahoma State? Moving out? Mission work? SWOSU? Texas A&M? An Internship for the 6666 Ranch? Colorado? I honestly, have no idea right now. 
You see, I’m learning that Proverbs 16:9 is completely true, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” I can make all the plans I want, but unless I am in the center of God’s will those plans will eventually fall through. Human nature causes me to want full control and full knowledge of what is to come in my life; this is the root of sin on earth. Think about it, was it not this same urging that caused Eve to eat the forbidden fruit? In Genesis 2:4-6 Satan tempts Eve, “’You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it…” 
As humans we desire the knowledge of God, but what we do not realize is that this is exactly what God offers us when we surrender our lives to Him. The more I study in His Word, the more I understand how God’s love and plan for us works. He wants to give us everything we could ever need: forgiveness, peace, hope, love, and eternal life. It must be a high price to receive such incredible gifts, right? Not at all, God loves us and wants to give us His best - all He asks from us is that we do the same. 
On that note, I must confess, lately I’ve realized that I’m kind of a Pharisee... Allow me to explain.  In the days when Christ walked the earth, the Pharisees were experts in the law. In their minds they followed the law of the Old Testament better than anyone else, they prayed better than anyone else, their sacrifices where better than anyone else’s and everyone knew it because they made sure these things were done in public for everyone to see. Now don’t get me wrong, living out your faith in public is great, especially in this day and age, but it’s about your heart. The Pharisees did these things to gain the attention of others. They wanted praise. They wanted to be better than everyone else. They wanted others to look at them and maybe just feel a little bit bad about themselves. More importantly, they wanted to earn their way to heaven. Now let me ask you, does this sound anything like what Christ calls His followers to be? Absolutely not. That’s where I realized I’m at… That needs to change. So let me tell you where I’m going.
There are two things that I have neglected: prayer and study. How am I supposed to know God if I don’t spend time talking to Him and reading His Word? I’m making an effort to strengthen these areas of my walk. 
There are a few things I have lost sight of: grace, forgiveness, faith, and the greatest commandment. These few things are kind of a big deal… (like the entire basis of salvation) So in case you’ve forgotten about them too, I’ll refresh your memory. 
Grace - “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:1-10) We are all sinners. We all deserve hell. We all need grace desperately. We can do nothing to earn it; it is a gift that must be accepted. It is through Christ’s sinless life and sacrifice that we may receive this gift. God wants each of us to accept this gift so that we may spend eternity in His perfect Kingdom. 
Forgiveness - “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.  He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:8-12) Once we repent and seek His forgiveness, those past sins no longer exist in God’s mind. We are forgiven. He sees us as He sees Christ. We are His children. That’s freeing. That’s powerful. That’s God’s forgiveness.
Faith - “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?” (James 2:14-20) We are saved by faith in God’s grace, but if we do not live out this faith it is dead. So we must not sit waiting for God to use us, but instead be looking for ways to serve God where we are right now. 

The Greatest Commandment -  “Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’” (Matthew 22:34-40) All we are asked to do is love God and love people. If we’re doing this all the rest will follow. Let this be our focus and let us not be caught up in the law and in the outward appearance of our lives like the Pharisees. God is only concerned with the appearance of our hearts. So if we are feeding the hungry, but only doing so to gain recognition from others, it is as if we have done no good deed at all. Love God. Love people. It’s simple. 

So where am I at? I’m working on my heart. I’m working on being less like a Pharisee and more like Christ. I’m working on being okay with not having it all figured out because God does and His plan is far better than mine. I’m working on letting God take full control of my life and simply following Him. I’m working on remembering that I can live free of guilt if I have truly repented, having accepted God’s grace because He has already forgotten my wrong doings. I’m working on having faith in God’s plan and looking for ways to express my faith through loving Him and His people. These are the things God wants from me, nothing more and nothing less. So wherever this next year takes me, I pray it will bring me closer to Him and His will. 

P.S. I'm also studying and working on the beatitudes of Matthew 5, but that's for another post. 

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