Bougainbiscus, Butterflies, Silly Songs and Jesus Loves Me

He shows up where and when I don’t expect Him!

It turned out to be just Sandy and me  yesterday, off to “hike” (definition: walking leisurely, talking about the Lord, and interacting with docents and people on the trails) at the botanical gardens and then the zoo, taking advantage of our respective memberships. We walked unintentional circles at the garden, enjoying some funny pumpkin “sculptures” like the poor guy painfully covered in cholla and a couple of gourd-os sitting at a logs only  campfire  toasting s’mores. One of the docents who struck up a conversation with us didn’t even know  the pumpkins were there, so we pointed her to, it turned out, the tail end of the pumpkin walk.

In our conversation there I shared a possibly too true insight a friend made in a Bible study group several years ago. He suspected one of the things that went unobserved and unwritten about all the times Jesus went off by himself to pray was (no disrespect intended) Jesus slapping himself on the forehead and crying out, “Oy vey,  these yutzes! Father, how am I supposed to work with these yutzes??!!” The fact that we’d steered the docent in the wrong direction only emphasized the likelihood of the Lord’s possible prayer …..

We  passed a beautiful red-flowered plant unknown to either Sandy or me. It looked like a cross between a Bougainvillea and a hibiscus, and though I don’t remember it’s scientific name, we decided it must be a bougainbiscus.  We listened to another docent manning a table of blooms, and he pointed us in the right direction to go see the butterfly pavilion, which was wonderful. Fluttering, flitting beautiful wings were all around us, and I state publicly that the fact it  takes four generations of monarch butterflies to make the round-trip migratory journey, and the great-grandparents of the returning lepidoptera aren’t around to tell their great-grandoptera where “home” is, clearly tells me there IS a Creator,Intelligent Designer, and Architect of all the wonders in the world. We wandered around trying to find our way out of the wildflower loop and drove down the road to the zoo.

More natural wonders awaited us on trails there: Komodo dragons, whose bite is venomous, so all they have to do is bite their prey  and wait for it to die; orangutans strong  enough to rip your arm off, but who spend their lives in the wild high up in trees and make “nests” in the  branches for sleeping; giraffes, and enough said about their incredible design. I truly enjoyed my two years of  working at the real zoo, after thirteen years of  substitute teaching in a very different ”zoo” setting. We encountered Hannah, one of Sandy’s friends from her church who works at the zoo while she’s attending seminary,  and since  she was being trained to drive  the  train (yes, pun intended) I told her about the songs I wrote for about ten animals the train passes. She said she’s be glad for me to send them to her.

We bought sandwiches for lunch, sat down on the benches around a shaded table, and continued sharing about some of the”God-incidences” in our lives., when an older woman pushing a young child in a stroller politely asked if she could shar our table, and we replied we were happy to share the shade.Since I know personally about the early childhood programs there, I asked if the boy was her grandson, and then told her about the wonderful breakfast programs that are an adult’s “ticket” to get up close to  some  of the animals in the zoo’s collection. I asked Paul, who’sfour, if I could sing a song for him, and commenced into, ”Keep rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ in your muddy hole ’n’  keep your body rollin,’ warthog ….” to a tune only older adults always laughed at.

Being a bit humorous and silly seems to break the ice. Noting the cross necklace the grandma wore, I asked,”Are you a Believer?”

“Believer in what?” she replied.

I held up my own cross necklace and said,”In this.”

“I sure am!” she smiled, and a new door opened up for us to share about our  faith. Even though we are in different denominations, Jesus’ sarificial death on the cross – God Himself paying the horrendous penalty for humanity’s rebellion against God’s Holy authority and Righteousness AND love for us all – unites Christians of every “flavor.” So together we said the opening line, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible  tells me so!”

And here’s what it says:

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Romans 3:23

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 6:23

BUT “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

And expanding on Romans:23 “Forallhave sinnedandfall short of the glory of God, AND  ARE JUSTIFIED FREELY BY HIS GRACE through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice, because in His forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – He (God) did it to demonstrate His justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have  faith in Jesus.” Romans 3”23-26

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.  Romans 5: 5-11 NIV

God is Just, AND God is Love. Neither cancels the other. Only one unites them both perfectly: Jesus,Y’shua, however you say his name in your language. Jesus said:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” Matthew 23:23 And after a long passage of “Woes,” Jesus cried out to Jerusalem with fierce love and longing to  bring everyone there into his loving, sheltering arms.

It’s BOTH Justice AND Mercy, in one perfect person to satisfy both. And how utterly amazing, relentless, selfless, pure and passionate is the heart of God who Himself teaches, leads, forgives, heals, bleeds, rises from death, justifies and redeems us!

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace  with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need… because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God  through him, because he  always lives to intercede for them. Hebrews 4:15-16, 7: 24-25 NIV

In Jesus we can drop the censure we hear and feel from ourselves and from others, and become, in praising and thanking God for his incredible gift of love, the incense in the censer held by our Great High Priest Jesus, rising up in a fragrant offering to the One who makes us pure, loved, and joyfully pleasing to God.

The pumpkins and butterflies and orangutans  and squirrel monkeys were fun, but sharing with “Mimi” and little Paul was pure joy!

My/your/our takeaway?  Jesus is wherever I/you/we go, and all I/you/we need to do is be open to him walking, sitting, driving, golfing, working, eating. being with us to share him with others.  That’s HIS joy! Behold what manner of love the Father has given us, that we should be called the children of God! And when Jesus drops into my life with connections like this, I feel the intense, outrageous love  that he IS! Love alive, love present, love embracing, love forgiving (oy vey!) and love overcoming.

a”…BUT…” to pray today: Father God, loving Lord jesus, sometimes I  don’t  sense your love for me. Sometimes I feel all too much my “yutz-ness” and all I sense is the censure of others, BUT you promise that your love never fails and you will never, ever leave me, ,so I’m asking you to show me your love, and you get to decide how, when and where. Feel welcomed into my life to surprise me,  Jesus! In your name I pray, and Holy Spirit, I’m listening, waiting AND watching __________________________________________________________

 

 

 

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A Butterfly on Half Dome

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I walked into the customer service waiting area at the car dealer’s, waiting for an oil change for my car. Ah, American that I am, with people in nearly every chair in the waiting area, where was I to sit? Sitting down next to a complete stranger seems like an invasion of their privacy. I looked around, then did the un-American-cultural act and sat down next to woman who was watching the television screen on the wall to our right.

Local morning news, a reporter interviewing a botany professor at the community college. I helped myself to the  free coffee, then picked up the book I’d brought, but the video of a monarch butterfly on the news caught my attention, and I casually turned to the woman sitting to my left and said,”Wow, the migratory story of monarch butterflies is incredible.”  I shared what I knew from my time working at  the zoo, and she  agreed with me that the fourth generation of monarch butterflies traveling from their winter birthplace hundreds of miles back to the place where the first generation great-grandparents had started was nothing short of miraculous.  I ventured,”I KNOW that’s no accident of evolution;  that’s the hand of a Creator.”

She smiled and readily agreed, and that began a forty minute conversation that turned deeper than either of us expected, I’m sure, when we drove to the dealership that morning.  She’d grown up in Phoenix; me,too. Shirley is part Native American and part Hispanic, married to a man from Kokomo, Indiana.  Hmmm….. “We were just in Kokomo  two months ago  for a wedding,” I commented. More  commonalities emerged, including butterflies and beauty in nature that points to an  intelligent, loving Creator God, and before we  knew it, we were talking about deep things of our faith in Jesus. I held her hand and prayed for one of her family members, and she received the prayer gladly.

The service  person returned to tell me my car was ready, smiled, and added,”But you two ladies can continue with your conversation!” She stood as I got up and we hugged each other, knowing full well  that our meeting wasn’t accidental. I didn’t get her phone number, but I know we exchanged something  more  valuable that morning. Both of us felt God’s deep love and presence, and I felt the Holy Spirit leading me higher in  my climb with Him up steep slopes of God’s path for me, “Hind’s Feet On High Places.”

I’m always floored by God showing up through the “cracked pot” and ”empty hose” that I am, and I always know it’s ONLY God who’s doing the connecting and work. Often I marvel and wonder that a Holy, Righteous, Almighty God somehow chooses and desires to move through the mass of organic matter that is me. It MUST ONLY be because I/you/we invite and welcome and, many of us, desperately long for, God’s very own Holy Spirit to  come indwell me/you/us. I generally don’t “wax religious,” because repetitious religious ritual means next to nothing. My faith is relationship with my Creator andSavior. Still today I proclaim”Solo Deo Gloria”, to God alone be the Glory!

 

Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, LordRepeat them in our day, in our time make them knownin wrath remember mercy…Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. Habakkuk 3: 2, 17-19 NIV

I love you, Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
    my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

3 I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and I have been saved from my enemies.As for God, his way is perfect:
The Lord’s word is flawless;
 he shields all who take refuge in him.31 For who is God besides the Lord?
And who is the Rock except our God?32 It is God who arms me with strength    and keeps my way secure.33 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;    he causes me to stand on the heights.34 He trains my hands for battle;    my arms can bend a bow of bronze.35 You make your saving help my shield,    and your right hand sustains me;    your help has made me great.36 You provide a broad path for my feet,    so that my ankles do not give way.  Psalm 18: 1-3, 31-16 NIV
In the often barren, rocky places I’ve walked in the past eight years (including the times I’ve wandered off the easier path He had for me), God  has continually come alongside me to refresh me with His Presence, His “winks,”  and I am  grateful every time! Shirley at the oil change was another “kiss on my cheek” from our faithful,  ever-present Lord, King, Friend, Savior, and Guide.
Then Job answered the LORD and said, 2″I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. Job 42: 1-2 NAS
Dominion and awe belong to Him Who establishes peace in His heights. Job 25: 2 NAS
Whew, am I glad for this promise! I do NOT have the power to mess up God’s plans for my life! I may – make that certainly –  have delayed them, or  taken a harder road than I  needed to, to come into God’s plans for me, but no, neither you nor I have wandered so far from God’s path and purposes, power and loving care that He can’t come beside you, rope Himself to you, and lead you even up on the steep, high places safely.
Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.
5 The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.
6 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
7 He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses.
8 Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him.
9 For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.
10 The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
11 But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.
No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength.
17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.
18 But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
19 to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.
20 We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.
22 May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.
Psalm 33: 1, 4-11, 16-22  NIV
Surely, Shirley was God’s  reminder to me of His  ever-present, ever-powerful love. Eight years ago I began a long journey with this song, believing  then for a quick, victorious end that I have yet to see, and here I am again, leaning into the ONE who’s roped me in with HIM as I climb to higher places than I can see, even now.
A “…BUT…” to pray: Lord God, I admit I’ve probably made my journey harder.  I know I’ve lost sight of You when ______________________________________________ BUT You’ve never lost sight or track of me, and I can see you carried me when _____________________________, so I will to will, I want to want, what You  know is best for me. Lead  me, Savior Jesus, Holy Spirit, Father God, and help me to stay close to You behind Your shield and to hear Your voice and follow where You long to take me. In Jesus’ name, amen, and Holy Spirit, I’m listening __________________________________

 

 

 

Shaken,stirred, GOD spills over

Today’s “close encounter of the God kind” began as I put my gym bag in the car, singing “I stand, I stand in awe of You.” I walked  down the  sidewalk to see the pomegranates splitting open on the neighbor’s tree  when a car pulled up beside me. The tiny elderly lady driver, Lee,  got out and walked around to the sidewalk, then said in surprise,”Oh, you’re not Betty!”

That began a conversation about pomegranates, which Lee hadn’t  seen growing on a tree before. She  didn’t know how to eat them. Showing her the  pips inside one split fruit, we conversed genially about fruit, the house I’m in now and the first owner, the pomegranate seeds I pulverize in shakes I make for his grandson, and her tooth loss from Fosamax she took, as I did for a while, for her osteoporosis.  “Well, amazing God,” I thought instantly, ”Here today is the person YOU want to manifest YOUR glory and love TO and FOR and IN!”

So of course I asked Lee if I could pray for her, and off we went together holding hands before the Throne of God and the Healer Jesus , the SON sun of Righteousness who rose  with healing in His wings,

“But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.” Malachi 4:2 NIV

That sun is the SON of God, Jesus,  Y’shua, the Living Word of God:

He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions. Psalm 107: 20 KJV

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God andis in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.  John 1: 1-5, 14-18 NIV

And silly me, I believe it! I believe it so deeply that I know when God’s Holy Spirit  taps me to pour out HIS love and hope and promises and miracles into a heart needing to hear and feel it. I shake inside when these encounters happen, not out of fear, but because the ONE in me is a greater power than my “cracked pot” can contain, and I know it. It’s NEVER me;  it’s always HIM! I don’t ever want to miss an  opportunity for God to be glorified in a life, lavishing His love and miracle power upon someone who may not know it or have felt it before, or for a long time. I may look like an idiot to some people, but the One whose  opinion I value is the  One whose glory and power and love I want to make room for in my “cracked pot.”

Lee then told me excitedly about an encounter she had in the discount store  when she caught her foot on a pallet and  fell. Thestore assistantasked her if she wanted them to call a paramedic,when a large man appeared out of nowhere, told her  he was an EMT, checked her over carefully, lifted her gently to her feet, and then disappeared!

“You know  that was an angel,” I ventured, and she readily agreed.  Oh, God, You ARE working in Lee’s life and want her to KNOW you know her, know her needs, and are  eagerly wanting to help her!

“What if God doesn’t rebuild Lee’s bones and teeth?” I can hear someone asking.

“Well, what if He WANTS to and DOES?!” is my reply. We who call ourselves Believers , who go by the name Christian, ought to be doing more on this Earth than taking up perfectly good, breathable oxygen. Prayer opens doors to miracles.

Love must be sincere. Detest what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.Outdo yourselves in honoring one another. 11Do not let your zeal subside; keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.… Romans 12: 9-10 NIV

“And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the faint hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all.”  1 Thessalonians 5: 14-15 RSV

I gave Lee a book of Scripture and encouragement, she pulled a huge box of chocolates out of her trunk for me, we hugged, and as she opened her car door,  she called, “I love you!”

“I love you, too!  And Jesus loves you even more!” I waved and called back. and as she drove away, I closed my eyes and said quietly, “Go for it, God! ‘Go for the  gold,’ Jesus!” I can’t wait to hear what God  does to prove His love, strength, and awesome creative Creator majesty to Lee!

 

Today I’m going  to let you create your own “…BUT…” to pray from this short beginning: Almighty God, my Father in Heaven, Lord and Creator, Savior Jesus, Holy Spirit, Glorious and Mighty One,  I AM a  cracked pot, BUT _______________________________________________________________________________! In Jesus’ name, AMEN!

No fog machies,no lights, no drums, no amplifiers, BUT God …

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Sunday morning, Kokomo, Indiana, driving back to Indianapolis, 1700+ miles of driving ahead of us, but we wanted to go to church, so we looked online to see if there were any Evangelical Free churches in Kokomo. Grace Fellowship popped up, so we fairly technologically savvy old timers put the address into our map search and navigated our way to the church.

We arrived early, in time to hear the trio (plus one young girl) warming up before the service. Small sanctuary, no fog machines, no high-tech lighting, just sunshine warmly pouring in through the marbled glass windows, reminding me of the church my family attended up north of Kokomo in my early childhood. No pianist that day, either (on vacation) and no electric or acoustic guitar, no drummer, just voices.

A few regular attenders were scattered throughout the building, so we walked up and took a pew near the front, a respectful few pews from the front row, and enjoyed the music. This church certainly didn’t look like, or have the “vibes” of the 10,000-member church I’d belonged to for ten years, or the 5,000-member church I belonged to for twelve years. It didn’t even look like the lively 60-member church I’d belonged to that met every Sunday in the town library. I could fully imagine that most contemporary American church-shoppers, er, -goers would be “underwhelmed” by the lack of “atmosphere,” but we were there to hopefully hear God’s Word and worship, so we stayed, and boy, were we GLAD we did!

No, the band didn’t suddenly show up, and in fact, the PowerPoint wasn’t working properly that day and we had to rely on our memories for many of the worship songs BUT GOD WAS THERE! Imagine that: the Almighty, The Holy One of Israel, the LORD on High, entered into that little building through the Holy Spirit rising up out of grateful, thankful, worshipful hearts of  maybe 30 people and God DID truly inhabit the praises of His people! We sang and sang, worshiped and worshiped, praised and praised, raised a few hands, and deep joy and warm love filled the room! Then God’s Word and Heart poured out through the obvious passion in the pastor’s heart. I’ve been part of a small group where the same thing happens in a living room every Monday morning, and talk about a paradigm shift!

What? You mean we don’t need the fog machines? We don’t need the dramatic changing colored lighting? We don’t need a darkened sanctuary and projected thrilling landscapes  on three screens up front?  We don’t need a thundering drummer? We don’t need amplified guitars and violins? WHAT KIND OF A SHOW IS THAT??????

Please don’t hear what I’m NOT saying: I’m not condemning drums, lights, or amplifiers, because I have truly worshiped with all of those present. I am raising a question, though: what do we think worship is, and where is it directed? Is worship the externals that stimulate our senses,  or is worship grateful connection and communication from our spirit and heart and being with our Father’s, God’s, own Spirit and Heart and Being?

Sing to the LORD, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day.

Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.

For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.

Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his dwelling place.

Ascribe to the LORD, all you families of nations, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him. Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.  1 Chronicles 16: 23-29 NIV

 

“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” John 4: 21-24 NIV

“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.

 

The LORD reigns, let the nations tremble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake. Great is the LORD in Zion; he is exalted over all the nations.

Let them praise your great and awesome name— he is holy. The King is mighty, he loves justice— you have established equity; in Jacob you have done what is just and right.

Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his footstool; he is holy. Psalm 99: 1-4 NIV

 

The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught. Isaiah 29:13 NIV

 

But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22 NIV

 

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28-29 NIV

 

So what I Am saying is that a handful of very ordinary people with nothing but their hearts and humility and voices CAN worship the LORD  in the beauty of His holiness in  simplicity and truth to such a degree that God delights in descending right there in their midst with His Presence – maybe not visibly, but perceptibly nevertheless –  and trust me, GOD is ENOUGH to make simple songs raised by normal voices into a conduit that brings Heaven to Earth.

Would you like to experience THAT on Sunday morning? Have you ever TRULY wanted to see His Kingdom come, and God’s will done on Earth as it is in Heaven, wanted it so much and desperately that your heart would break if it didn’t happen?

Then can I encourage you, next Sunday, or gosh, today in your own house or apartment, to bring an offering of your grateful heart, the certainty that HE is God and you are not,  and humble, glad thanks to God for loving and WANTING relationship with you?  Smoke and lights and drums or just your voice, trust Him to show up and see what He’ll do with your sacrifice of praise!

I’m daring you – and boy, going out on a limb asking God Almighty to prove Himself to you when you do –  to try it right now, wherever you are as youre’ reading this!

 (and yes, lift your hands and see how it feels!)

A”…BUT…”to pray: Father, Holy Lord, Almighty Everlasting God, all I have to give you right now is myself, grace-fully broken, BUT here goes, my words of thanks to you, and I’m trusting You, Holy Spirit, to come inhabit my praises ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

And thanks, Grace Fellowship Kokomo!

 

God doesn’t “grade on a curve”…

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Grade school and high school buddies, decades later, still friends ! And yes,Thea, I’m glad ,too, the school photo is blurry!Thanks, “Mo,” for sharing it.

I still shudder when I remember the day in seventh grade when our teacher handed back math test papers, handing the papers for all the row to the first person in the row. As the boy in front of me handed the stack back, my paper now on top, he loudly proclaimed, “Ooooh, Rose got an 85!” The whole class echoed his “Ooooooh!” as though I’d done something dreadful, an unimaginable, unspeakable horror. Never mind that he didn’t announce HIS grade to the class, nor did any of my classmates; all that mattered was that I didn’t have a perfect score.

I cringed, sighed, and knew one “B” wasn’t going to impact my semester grade that much. For those of you who laugh at the nerdy characters on the television sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” let me shed some light for you. Gifted students deal with other people’s expectations of their perfection, or near-perfection, ALL the time, and often base their sense of self-worth, validation and value on meeting the expectations of others. Does that sound like a weight you’d like to live under?

Flash forward to Calculus 102 in college and the soul-shaking day I got back another test paper, this time with a horrifying 69% on the top. My psyche rapidly started crumbling, until the professor put the grading scale on the board, and I realized I’d made an A. I breathed sigh of relief, though I still didn’t feel good that I hadn’t mastered 31% of the material. If the bulk of the class scored a failing percentage, evidently neither the textbook nor our professor had adequately explained the material. That was one day I was VERY grateful for the concept of grading on a curve, determining letter grades based on the highest achieved class score.

I suspect we’d all like to think God Almighty “grades on a curve” when it comes to standing before His judgment throne, and we’d like to think we’re good enough, love-able enough, to earn God’s love and grace on our own merit. That just tells me how insecure in ourselves and in trusting God’s lavish love for us – not based on our performance, but on how HE sees us and who HE says we are TO HIM in Christ!

After all, God does say in Hebrews 9:27  “It is appointed for men once to die, and after this the judgment.” Notice in this sentence the facts that 1) everyone dies – that’s truth; 2) we only get one “shot” at life, “ONCE to die”; 3) death is not the ultimate end, “and after this…” ; and 4) we all will face God’s judgment.

Here’s the other sobering fact: God doesn’t “grade on a curve.” God is Holy as well as loving, and we can’t ignore or deny God’s holiness.

“I am the LORD, your Holy One, The Creator of Israel, your King.” Isaiah 43: 15

Who is like You among the gods, O LORD? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, Awesome in praises, working wonders? Exodus 15: 11

Who is like You among the gods, O LORD? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, Awesome in praises, working wonders? Psalm 77: 13

For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name. Luke 1:49

Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, And You can not look on wickedness with favor. Habakkuk 1: 13a

“You shall not profane My holy name, but I will be sanctified among the sons of Israel; I am the LORD who sanctifies you,…” Leviticus 22: 32

But the LORD of hosts will be exalted in judgment, and the holy God will show Himself holy in righteousness. Isaiah 5:16

But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” 1 Peter 1: 15-16

Uh, you ask, isn’t God expecting too much from human beings in asking us to be holy? And what IS the standard for holiness, anyway? I certainly don’t do the evil things some people do. As a friend said to me one day regarding an issue in his life, “If that’s the worst of my sins, it’s not so bad.” In other words, isn’t it good that I’m better than a mass-murderer? Won’t God cut us some slack like my Calculus professor and grade on a curve?.

Jesus raised the grading scale on what God considers right living: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’[ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. Matthew 5: 26-29 NIV

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” James 23: 10

The eternal grading scale is actually pass-fail, but it takes 100% to pass

“From the holiness in God’s character we can understand His righteousness and justice. The man who does evil sets his will against God’s will and against the principle upon which He conducts the universe. Such a man has placed himself where he must either turn back and forsake his sin or take the inevitable consequences of resisting the purpose which God is fulfilling.” Henry T. Sell

Jesus said: For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.  And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. John 5: 21-29 NIV

“NOT FAIR!” we shout. Hey, I’ve blown it just like you have, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God….” (Romans 3:23) sin meaning to “miss the mark,” and “all” means me, too, so I’m NOT here judging and condemning you. I AM here to share some incredible truth with you: you aren’t made right with God because of anything you do, and no way you blow it can ever end God’s deep love for you.

It wouldn’t be fair, UNLESS God Himself made a way for us to pass, to in effect score 100%. God did exactly that in sending Jesus to draw us to God’s love and grace, to die on the Cross and rise again to eternal life, not for wrongs HE had done but for every wrong you and I have done and ever will do. He gave us, you, me  the grade Jesus earned! You aren’t made right with God because of anything you do, except for one thing – receive his free gift of salvation and righteousness through confessing your inability to be perfectly righteous and receiving God’s gift of Jesus’ 100% ability!

God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us (a complete offering to atone for sin), so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

“… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[a] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Romans 3: 23-26 NIV

In offering himself in Jesus as the One complete 100% payment for sin who could make you perfectly 100% right with himself, the holy God completely satisfied both his holy righteousness and his relentless love for mankind! God values you SO much, sees so much beauty and worth in you that HE HIMSELF made a way for you to be completely righteous. The world had never before or ever since seen such incredibly powerful, passionate, relentless love!

For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite. Isaiah 57: 15

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. “By His stripes you are healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1: 5-9 NIV

God doesn’t grade on a curve; thankfully God grades on Christ’s Cross! And you get an A!

 

A “…BUT…” to pray: Holy God, I know and confess that I’m a sinner, yes, a sinner, and I’ve blown it, missed your true standards, in many ways large and small, BUT what they were doesn’t matter to you. What matters to you is what I choose to do with your gift of perfect forgiveness, grace and unmerited love to me through Jesus, so I say _________________________________________________________________! And now I want to live out of that gift, live the good, upright, wise and loving choices you enable me to do through your Holy Spirit living inside of me, So Righteous Father God, I ask you to help me daily __________________________ and, as I need to, daily confess my sins and come back to knowing I’m completely forgiven when I do. In Jesus’ name, thank you! Holy Spirit, help me to listen __________________________________________

 

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Cover it?No way!

princeofpeace13

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“ Step up to perfection.” Really? Perfection from a bottle that will enhance my brilliance? (or at least how people “see” me)

“Hate that grey/?Wash it away!” so went the commercial for hair coloring, though I think more accurately the jingle should have said, “Hate that grey? Cover it over.”  Covering, sadly, including blame shifting and excusing, seems to be the first response of Homo sapiens when we know we’ve done something wrong. Case in point: Adam and Eve:

The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” Genesis 3:12

That  comment came after Adam and Eve ran and hid from God in the Garden. Not unlike many two- and three-year-olds I’ve taught …..so it must be that, early on,we ARE  able to recognize our sin. Hmm….did God place a center for a sense  of justice/injustice in our brains? I know every one of us is born selfish and me-first, since “me” is all we come out of the womb knowing.  today again I’mSO grateful to have been born into a grace-based family. Oy, yes, I knew  early on what  the  paint  stirring stick  was for, but honestly I can’t remember the  rebellious deeds I did  that brought the paint stirrer out, so well did my Mom continue to show me love afterward. In our  grace-based family, when I  messed up, I learned that had a price, and I learned from my errors. I learned something priceless, too.

I’ve written this before, but one of the most powerful  memories I have of my mother came when I was around eight years old. I still can picture this in my mind. The cotton swabs disappeared from the bathroom, and my mother had accused me of using them without telling her. I  hadn’t, but she  didn’t believe me, and I got  paddled for lying. That night,  however, my mother came into my bedroom, knelt down beside my bed, and said, “Rosie, I was wrong. Your brother used them, and he did just tell me. I was wrong. Will you forgive me?” Of course I did, but something powerful happened in that exchange..

My mother taught me a truth that’s become core to who I am: it’s always  right, always necessary,  to honestly admit your wrongs and ask forgiveness from the person you’ve wronged. It’s right, it’s necessary, AND it’s freeing. AND it frees two people: one from guilt and one  from bitterness. That’s a grace-based mindset. Not everyone grows up in a grace-based family, though. Many people grow up in shame-based families, and  that’s deadly to both relationships and to genuine relational faith.  Shame-based relationships cause people to cover their sins and wrongs, because shame attacks you at the level of your identity: I did something wrong, I must be a bad person, but I don’t want people to think I”m a bad person,so I need to find  someone else to blame or some way to cover/minimize/transfer what I did so I can still feel good about my self.

Hiding in the Garden. Blaming the other person. Denying it hurt anyone. Minimizing the pain I caused – all because I/you fear the consequences from a person in authority who will think poorly of me/you, stop loving me/you, see who I/you really am/are and  turn away in disgust.  That deep fear-based distrust and insecurity plants terrible consequences in other lives and in our relationship with God. Do we not know that, yes, God clearly sees our sin, BUT yes, God loves us  as we are and wants  good for us and wants to be in loving relationship with us anyway?

I’ve seen first-hand what a shame-based identity destroys. If I grew up shame-based and I offend you, now you come to represent shame in my life. Every time I look at you, I see, not forgiveness, but my shame, so I can’t be in a loving relationship with you, or I have to somehow shift the blame to you so I can still feel “good”about myself without truly admitting my wrong and “coming clean”  to you. This completely disables and short-circuits the freedom that the whole God-ordained for  wholeness process of confession, repentance, forgiveness and mercy can so powerfully bring!

I know that I know that I know that freedom,  wholeness, grace  and loving relationship are the reasons Jesus said: “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” Matthew 5: 21-14

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Blessed is the man who fears always, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.  Proverbs 28: 13-14 NIV

When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long…. I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah. Psalm 32:3, 5

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 NIV

I know that I know that I know that harboring grudges is deadly, both to the offense holder and to the offended person. Again, Jesus says,“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and theunrighteous. “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5: 43-48

No, you aren’t God, but copy  your Father in Heaven. Do what he does, give like  he gives to you, model your life, Rose, after your mother who showed you God’s grace both in her courage to admit her wrong and her humility and integrity to ask forgiveness from an eight-year-old when she could have ignored the truth to “maintain her  authority.” Oh,Mom, you gave me a priceless gift in teaching me  to forgive and to confess my sins and ask forgiveness!

I saw the other side of this truth when, also  at age eight, I accidentally found a Mickey Mouse wallet that I knew Mom had hidden in the yarn container, to surprise me at Christmas. Horrified that I’d spoiled a surprise, convicted that I’d done wrong, I decided to “run away,” but I’d only gotten a few hundred yards down the alley when I realized what a dumb idea that was, went back home, where I knew love and grace lived, and fessed up to my mother. Rather  than chastise me  for spoiling the surprise, my mother calmly,and even sympathetically said, “That’s okay. I know you didn’t do it on purpose,” and she gave me the wallet.

That’s what God does for us when we come to him confessing that we aren’t perfect, that we’ve sinned, that we can’t possibly in and of ourselves ”perfect”or ”lovable” (if your family of origin idea of love  is based on performance, not true love) and we receive God’s gift of atonement, his complete “not guilty”, and salvation  when we accept Jesus’ death on the Cross as the complete and total payment for our  sins.  That step is both liberating and humbling, because yes,  you do need to admit that you aren’t “good enough”in and of yourself to “merit” God’s love, but hey, isn’t that the whole point of true love anyway? “I love you just as you are, even though out of love I can’t enable you to continue doing wrong.Now let’s wipe the slate clean and start fresh.”Out of that kind of love, I WANT to do what’s right!

Back to thedifference between blame-shifting Adam versus my-sin-taking-upon-himself-innocent God in the flesh Jesus:

For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:17

“O God, you know how foolish I am; my sins cannot be hidden from you.” Psalm 69:5 NLT

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1: 5-9 NIV

In replying to a person who wrote he’d committed too many sins for God to forgive and so he didn’t even care anymore, Billy Graham wrote: “No, it doesn’t shock me, but more importantly, it doesn’t shock God! God knows all about you and your rebellion; in fact, He knows you better than you know yourself. The Bible says, “Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).

But here’s the amazing thing: Although God knows all about you and what you’ve done, He still loves you! If He didn’t love you, He never would have sent His Son into the world to give His life for you. But He did, and He yearns for you to turn to Him for the forgiveness you need so you can go to be with Him in heaven forever. The Bible’s words are true: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

You say you’re not sure you even care, but you do care or you wouldn’t have written me. That’s not the real issue, however. The real issue is that God cares deeply about you and doesn’t want you to continue wasting your life. Nor does He want you to enter eternity without hope.

Why spend another day apart from God? Instead, confess your sins and your need for God’s presence in your life today. Then trust His promise of both forgiveness and new life. You need both—and Christ stands ready to give them to you.”

Back to 1  John 1: 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin  for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 NIVWe love because he first loved us.

Who wouldn’t WANT that kind of unlimited, unending, passionately giving love and the identity as a loved – in spite of my weaknesses and wrongs – cherished child of God?

We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19 NIV

Charles Spurgeon wrote:

“There is no light in the planet but that which proceeds from the sun; and there is no true love for Jesus in the heart but that which comes from the Lord Jesus Himself. From this overflowing fountain of the infinite love of God, all our love to God must spring.

This truth is foundational, that we love Him for no other reason than because He first loved us. Our love for Him is the result of His love for us. When studying the works of God, anyone may respond with cold admiration, but the warmth of love can only be kindled in the heart by God’s Spirit.

What a wonder that any of us, knowing what we’re like, should ever have been brought to love Jesus at all! How marvelous that when we had rebelled against Him, He should, by a display of such amazing love, seek to draw us back. We would never have had a grain of love toward God unless it had been sown in us by the sweet seed of His love for us.”

I remember singing the song,”Because he first loved me, that’s why I love him. Because he first loved me, I care for you.”

Sin hidden in fear and shame is sin that poisons us with more fear and makes us hide from God. BUT God’s forgiveness in Jesus’ Blood covers, truly washes away, all of our sin. Hate that “grey’ area of your life? Show it to your Heavenly Father, admit it, ask forgiveness, and  it WILL be washed away  in the grace  that flows from the cross of Christ.

He gave that  priceless  treasure to me, the shed Blood of Jesus – and I’m to offer it, out of unmerited love that I can trust always, to others. That, in a nutshell, is Christian faith and discipleship.

A”…BUT…”to pray: God, loving Heavenly Father, in some ways I’ve really had the wrong idea about who YOU are, and so I’ve had the wrong idea about who I am to you and about the relationship You want to have with me, BUT I see that in truth You _____________________________________________________________________ and to You I am _____________________________________________________,so I have the courage to confess to You that I _______________________________________________ and I confidently receive your kind, gracious, everlasting love.help meto give  it away and keep it flowing so I always have plenty to live in and to give. In Jesus’ name, amen!

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Hide and Seek

 

God of My Steps and Missteps

Hide me in THE ROCK!

In our neighborhood when I was a child, one of the favorite games of the kids on my end of the street was hide and seek. Our house was on the corner, and anywhere in the front yards of the eight houses was fair game for hiding.  The object, of course, was NOT to be found by “it.” It was much more fun hiding than seeking to most of us.

In some ways, I think we carry this game into adulthood when it comes to our flubs, mistakes, and outright sins, regarding God and even others as “it” and aggressively  hiding anything that  would reveal our true, simply flawed human, identity. God/They might look down on me and reject me  if  they knew I  ________________.  It’s as childish as that childhood game, for  certainly Almighty God knows even what we effectively conceal from other people – even what we try to conceal from ourselves!

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:13 NIV

Jesus also said to them, “Does anyone bring in a lamp so he can place it under a basket or under a bed? Doesn’t he set it on a lampstand? For everything hidden is meant to be revealed, and everything concealed is meant to be brought to light. Mark 4: 21-22 NIV

“Uh-oh,” we think, “here comes God’s flyswatter …..” That thought is based in, bluntly, a lie. yes, God is holy, and yes,  sin is abominable  and separates us from a  righteous God, as  well as each other, BUT God is not waiting to gleefully lower the boom on fallen humanity.To believe that is to NOT know God, not know his heart, not know his love.

I had  in mind  to write this post today on my way home from church, and lo and behold, when I opened a letter  from Charles Stanley, he was speaking to exactly the same thought I had.  Charles Stanley writes,” Parents are appointed by the Lord to represent Him to their children. A child’s first concept of God comes from the example of his/her parents. If a father or mother is harsh and hard to please, the  child realizes that no matter how good  he/she tries to be, he/she can never measure up to his/her parents’ standards. Then when he/she learns about God, he/she  sees Him in the same way – as a disapproving authority figure whom he/she can never please…. God never intends for His children to live under a cloud of condemnation.He clearly says in Romans 8:1, ‘Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’ To be condemned means that a sentence of guilty has been pronounced and punishment is imminent. If we have received Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, then we are ‘in Christ Jesus’ and are not under God’s condemnation.”

There is a condition in that last sentence:  IF we  have received Jesus Christ as our Savior and  Lord,  THEN ….

Truth is threefold here: 1)yes, we all are naturally self-seeking, self-preserving, self-serving:

For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,  as it is written:“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.” Romans 3: 9-12 NIV

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53: 5-6 NIV

Well, if that’s true, then why does God care  when we  blow it? He cares because blowing it separates our heart from his, leads us to hide from him and from each other, and, truth 2)  that  denies his desire to be in intimate relationship with every one of us as our loving, HOLY Creator Father. “He who covers his sins will not prosper, BUT whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” Proverbs  28:13 NIV

Hiding from God isn’t healthy!

“But I can’t help myself,” we assert, and that is painfully all too true. We can’t help ourselves in our human,flesh-driven nature, BUT God made a way to give us a brand-new nature, truth 3) God continually seeks us, despite our sin, not to punish us, but to  welcome us into his family, IF we don’t try to live in our sins and hide from him so we can.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5: 17 NIV

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.  If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 3:5-9 NIV

This morning in our Bible study we contrasted the Old Covenant, the law God gave to his people through Moses, with the New Covenant of the Holy Spirit. given by Jesus. The law wasn’t inherently bad; it pointed us in the  direction of right living and right relationship, but it couldn’t change our hearts. The New Covenant,  the covenant God made with us through the atoning death of Jesus, is a vitally living covenant with the power to truly change  our hearts.

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4: 12-16 NIV

Wow, is THAT a relief to me! Back to Romans 8, the verses following verse 1  are REAL FREEDOM!

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,  because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans  8: 1-6 NIV

Jesus didn’t come to save the already perfect (which would have been none of us!) “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” When the tax collector Zacchaeus met Jesus, he was changed from the inside out.

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”Matthew 19: 8-10 NIV

God doesn’t seek us to condemn us; God seeks us to FIND us, and for us to FIND HIM, and in that  finding, find a new birth and freedom to live what’s  right, in right relationship with God and each other, from our heart, because God has great purposes and desires FOR us.   Quoting Ralph Wilkerson:

“’For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness’ (1 Thessalonians 4:7). God has not called us just to salvation, or to heaven, or to receive His pardon. Rather, these are benefits of our one true call — which is to be holy as He is holy.
Every believer in Jesus Christ is called to be holy — to be pure and blameless in God’s sight. So, if you have been born again, holiness must be the cry of your heart: “God, I want to be like Jesus. I truly want to walk holy before You all the days of my life.”

In this”game” I WANT TO BE FOUND BY GOD, even though and precisely because it means coming clean about my  flubs, goofs, mistakes, deceit, and outright thoughtless, selfish meanness, because I WANT to live a life that glorifies and honors God and  blesses others  to hopefully want the same for themselves.

Here goes, then, publicly, to  live out what  I’m writing: once in the past I was shopping at an outlet  store, found a dress I liked in blue,  but saw it was marked $3 more than the same dress in  orange  and pink. Did I ask the clerk about the price difference? No, I  swapped the tag and paid the lower price for the blue dress. Did I feel a great  victory in saving $3? NO, in fact I could never wear that dress without feeling a pang of conscience, and I ended up repenting  to God big-time and giving it to a non-profit that helped the poor. I blew it, and God’s grace is so great that even as I confess  this deed I’m ashamed of now, I rejoice  that  the Blood of Jesus has cleansed me  from ALL unrighteousness. God so changed my heart that after that, when I discovered the page of stickers I’d just bought was  actually two pages stuck together, I gladly hustled back into the store and gave the cashier the extra sheet.

“Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning fromthe beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.”  1 John 3:8-9

It feels WRONG, it doesn’t fit  with my God-given heart andGod’s desire for my holiness, for a Christian to willfully sin. It does feel SO much better to be and live in right relationship with God and  with others!  That means living rightly  myself, and it also means not condemning, but forgiving,  others for their  flubs,  goofs, and sometimes outright meanness. It means seeking to live like  Jesus. Charles Stanley’s letter, once  more, notes, “Based on Micah 7:19, Corrie ten Boom  once said, ‘God takes  our sins – the past, present, and future,and dumps  them in the sea and puts up a sign that says NO FISHING ALLOWED.’Once  we  have confessed our sins, we have no business digging them up  and letting guilt hang over us like an oppressive blanket.”

Sin brings conviction from God’s Holy Spirit, the mid-course  correction and redirection we need, but Satan uses it to bring condemnation and tell us we’ll never be “good enough” to merit God’s love. That lie puts the whole truth backwards! We  can’t earn God’s love, which he freely gives to us out of HIS  loving goodness, but we can and are meant to confess and lay our sin down at the Cross of Jesus and receive in that repentance a new heart and new life, the seed of God’s nature birthed in us through Jesus.

For believers in Jesus, a sense of condemnation for sins we’ve confessed and repented of (meaning thought differently about and no longer want to do) is a feeling, not a fact, and a feeling that is invalid. Repentance is FREEDOM, confession is FREEDOM, being found by God is FREEDOM because of the forgiving, cleansing, redeeming love God  pours out on us through Jesus.

The Apostle Paul had a lot to  be proud of, AND yet he had a lot  to feel ashamed of and certainly repented of. He wrote to the Christ followers in Philippi: But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. Philippians 3: 7-9 NIV

Pretend I’m someone I’m not so people will like me? Pretend I’m flawless? Hide from God? NO!

Real? Revealing myself? Sought? Found? Made someone new? Given a new heart? YES, PLEASE  GOD, FIND ME IN MY FLAWED HUMANITY! YOU LOVE ME PASSIONATELY DESPITE  ALL OF  THAT! HELP ME TO LIVE CLEAN BECAUSE OF JESUS, OPENLY AND FREELY FORGIVEN BY YOU, BEFORE YOU AND EVERYONE, FOR YOUR PLEASURE AND WILL AND GLORY!

Ah, it feels SO GOOD to be FOUND! And where DO we get to “hide” then? “Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Your wings.” Psalm 17: 8

A”…BUT…” to pray: Father God,no more hiding. I admit  that I __________________ BUT I receive  Your forgiveness in and through  Jesus and I know you see me as clean, pure, good, beloved and wanted and cherished by you, and you say to me ________________. I choose to believe that YOU speak the truth over me, about me,  and I  run to you to be found by you,Father God! Thank you, Jesus, for making me new!