On No One’s Coat tails…

“I see a generational line of pastors and teachers in your family line. I feel a sense of culmination to this point in history, that you are facing a giant, a battle, which has been ordained that you should fight ….” She’d never met me before, had no idea who I am, and yet the words Charity spoke were solid, right on.  How could she know there are pastors and preachers in my mother’s mother’s  family line, including my great-Uncle, and many before him?

Even with this heritage,though, I know that I know that I  know that I can’t call myself Christian because any of my ancestors were.Christianity is not an ethnicity, not an inheritance passed down by your parents. Sitting for decades in  church doesn’tmake you Christian any more than sitting weekly in the garage makes you a car or  wading in the ocean till you’re pruny makes you a tuna! Christianity, being a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, not just a lip-service pew sitter, comes down to one thing and one thing only: a personal choice to acknowledge that 1)yes, I am a sinner,  2)yes, sin (even one) separates me from relationship with a Holy God, 3) no, I can’t  possibly DO anything to merit  God’s grace 4) Jesus made  the ONe and ONLY fully adequate, fully covering, fully atoning sacrifice of his own life on the cross to pay the  Blood price for my forgiveness required by my sins and 5) I have to REPENT AND CHOOSE and daily choose  to live in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice  for me,  receiving God’s unmerited grace, favor, unfathomable mercy, forgiveness and matchless love.

MY SINS – CHRIST’S DEATH ON THE CROSS. What an almost unimaginably priceless, inconceivably costly gift, freely given by Jesus! And all I have to do is agree with God  that I’m a sinner in desperate need of His grace to receive it  and walk forever, here and in Eternity, in joyful fellowship and relationship with My Righteous Father God Almighty! No, that doesn’ t give me license to keep on willfully sinning. What a slap in the face to Jesus that would  be, to think I could presume upon his boundless,  pure  mercy and live in a way that dishonors, trivializes,  and disgraces God’s costly  gift to me! I receive his unmerited grace, mercy, forgiveness  and love, and out of reverential gratitude and eternal thanks, I choose  to live to please, honor, serve and worship God Almighty, helped daily by God’s Holy Spirit present with me.Do I blow  it sometimes? Yes, and then I’m right back on my knees confessing, repenting, and staying in relationship with God as his chosen daughter. Yes, God chose every single one of us before the foundations of the Earth, that we should come to know his boundless love and live in fellowship with HIM. And yes, God “recklessly” gave us the freedom to accept His Gift or go our own  way, trusting in our own goodness, which God’s Word says is like filthy rags, instead of in the freely given Righteous Blood of Jesus ALONE.

This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long. Who do YOU choose  to worship, choose, revere,love,  follow, and trust?  Today I quote an entire chapter. These aren’t just my thoughts, but  thoughts straight from God’s Holy Spirit, yes through a human being, but not humanly reasoned out! We’d think  “religion” is enough. God knows how inadequate anything  but the Blood of Jesus truly is (my bold):

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
    but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
    I have come to do your will, my God.’[a]

First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.”He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:

16 “This is the covenant I will make with them
    after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
    and I will write them on their minds.”[b]

17 Then he adds:

“Their sins and lawless acts
    I will remember no more.”[c]

18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

A Call to Persevere in Faith

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] and again, “The Lord will judge his people.”[e] 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For,

“In just a little while,
    he who is coming will come
    and will not delay.”[f]

38 And,

“But my righteous[g] one will live by faith.
    And I take no pleasure
    in the one who shrinks back.”[h]

39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

Hebrews 10 NIV
Who in their  right mind would refuse boundless  love and grace,  freely given, despite their failures, rebellion and weaknesses?
10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me- 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father- and I lay down my life for the sheep.  John 10: 10-15 NIV
NO  “But’s…” about it: not Great Uncle Cyrus,  not great-great-grandpa whoever, no building, no just  words creed, no mindlessly recited prayers, nothing and NO ONE and NO WAY but Jesus, now and forever, PRICELESS LOVE, amen!
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Franks Sinatra and Monopoly, Part 2: “Get Out of Jail Free”

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Handy to have ONLY IF you’re playing Monopoly

“I did it myyyy waaaay……”

I think my family first got a Monopoly board game when I was five or six, so I wasn’t very astute when I started playing with my brother seven years older than me. Still, it didn’t take more than one game for me to realize that it was VERY desirable to land on the square marked Community Chest when the next card in the stack was a “GET OUT OF JAIL FREE” card. Even my cool brother couldn’t talk me or schmooze me or buy me out of that card! I was no six-year-old dummy!

Okay, sixty years later, what have I learned? Most things I think I know, but I’ve learned a couple of things for sure:

  1. Life is NOT a game
  2. My life choices DO have consequences, both here and in eternity
  3. When the “board gets folded up” you can’t just walk away into eternity as though life wasn’t real
  4. There are only two places in which to spend eternity: Heaven or Hell
  5.  We all start out with an internal issue: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God…. there is no one who does good, not even one…. There  is no fear of God before their eyes.” Psalms 14: 1-3, Psalms 36:1 NIV
  6. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God …” Romans 3:23 NIV
  7. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23 NIV
  8.  But to all who did ·accept [receive] him and believe ·in him [L in his name; C the name indicating the character of the person] he gave the ·right [power; authority] to become children of God.” John 1:12 EXB
  9. If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10 NIV
  10. BUT, and this is one BIG BUT, Jesus is NOT a “GET OUT OF HELL FREE” card, to be grabbed once and held onto in your stack while you live like hell and “Do it myyyy waaaay….” and then pop out of your stack when you stand before the Judgment Seat of Almighty God and the verdict is rendered.

“But hey,” you protest, “isn’t God a loving God of forgiveness and mercy? Isn’t he a big teddy bear of a spiritual Grandpa who will let bygones be bygones, as long as I more or less tried to be good and at the end of my life I whip out my ‘Yes, I went up to the altar and said the secret words so Jesus has to accept me in Heaven’ card?” Isn’t Jesus my  “GET OUT OF HELL FREE” guarantee?

Is that who Jesus said he was and why he came?  He very pointedly told anyone who would truly listen exactly who he was and why he came:

I and the Father are one.” John 10:30 NIV

Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14: 6 NIV

So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”“Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”Then Jesus declared, I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. John 6:30-35 NIV

Jesus said to her (Martha), I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” John 11: 25-27 NIV

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. John 14: 9-10 NIV

 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. John 10: 11-17 NIV

 Jesus answered her, If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered, Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:10-14 NIV

Now THAT is a purpose, a person, a Savior worth living for!

Does Jesus, all he IS as much as all he does, sound like nothing more than  a “GET OUT OF JAIL FREE” card to save and whip out then for there, or is Jesus the living Presence of God meant to be in your life as Lord, in every life that receives him, for here and now? John did not write, “For God sent His son into the world to excuse the world from sin.” Sin is too destructive for God to sweep it under the rug; He must deal with it, and He did, in sending Jesus to be the payment, the offering, for my sin and your sin, IF/WHEN we acknowledge that we did nothing to deserve it and gratefully receive the gift Jesus extends to us.

This is not what I say, subject to my own personal interpretation. This is what God’s Word says, period, what God Himself spoke through Jesus and through Holy Spirit to people who loved Him and were listening for His voice:

I (Jesus) tell you, everyone who confesses Me (Jesus) before men, the Son of Man will also confess him before the angels of God. But whoever denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.    Luke 12:8-10 NIV

Anyone who ·continues to sin [or sins] belongs to the devil [John 8:44], because the devil has been sinning since the beginning. The Son of God ·came [was revealed; appeared] for this purpose: to destroy the devil’s work [Matt. 4:1–11; 12:25–29; Luke 10:18; John 12:31; Rev. 12:7–12; 20:1–3]. 1 John 3:8 EXB

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people,don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4: 3-10 NIV

I can hear the protests again, “That isn’t fair! Only one way, Jesus,  to eternal life, and I can’t gain it for myself by the good things I do? That isn’t tolerance, and God ought to know that down here we’re all about tolerance, and  everybody has their own truth! That’s democracy!”

Well, sure, you are completely free to exercise your own free will throughout your life. God did give you free will, and for good reason: puppets can’t truly love or choose to obey. Puppets can’t live in passionate, loving, familial, relationship, as a child with her/his father.  BUT…   choosing to willfully, intentionally live outside of the standards God set down for humanity to live by is choosing self above God. That is called sin, and it separates us from the HOLY, Pure, Righteous, Immutable, Creator, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who cannot look on evil and smile and say, “Aw, that’s okay. Forget about it!”

What we’ve forgotten about in focusing on God’s mercy is God’s Holiness:

At the center of the universe is a God about whom the angels repeatedly cry, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD God Almighty. Heaven and Earth are filled with Your Glory.” 

” Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,  which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen. 1 Timothy 6:12-16 NIV

“Holiness is not found in strict rule keeping alone; it is found in our desire of the Holy One. Holiness is not new behaviors. Holiness is new affections…. Holiness is something of God, not something we gain through the way we live. Holinessis new affections, new desires, and new motives that then lead to new behavior. If I don’t see my  sin as forgiven, then my affections, desires,and motives will be wrong. I will just aim to prove myself. Tyler Braun, Why Holiness Matters, copyright 2012 Tyler Braun.

God is without sin, totally pure, totally holy, and nothing of impurity or sin can dwell near him. That’s why sin matters! Sin is destructive and brings eternal death. That’s why Jesus came to DIE for our sins!

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires… but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life,and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God … You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” Romans 6: 11-18

Who preaches that nasty word “sin”  anymore? That’s an anachronism for people with feeble minds! Doesn’t everyone have their own truth to live by, what’s right for them? Besides, I’m a pretty good person…. Then my question to you is, whose standards are you using to measure your goodness by?

Do not merely listen to the word (God’s Word), and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens the the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.  James 1:22-25 NIV

“Throughout the Bible almost every sin reaches for things with some intrinsic value, such as security, knowledge, peace, pleasure, or a good name. But behind the appeal to something good, sin ultimately involves a raw confrontation between obedience and rebellion. Will Adam and Eve heed their impressions or God’s instructions? Will they listen to a creature or the Creator? Will they serve God or themselves? Who will judge what is right, God or humans? Who will see to the results? Ultimately, by taking the position of arbiter between the conflicting counsel of God and the serpent, Eve and Adam have already elevated themselves over God and rebelled against him. Here too the first sins disclose the essence of later sins. Sin involves the refusal of humankind to accept its God-given position between the Creator and lower creation. It flows from decisions to reject God’s way, and to steal, curse, and lie simply because that seems more attractive or reasonable. Here we approach the mystery of sin. Why would the first couple, sinless and without inclination toward sin, choose to rebel? Why would any creature presume to know more or know better than its creator?”  http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/sin/

I remember more than the game Monopoly from my childhood. I remember the paint stirring stick and its place in the junk drawer, and its one calmly, not angrily, calculated pop on my well-cushioned behind when I engaged in outright rebellion against my parents’ standards of speech or conduct for their children. Was that abuse? By no means; it was LOVE! How do I know that? Because 1) I have absolutely no remembrance of the infractions I committed, so thoroughly was I convicted of my wrongdoing and thoroughly hugged after each one, and 2) I did NOT grow up to be an abuser.

I also know that because, after disciplining my own sons that way, reserving the wooden spoon for outright rebellion, talking with them about what they did and why they received one pop on the popo, I let them know I loved them. The results? Two amazing men of good character, compassion, honesty, integrity, faith and love.

Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,”so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy;without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12: 9-14 NIV

The scariest words I’ve ever read in the Bible are words I heard again in church a couple of weeks ago. This particular pastor doesn’t waltz  around  God’s Word, but delivers it in purity and power. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. Matthew 7: 21-19 NIV

My two boys may or may not remember Mom saying often to them when we went about daily life, finishing their homework, cleaning their rooms, or just in general doing what I asked them to do, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13: 17 ESV) My next-door neighbor once remarked that she had initially though I spanked my older son a lot, but when she became the stepmother of a boy about my son’s age and she saw the contrast in behavior between the two boys, she decided maybe I was on to something. All I was on to was disciplining my sons carefully,  not spanking at the drop of a hat for every childish thing they did, but saving corporal punishment for outright rebellion,so they didn’t fall into worse, more seriously destructive behavior as they grew up.

“Discipline your children while there is hope; otherwise you will ruin their lives.” Proverbs 19:18 NLT

I painfully remember, and have repented flat on my face before God for, an incident, not with my children, where I did listen to someone’s crying  and  withheld the strong action that, I now regret, might have changed that mind about the consequences of continuing on to “do it my waay….”And boy, have I paid a price for not doing it God’s “tough love” way.

Let no one think whipping out the “Jesus card” at the end of life, after living according to the world’s/contemporary culture’s iffy standards, will be a “GET OUT OF HELL FREE” pass into eternal life with God. Reiterating Jesus’ words,  “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven….Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” I can’t think of any more horrifying words to hear than those.  DC Comics notwithstanding, there is no such thing  as this:

So what are we to do if we don’t want to earn eternity  forever apart from God, and yes, in a literal hell?  Can we know for sure we will spend eternity with God in Heaven? Absolutely! This one thing is certain, sure, and worth placing all my hope and eternal security in: The Blood of Jesus, shed on the Cross for me, for my forgiveness and fellowship with God.  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

So what can you do?

1. “‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart,’ that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming. If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:8-10 NIV

AND

2. In Jesus’ own words: “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” John 14: 21 NIV

Let’s do it HIS way, in the here and now!

Isaiah 57:15-19New International Version (NIV)

15 For this is what the high and exalted One says—
    he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place,
    but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
    and to revive the heart of the contrite.
16 I will not accuse them forever,
    nor will I always be angry,
for then they would faint away because of me—
    the very people I have created.
17 I was enraged by their sinful greed;
    I punished them, and hid my face in anger,
    yet they kept on in their willful ways.
18 I have seen their ways, but I will heal them;
    I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners,
19     creating praise on their lips.
Peace, peace, to those far and near,”
    says the Lord. “And I will heal them.”