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.”

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Two Brown Shoes Don’t Always Make a Pair

Rose Jackson © 1/2009

The first of three reflections on my shoe goof. Ah, the subtle but critical differences there can be between reality and our perception of reality! (and I’m preaching to myself even as I post this) I sense how important spotting those differences is now that so many of us face extremely difficult circumstances. This post in no way minimizes the losses many of you have endured and now deal with. On the contrary, I hope/pray it can help you find your way through these times.

My heart raced as my feet leaped over piles of shoes and my mind leaped over “to-do’s” on my mental list. It was the typical hectic December Saturday – the day of the company Christmas party – and we had three places to be at the same time, on opposite sides of town. We had early morning appointments at our chiropractor’s office twenty-five miles on the other side of town, so I calculated that, if I was quick about it, I could hit two shopping centers on the way home, squeezing boot and jacket shopping in between our appointments, feeding the family lunch, and running an afternoon errand. Besides, I had my husband with me to help bag the quarry. I tried to maximize my shopping time and enlisted my reluctant husband in hunting for brown ankle-high, pointed toe boots –that seemed straight-forward enough, and leather boots afforded the appearance of a more manly pursuit – while I searched the racks of the crowded bargain basement for a jacket to wear with my dress for the Christmas party. The jacket was a necessity because the dress I was going to wear that evening (which my husband picked out) revealed more than I wanted his boss and co-workers to know about me!

First store, no luck on either count: one pair of boots, too small, no jacket. The clock was ticking. Next store, the outlet-outlet-outlet called Last Chance, because they don’t exchange or refund anything, and again we split up. I untied my tennis shoes to save time, just in case my husband found anything. I scan the racks and come up empty, but my husband spots a pair of boots. I whip off my shoes and shove the boots on, lacing them just far enough up to be sure they fit. Got it! We zipped (relatively speaking, given the holiday crowds) through the checkout and on to another store for our remaining target, the elusive jacket. My husband’s grimace cried out that his heart was no longer in the pursuit. I quickly spotted a jacket the right shade of midnight blue, whipped it off the rack, flung it over my sweater to check that it fit, disregarded the fact that it was short-sleeved and I would still be chilly for the sake of being adequately covered, and we both called it a successful hunt.

It wasn’t until several weeks later, after I’d worn the boots repeatedly, that I noticed the left didn’t feel as comfortable as the right one. Something about the cuff bothered my left ankle, but I ignored the discomfort till I got home. As I took off my right shoe, then bent over to untie the left, I made a startling discovery.

They weren’t the same shoe! Oh, the boots were the same size, the color was the same rusty brown, the pointed toes were the same, the heels were the same height, and the round laces were the same, but there the similarity ended – and obviously. The right shoe was top-stitched with a single row of stitching outside the eyelets. The left was top-stitched with a double row inside the eyelets. The right had a cuff, which was what I’d wanted, but the left had a padded top like a hiking boot. Good grief! My husband didn’t notice that when he picked them up, and, even more unbelievably, I hadn’t noticed the differences when I tried them on!

How could I have been so oblivious when I bought them, and how could I have worn them several times without noticing? I felt ridiculous. How many people had noticed me wearing two different shoes? I couldn’t return them, so I was stuck with two boots that now would embarrass me every time I wore them! I wondered (as I do anymore when something really weird happens to me) what lesson I could glean from this incident, and it came to me quite clearly: my perceptions aren’t necessarily the same as reality, or, “. . . no lie comes from the truth” (1 John 2:21). A lie may resemble the truth, it may feel reasonably close or even comfortable, but it’s not the same thing as the truth.

I recognized an application right away because of the turmoil in the lives of three of my friends dealing with depression, and the chaos in my own life because of a struggle with incredible stress that fall. We were all listening to and buying into lies that sounded like truth. I easily saw my friends’ errors. They were saying things like “There’s no reason to go on living. I’ll lose my job. I’ll never work again. My friends will leave me. God listens to other people’s prayers, but not to mine.” My own lies, like deer in a shadow-dappled thicket, were harder to spot against the background of my own stresses and time-pressured circumstances: lies like, “I can’t handle all these responsibilities. If one more person needs me for anything, I’m going to explode. This pressure is going to give me a nervous breakdown.” After a particularly hectic day substitute teaching, I snarled a lie to my husband and children: “I don’t have the energy to be ‘nice’ to one more person today, so back off.”

As I compared the two “shoes” of reality and my friends’ and my perceptions, the truths common to both were that life was difficult and we all did have limitations. The color and the toe of the shoes of reality and our perceptions were the same, so to speak, but there all accurate resemblance between perception and reality ended. What was the reality? What was true? My friends and I all had loved ones, co-workers and friends who cared about us and wouldn’t abandon us just because we were struggling – that was true. My friend who feared she’d lose her job because of her health issues was bright, capable, and highly skilled in her profession, someone any employer would value – true. She would get well and work again – true. And she did! We needed to line our perceptions up with these truths in our lives, too.

Even though our issues were different, my friends and I alike needed friends, family members, and honest counselors who would love us enough to speak and uncover these truths in our lives. Our part in the hunt for honest reality was to compare the truth to what we were telling ourselves, accept the whole truth, and stop telling ourselves lies. I also found truths like these in the Bible that encouraged me to handle my personal stresses in healthier, honest ways:

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity and fawning fear – but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of a calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7, The Amplified New Testament)

I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” (Jeremiah 29:11-12)

Like the discomfort of my mismatched boots, I realize my own level of mental and emotional agitation , and more often the level I can see in my loved ones, are fairly good indicators of a discrepancy between the whole truth of my circumstances and what I’m perceiving/believing about them. I see, too, that fear obscures truth and generates many of the lies I’ve believed. In his book “Ruthless Trust,” author Brennan Manning writes, “As long as we withhold internal consent to these varied faces of fear, they are no cause for alarm, because they are not voluntary . . . we can overpower them with a simple and deliberate act of trust.” I need to trust God’s truth.

Since the brown shoes episode, I’m trying to do better at spotting lies in my thinking – or at least to listen objectively when my husband points out inconsistencies – so I don’t wear lies too long. That proved essential to my mental health when my husband was laid off and out of work for six months. (More about that in a future post.) Since my husband and I are soon facing the anxiety of retirement in an uncertain economy, an empty nest, separation from a beloved part of our family who live on the other side of the globe, and since I recently learned that depression runs in my mother’s family, I’m on a campaign to intentionally, proactively ferret out fear, lies and negativity in my attitudes and mental dialog. My perspective matters tremendously. I don’t need to make the real challenges of the coming months and years more difficult by what seems like, but isn’t, reality-based truth-filled thinking.

I bought new brown boots and made sure the left one matched the right, but in case you’re wondering, I did keep my mismatched pair as a humorous reminder to look for and believe the whole truth. Much to my amazement and relief as I’ve shared my shoe gaff over the years, I hear others say they’ve done the same thing. I suspect that, particularly in stressful or difficult times like these, we all need to take a closer, truthful look at both our shoes and our suppositions!

A ” . . . but . . .” for you to pray: God, I look at the times ahead and feel fears of financial trouble, health problems, and loss. That’s what the world is saying, too, BUT you promise you have plans to prosper me, to give me a future and a hope. Help me examine my perceptions, expose the lies I’ve believed, and choose to line my perceptions up with truth.
Your own “. . . but . . .” Father, right now I fear ____________________________, but I know that you __________________________________________.