Don’t Bite the Bait of Offense! Stranger Danger! Grow Up, People!

 

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This black pot is key to a story of oppression, slavery, God’s providence, and miracle reconciliation! God wants to heal our land!

Satan peddles his baited hook of offense and self-righteousness, contempt and bitterness as “candy on a stick,” but IT IS POISON to your heart! Didn’t your parents tell you not to take candy from a stranger???!!! Satan is the Stranger Danger, the enemy of every one of us.! Wake up, wake up,to the true enemy of your soul!

The Armor of God
11Put on the full armor of God, so that you can make your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore take up the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground, and having done everything, to stand.…  Ephesians 6: 11-13

In the face of the insanity going on in Charlottesville, Virginia, I lift up The God of Providence, happening across the country, and if you want to be riveted and changed by a story of Almighty God bringing miraculous reconciliation after over a hundred years, go to the website of The God of Providence and by all means, invite Matt Lockett and Will Ford to your church! What happened in Cleveland, Ohio in this photo happened at Victory Worship Center in Tucson last year, and I testify to it because I was there in the throng that, after hearing this incredible story, rushed the altar, weeping, shoes thrown off, kneeling, hands raised, crying out for God’s Divine Intervention in our nation to bring true CLEANSING AND HEALING of these ancient wounds from the enemy of ALL of our souls! Lord God help us let God’s righteous, merciful, forgiving love overcome hate! “RED and yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight!” Let’s grow up into Jesus who loves the WHOLE world!

Before the throne of God above, I have a strong and perfect plea, a Great High Priest whose name is Love, who ever lives and pleads for me. My name is graven on his hand, my name is written on his heart; I know that while in Heaven he stands, no tongue can bid me thence depart.

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Cover it?No way!

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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!

SaveSave

Grace – Freedom FOR Responsibility

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If we’re honest, probably most of us long for the job, or the time, or the money to allow us to be free FROM responsibility. That’s part of the appeal of retirement and financial independence: no accountability to anyone but ourselves, for nothing but pleasurable purposes. Fun! Me time! Freedom!

How long, I wonder, would that lifestyle provide meaning and satisfactions to us? If today I could go anywhere I wanted, do anything I wanted to do, eat whatever I wanted, buy whatever I wanted, would I feel validated as a person? Isn’t that what that kind of “freedom” means when we examine our motives in wanting it?

If what I truly long for is validation, a sense that my life matters and has meaning … then I look to the Cross of Jesus, the sacrifice that set us free from the law, keeping an interminable set of rules, constantly failing in some point and feeling the sting of knowing we didn’t “measure up.” Performance: we look for it in cars, from each other on the job, and sadly from each other in relationship. “I will love you IF you …. WHEN you…BECAUSE you ….”

Grace turns that kind of thinking radically on its head, where it belongs, swept away from our lives, thoughts, actions, and relationships because of the immeasurable grace God gives us daily in the death of His son Jesus on the cross in our places.

“What do you mean, God, I can’t do anything to EARN your grace? What do you mean that I can’t possibly measure up? That means I have to ADMIT that I can’t measure up, and that makes me invalidated, worthless … doesn’t it?”

NO, it means exactly the opposite; each of us has immeasurable value to God, just because he WANT us in relationship with Him. How in the universe can that be? Because He is love, period.

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[a] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 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. Romans 3: 21-24 NIV

For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2: 19-20 NIV

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom,  because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2: 12-13 NIV

Responding to that merciful love means I want to show it, return some measure of my limited love to that limitless love. I WANT to give! Love is the illogic that stands logic on its ugly head and liberates everyone who embraces it to FREELY give, to take on responsibility with a joyful, willing heart.

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. Matthew 10: 8 NIV

My neighbor was living on rice and beans, and I had the ability to buy a package of chicken at 50% off the usual price. Was I legally responsible for my neighbor? No, but out of love, could I say she was loved in a tangible way? Yes, freely.

 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3: 16-18 NIV

At a fund-raising yard sale at my church, a woman admired a red two-piece suit I had for sale. She couldn’t afford the yard sale price. Did I OWE it to her to give it to her? NO, but did God’s GRACE, God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense, give me freedom to give away something I could give to bless the heart of someone else? Yes, and to joyfully put the $5.00 in the mission fund myself! Wow, she was going to feel beautiful in that suit!

I hurt someone’s feelings. But God, they hurt me, too. If I apologize – no, if I say the dreaded three words “I was WRONG” – won’t that diminish my value? Won’t that make ME wrong, mean I failed and I lose my worth? NO – grace gives me the freedom to admit I was wrong, knowing the person I hurt is immeasurably valued by God AND so am I! He wants right relationships for our mutual good.

Freedom to BE responsible, freedom FOR responsibility toward God and toward others.

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. Romans 8: 1-5 NIV

 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. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. Romans 6: 11-22 NIV

Purify my heart, my longings, my desires, Jesus! Set me free from selfishness and self-absorption to live freely and give freely. As the song says, I am free to love, I am free to dance, I am free to live for YOU, I am free!

A “…BUT…” to move: Oh, God, your mercy for me, your unmerited favor you lavished on me through the gift of your Son Jesus given freely for me to bring me into family relationship with you as your child and friend gives me the heart to be glad to return Your love in serving. I admit I’ve lived for myself and my own pleasures in ________________________________ and frankly, that never gave me the value and worth that living freely IN your love to GIVE your love GIVES to me. I want real freedom! Show me who needs your love today as I ________________________ and give me the courage of love to _________________________________. In the name of the awesome lover of my soul, Jesus, AMEN!

Give as good as you get, or It Takes one to know ONE and to give (to) one

Family-praising-God1Back in the Dark Ages before computers everywhere, I stood in  line to register for my undergraduate college classes. – long lines and no guarantees you’d get the classes you needed.  In Freshman year, of course you signed up for  everything ” _____ 101.”  One course I never saw, though, is one that should be mandatory, a prerequisite for all of us in the “Human-ities” major, but few of us ever seem to even enroll for this one, much less complete the course:  Relationships 101.

I thought today how profoundly simple and straight-forward this should be for each of us. They syllabus would be short and clearly direct, with emotional and behavioral objectives short and sweet, and the professor considered the greatest authority   subject  because he died to prove it:

Week 1: The Students Will Know deeply that they aren’t perfect and they need grace extended to them  on every side.

Week 2: TSW Know deeply the only One who truly gives that kind of unconditionally accepting grace.

Week 3: TSW Know the gret price paid for them to be covered in grace, and that they did nothing nor could they ever do anything to “earn” it.

Week 4: TSW Know that because they have been lavished with loving grace, they are called to extend that same kind of grace to other imperfect persons.

Week 5: Final Project  TSW will apply the grace they live within in every situation and to every person they encounter.

Sadly there are no guarantees that when you extend what you’ve learned in Relationship 101, the other person or people will respond in the same way. Not everyone registers for this course, known in the vernacular as Christianity as taught by Jesus, Yeshua himself, the author and giver of Grace. What do I do then? I only know that we are not to take offense or hold bitterness in our hearts. Easier said than done, but given grace, we are called to give grace.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32

For by grace you were saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

See that no one returns evil for evil to anyone, but always follow after that which is good, for one another, and for all.
1 Thessalonians 5:15 World English Bible

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13: 34-35

How can I call myself His if I don’t know I need Jesus, don’t know how much it cost him to meet my need, don’t know he did it willingly, and don’t willingly give grace out of the grace I’ve been given?

A “…BUT… “to move: Mighty loving Father God, you extend such limitless grace to me that it is more than I can feel worthy to accept some days. But that feeling denies your heart to give and denies the power of the Blood that covers my imperfections and just plain willful sin.  Jesus, give me more of you, the reality of your grace, so I can give grace to ___________________________________, Amen!