Friday, April 18, 2014

He BECAME sin

Today is Good Friday. The day that Christians all over the world celebrate that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. In our house, we talk about that all the time. We discuss it with our children, we say prayers of thanks at every meal. I thank God in my own private prayers especially when someone I know has died and I know they are now in heaven rejoicing with our risen Savior.


About a week ago, however, I felt a deep conviction in my spirit that I needed to deepen my understanding of what Jesus truly did for me. This conviction took me to 2 Corinthians 5:21 "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."


So I pondered, meditated and repeated this verse over and over, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal something new to me.


He who knew no sin - Jesus never sinned. Just think about that for a minute. He never had a lustful thought. He never looked at another person and thought, "what an idiot, I hate that guy!" He never held a grudge over all those people who tried to kill Him. He never lied, not even a little white lie. He never got enraged with the stupidity of man. Until He was hanging on the cross, and the Father turned His face from Jesus, He had never ever experienced shame. I remember the first time I truly felt shame. I don't remember what I had done, but I remember the overwhelming feeling that I just wanted to not exist any longer. I felt hopeless, helpless, worthless.


He became sin - Not only did Jesus feel shame, but in that moment, when He was separate from the Father, he actually was hopeless, helpless and worthless! The bible said He didn't just take our sin on and carry it on His back, He BECAME sin. Ponder it. Let the Spirit show you the gravity of that which Jesus did for you. The faith that it took for the man Jesus to become sin, being separate for the first and only time from the Father, trusting that the Father would rescue Him from the pit of hell and allow Him victory over death is barely comprehensible to me.


And WHY did He do it? For me. For every single face that you will look at today. For every sinner on this earth no matter what their sin may be. No matter what your sin may be.


So we might become the righteousness of God in Him - It wasn't even a sure thing. He didn't die knowing that this would be accepted by everyone. Quite the opposite. Jesus died knowing that a very small percentage of people would actually accept this amazing gift of freedom, love and reconciliation. He knew the return on investment was dismal. He knew that most of the world would still choose to live in the bondage of flesh, rather than the righteousness of Christ.


Today, Good Friday, I ask you to ponder a few questions:
Do you understand the gravity of what Jesus did?
Are you grateful?
Do you live like you are grateful?
Do you look at the faces of others and know that Jesus died for them too?
Do you love them the way Jesus loves them?


Today is very very good, but it came at an extremely high price. A price that we disrespect if we try to do anything other than Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Waiting

Currently, my family is in the middle of a season of change. My girls are growing like weeds; I feel like I send them off to school in the morning and they come home older, bigger, more mature every day. Rich was laid off and is in the process of finding a new job and I am in the middle of job and extended family changes. People often say that change is scary, unsettling, bad. Lately, I have been wondering, why is change so hard? I have decided it is because of one main thing: we hate the waiting.


If we woke up one morning, and everything had changed overnight, the children we older, the new job had already been received, all the answers were known, we would simply adjust. We may have some moments of panic but overall, we would adjust and move on. The part about change that kills us is the "what ifs." What if we haven't raised them right and they make bad decisions? What if the new job doesn't come quickly enough or doesn't pay what we want? What if I can't balance the changes in my job and my responsibilities to family? What if we have to move and start over? Waiting is what stirs up all these emotions and anxieties. If there were no wait, we would know the answers, accept them and move on. So here is the question: Why does God make us wait?


The bible is full of waiting. Abraham had to wait for the birth of Isaac, David had to wait to be king, Joseph had to wait to be the leader, Daniel had to wait in the lion's den. The Hebrews had to wait to enter the promised land, the Israelites had to wait through 400 years of silence before Jesus was born, Mary had to wait for Him to grow up. Jesus had to wait 33 years before fulfilling His destiny and now we wait for His return, over 2,000 years and counting.


As I have pondered on waiting and why we wait over the last several months, I keep wandering back to Mary. I can't imagine what it would feel like to be a young unmarried girl and get a visit from the highest ranking angel, telling you that you will be impregnated by the Holy Spirit. Then to have to wait 9 months for this child, the Savior of the Universe, her very Creator to be born. But after His birth, she then had to wait again! He was not enthroned immediately. He did not instantly become a full grown man ready for kingship. He was a baby! I wonder if the wise men coming from the East when Jesus was about two years old wasn't an answer to a prayer from Mary. I wonder if she hadn't been on her knees begging God, "God, I trust you. I know you say He IS you, and our Savior. I know the angel came and told me so but please. I need a sign. I need something to bolster my faith. It has been so long and it's not happening like I thought it would." The next day, the wise men show up just to reaffirm her faith. God is pretty cool like that. He does big grand things just to give us a little more strength to persevere. Mary may have received the first visit from Gabriel but all other angelic communication went to Joseph and we don't have any reason to believe that Mary or Joseph were given God's full game plan for Jesus' life. That seems to be a theme with God. He rarely gives us the full game plan. Often when he does give us the plan, like he gave to Moses, we don't believe Him anyway. I like to believe that God sent those wise men to show His love and care for Mary. That she needed some faith building and God was happy to oblige. He usually is when we ask.


Why did Mary (and all of the world for that matter) have to wait for Jesus to grow up? And why so long? In those days, 33 was ancient! A normal boy would have started working around age 8 and be married and well on his way to a full career by late teens. When we first meet Jesus as a young man of the age of twelve in the temple, he should have been on the edge of manhood and yet He is presented as a young boy still having to be looked after by His parents.  God used young men half Jesus' age as Prophets, warriors and leaders in the old testament and yet we get to wait twice as long for the most important event in history. Mary had to wait twice as long. The disciples had to wait twice as long. So why all that waiting?




The thing we don't like to hear is that faith building, character building, more often than not, involves lots and lots of time. It takes time to learn to trust someone, to love someone, to know how someone will react to something. It even takes time to do little things, like memorizing a passage or learning to ride a bike. It takes time to learn to cook well or to read a good book. It takes time to clean a house, cut the grass or build a house. Even instant rice takes 90 seconds in the microwave, not to mention all the time it took in the factory being prepared before it hits your pantry shelf.


I don't know what God is doing during that time that we are waiting, but for me, today, I am practicing trust. I am reminding myself that the same God who did give Abraham Isaac, did make David king, did make Joseph a leader, did save Daniel from the lion's den and did send Jesus, is the same God who has asked me to wait on His best. And isn't His best worth the wait?
In waiting, I am learning that my statement that God is my security is not just lip service, but true! When I wake up every morning not knowing the future yet not being anxious about it, I confirm to myself that my security and my hope is in the Lord, not the world. If nothing else happened in my life, I am so deeply thankful that God has allowed me to know that about myself. I wonder if Job felt that at the end of his ordeal? I wonder if he sat back and thanked God, not just for replenishing all that had been taken away, but for the deep knowledge that he was 100% all in with God no matter what came.


There is a peace is knowing that the things we say we believe, once tested, prove to be the things we do truly believe in practice not just speech. In our hearts, not just our heads. I serve a mighty God who is faithful and His plans for me are to prosper me. To give me a future and a hope. So I wait in faithful anticipation of the next stage of life He has for my family. I do not know what that will be. I am not blind to the fact that it may involve hard decisions or possibly hard circumstances, but I know that in the end, it will be amazing and perfectly within God's ultimate plan. I would rather be homeless in a cardboard box in the Will of God, than in the biggest mansion out of His will.


As the song says, "So I wait for you, I am falling of my knees, offering all my needs, Jesus, You're all this heart is living for."

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I am Determined to be a Better Mother

I need to confess. My reaction to the Miley Cyrus performance surprised me. I am not normally one of those people that are outraged by others' behavior. I am often the person saying that we cannot ask people who do not believe or serve the God I serve to obey the rules that He has set forth, when I myself cannot meet that standard and I have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I am a full of mercy and grace kind of girl that takes our ability to choose our own life paths (right or wrong) very seriously.

But that Miley Cyrus struck a nerve. I watched in the video clip in awe, disgust, anger and sadness as she made a fool of herself. As the day went on, it only got worse as I learned that both her mother and Robin Thicke's wife had seen the rehearsal and no one sent up a red flag. By the time I was picking my girls up from school, I was in full fledged anger mode. Finally, this morning during my quiet time with God, I asked myself, "Why did this affect me so much? Why do I care? What is it about this situation that is causing such a strong emotional reaction inside of me?"

Here is my answer:

1. She is a little girl who most likely has no one speaking truth into her life. I know she's 20 and legally that makes her an adult. Do you remember when you were 20? At 20 I was away at FSU having the time of my life. I made some of the worst decisions in my life at age 20 and I actually have parents that care about my moral fiber! What I saw on that stage was not an adult who had made bad choices; I saw a little girl who no one cares enough about to tell her the truth. To tell her she is worth more than her body, her voice or the price that people will pay for her. A little girl who is crying out for someone to love her and instead of receiving love, is being handed a paycheck.

2. I am genuinely mad at her parents for not doing a better job. I know I don't know them and I am judging them. I understand that. I feel a little bad about that. It isn't even Mr. and Mrs. Cyrus that I am so upset with as it is this whole generation of parents who have believed the lie that it is more important for your child to be happy than it is for them to be healthy: both emotionally and physically. Parents, it is not your job to be your child's friend! It is your job to train them to be productive members of society, to make good decisions, so have a positive self-worth based on the only thing in our world that does not change: God. Stop trying to be their friend. Stop basing your own self-worth on whether or not your kid is happy. Happy isn't always right. Often, happy is destructive and counter productive. I am never happy when I go to gym. I don't go because I like it. I go because I have to for my body to be healthy. The same is true for our emotional and spiritual health. Sometimes the right decision is hard, not fun and takes 3 times the work. It is also worth it. Always. As my mama says, "nothing worth it ever comes easy."

3. I am upset because she IS a role model. Now, before you get all high and righteous on me and start telling me that I shouldn't have put this girl in the place of a role model, I didn't! I direct my girls to look at positive role models like their babysitters who are strong young women who have led lives of integrity and strength. We talk about women like Deborah, Ruth, Elizabeth and Mary in the bible. I point out women in history who have championed the causes of women's suffrage, better medicine and missionaries. I didn't put Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift or Selena Gomez in my daughters' heads as role models, but they do look up to them. That is a consequence of the fallen world we live in. Sadly, I don't have control over every thought in their heads. I see the look in their eyes when they watch them sing on stage and I will not turn a blind eye to that fact just because I say, "They are just singers, actresses or models; they are not people to aspire to be." Young girls look up to these girls. It is a fact that will not change. So that means that we as parents, have an even harder job. We must use these moments as teachable ones to show our girls what not to do; but also to teach them to show love and compassion for those whose lives are a living train wreck. It also means that we can't just sit back and blame her parents, judge Hollywood or simply point and tell our girls, "don't do that." We must be the change we want to see (didn't someone famous say that?). We must work harder to influence the world around us to want to be better and do better. We must be strong, secure, godly women who do not take short cuts or do what is right in our own eyes. We must care more about others than ourselves. We must care more about how our children turn out than whether they like us or not. I know I will never fully take away the fact that my girls will hear Miley Cyrus on the radio, sing her songs and a part of them will think how cool it would be to do that. But I do know that I can at least be a good enough role model and place good enough role models in their lives that when one of these "famous" role models fall, they will know for sure that they do not want to follow that path.

So today, I am no longer angry or even sad. Today, I am determined to be a better mother, role model and godly servant. Today, I am recommitting to my girls and to God to be the change I want to see in the world, and to show His love and grace, which is truly the only answer to all these woes.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Earning the Right to Share the Gospel

On Sunday, our pastor talked about salvation. He used Acts 16: 11 - 34, when Paul and Silas were put in jail in Phillippi. As I was reading the passages, it reminded me of how much I really like Paul. Paul was unapologetic about his faith and he would not be pushed around. He was humble before God yet confident in His position in Christ as a member of the Holy Priesthood.

He did preach the gospel at every turn and yet ironically, he was not preachy. This Acts story is a great example. Paul and Silas go down to the river "where prayer was customarily made" and talked with the women who met there. They went to a group of women whom they knew would be receptive to talking with them. They were careful to throw seeds to fertile soil. Lydia overheard them and consequently was saved and baptised. Too often we as Christians try to force the message of salvation onto infertile soil. We do this because we get our role mixed up with the Holy Spirit's role. We somehow think that it is our job to get people saved when that is the furthest thing from the truth! Our job is to be witnesses, to be available, to obey, to be confident in our position in Christ, to show love, to be the vessel to show His light, to ultimately bring glory to God through our lives. It is the Holy Spirit's job to soften hearts, draw people to Himself and to ultimately give them the saving knowledge that Jesus is salvation. It is an amazing thing to see; that moment when someone realizes that true hope eternal does exist, that salvation is theirs for the taking, but we as Christians are just the messenger, we are not the ones who did that work. So when we try and force the message of Jesus and salvation onto those whose hearts and minds have not been readied to receive it by the Holy Spirit, we might as well be preaching salvation to a rock.

My first lesson from Paul and Silas in this story: Be aware of my audience. Seek an audience prepared to hear and allow The Holy Spirit to be in charge of who is in ear shot. It doesn't mean that God's not going to use me to bring the message of salvation to a stranger, it just means its not my job to pick that stranger, it's His.

In verses 16-18, Paul got annoyed with a woman who was possessed. She followed them for days yelling, "These men re the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation." Why would this annoy Paul? It was a true statement after all. That was in fact the mission of Paul and Silas; they had dedicated their entire lives to spreading the Good News of the Gospel. But this spirit inside this woman knew something that we need to remember, the gospel message spread on infertile soil is not ignored, it is offensive. The spirit in the woman knew that by proclaiming this at random to the people would cause the people to distrust Paul and Silas before they even said a word. So Paul remedies the problem and casts out the demon.

My second lesson: trying to give the message of salvation to those who are not ready to hear is not useless, it can be detrimental. We might not be able to do the work of the Holy Spirit, but we sure can get in His way and make it much harder.

The result of Paul saving this woman from possession of a demon was Paul and Silas were honored with being arrested, beaten and thrown in jail. Paul had messed with some pretty influential guys cash flow and they were not going to let that go unpunished.

Lesson number three: doing God's work doesn't always produce the outcome that we might expect. Actually, it almost never produces the outcome we expect. We are small minded humans and God is huge minded, amazing and all powerful.

Just because we didn't expect this outcome, doesn't men that God didn't. This in fact was God's plan all along! God knew that the only way to soften the heart of a Roman jailer was a huge act of mercy, so He allowed Paul and Silas to be beaten and thrown in jail. He then allowed a great earthquake to release the chains that bound them and open the doors to the prison. God also knew that Paul and Silas would have the discernment of the Holy Spirit to know they needed to stay in that jail and they would be able to convince all the other prisoners to stay in that jail in order to save the life of the very man who had beaten every single person in the prison. I can only imagine how strong the presence of the Holy Spirit must have been at midnight in that Roman jail in Philippi when a broken, tired and bloody duo came in, were locked into stocks and began to sing hymns of praise. Can you see the hardened faces of the prisoners softening and wondering, 'what on earth would cause these two to sing praise songs?' I wonder what Paul and Silas said to them after the earthquake to convince them to stay? They were all criminals after all; I doubt they were staying out of a sense of morality. Had Paul and Silas's singing caused the others to begin to ask questions?

So the jailer was about to kill himself when he heard Paul say that all the prisoners were still there. The jailer runs in and sees that it is true and then asks THE QUESTION, "what must I do to be saved?" Ahh, the soil was fertile. The amazing act of mercy along with the unashamed praises to their King had earned Paul and Silas the right to preach the gospel. The result was an entire household being saved and probably a few of those prisoners.

Lesson four: willing obedience to God regardless of the consequences always leads to a greater result that we could ever imagine.

Lesson five: acts of mercy often lead to Christians earning the right to share the gospel to fertile soil.

Lesson six: Praise God all the time, no matter what, no matter where. He really is the reason I am alive and He is always ALWAYS worthy of praise.

I want to be God's witness and vessel to share His Gospel. I don't want to be a road block to people on their way to meeting Jesus.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Hello 2013

In my quest to set some new goals for this year, I stumbled on my blog. I haven't written here since 2010 which isn't all that surprising, considering how crazy 2011 & 2012 were for me. One of my goals for 2013, however, is to start writing again. In order to do that, I am going to give a very brief rundown of the experiences and challenges of the last 2 years:

2011 - The year started out pretty well and then, just before Easter, the rug was pulled out from under me along with many of the people I know. The Pastor of the church that Rich and I had attended and help build for the last 5 years admitted to a 2 and a half year affair with his assistant. That in of itself would have been bad enough, but his wife is one of my best friends. The result of this admission meant the end of that church as we knew it. The church itself did move on under the directions and leadership of another church and today it is a growing vibrant church. the former pastor and his wife began the long hard road to reconciliation and I am happy to say that today they are doing quite well. Rich and I however, were both very clearly told by God that our time at that church was over and we were to move on.

Everything in our life at the time was wrapped up in that church. Our friendships, our community service, our social lives and our spiritual growth. I honestly couldn't imagine my life any differently so this call to leave was devastating. But we were strong enough in our faith and feared God just enough to obey so we did. This came at a bigger cost than I expected. We had not only lost our church, which was a great source of security for us, we began loosing most of our friends.

2012 - This year began with a "Good Riddance" party to 2011 and a renewed hope for 2012. After a great deal of rather painful searching, we finally found the church that God was sending us to, Cartersville First Baptist Church. We were both surprised, quite frankly, because it is a very traditional church. Having grown up in a traditional Baptist church, I was completely comfortable. I welcomed the structure of Sunday School, Choir led worship and Wednesday night supper at the church, but this was all foreign to my husband who did not go to church growing up and was born and raised in Southern California.

Once again, Rich and I both heard God very clearly. This was the church He had for us, and He was putting us into a time of rest and renewal, preparing us for a much bigger assignment to come. Over this last year, we have seen God be faithful in that. He has given us rest, renewal, wisdom and a clarity of His word.

I have come to realize that my life and my efforts were in need of re centering. I was spending so much time on things outside my family and my marriage that I had neglected the very ministry that God had told me to put first. I was so focused on having a big group of friends who all loved me and having a large social agenda that I wasn't being a good mother, wife or true friend to anyone. I had neglected my parents whom we had moved to Georgia to be near in the first place.

This past year, I have spent time correcting those things. I spend much more time with my kids, enjoying them, playing with them and praying for them. I have concentrated on my relationship with my husband which has been wonderful and hard all at the same time. We have grown a great deal and all growth involves growing pains. We have spent more time with my parents nurturing and growing those relationships. I have allowed God to order my outside friendships and I have concentrated on the few that He has allowed to remain from my past and the wonderful new ones He has gifted to me. I have come to realize that my self worth is not in the number of people who like me, but in my relationship to Christ and in my ability to be a good friend to others.

2012 did have some other big hurdles: Rich had a second cancer scare and we had to end a relationship with a young adult that we had mentored for several years, but these events proved to strengthen our faith and our ability to trust and obey God, even when we didn't fully understand. It has been a great source of comfort and strength to be able to look back over these last 2 years and see how much God has grown my faith, my trust and my willingness to obey.

So as 2013 begins, I am beginning with a renewed spirit. I am content in the period of rest that God has placed me in and I will be ready to take on the next assignment He gives us. Until that big assignment comes, I will serve the ones He puts before me and remain ready to say yes, no matter what the call.

Monday, October 18, 2010

My God is Scary

How often have people said the sentence, "If God is so good, then how come He kills all those people in the Old Testament?" I bet this thought has been used hundreds of times to explain why someone does not believe in or follow Christ. Or they may say, "Why does God let bad things happen to good people?" My first question to that is what is your definition of good, but that is a whole other post. The thing is, people want God to be nice, loving and sweet. I think we want to picture Him like a sweet grandmother who is always there with hugs, kisses, candy and a comforting story to read to us. We want Him to rock us to sleep at night and fix our boo boos when we fall down and hurt ourselves. We want Him to love us no matter what and fix all our problems, whether we caused them or not. We love the God is Love part. We bask in the God is gracious, kind, and slow to anger part. We relish the God will work everything out for our good part. And we want all of this without the God is Justice, Creator, Avenger of the Faith, and Holy part. We like God to be sweet and soft, not big and mean.

But can God truly be sweet and soft without being big and mean? We live in a world that is ruled by the devil. The bible says the earth is Satan's domain. Is a God who will not or cannot defend us from evil truly a God of love? If you were a child that grew up in a rough neighborhood with gangs and criminals all around you, what was more comforting for you: your grandmother's hugs and stories or your father's ability to handle his gun and defend your home?

Here is the bottom line: We live in a big ugly world full of people and spirits that are out to get you. If I am going to survive life in this rough of a neighborhood, I want to know that my Daddy can defend me before I will feel safe. I want a God who can beat Goliath, who can destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, who can wipe out entire armies and nations for that matter. I want the God who can part the Red Sea and feed me for 40 years. I want the God who expects me to stay within His fortress and doesn't ask me to fend for myself.

Yes, I also want God to be loving, patient and long suffering with me. I want God to meet me at my shortcomings and shore up my doubts and unbelief, but I do not want a God that is weak. I already know all too well how weak I am. I want my God to be big, scary and without weakness. I want Him to be Love so completely that He is willing to protect me and all of His children at any cost.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

All Things Work Together For Good

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

All things; God says all things.

Absolutes are not a successful part of the human experience. We are far too flawed to do anything consistently all the time, good or bad. We are equally unsuccessful at not doing things all the time. How many times have we said to ourselves, "wow, I will never do that again," only to turn around and in fact do it again.

So as a human, who is intimately acquainted with my inability to "always" or "never" do something, this verse stopped me in my tracks the other day. I couldn't help but ask God the question, "Really? All things? All the good ones and the bad? You really are going to use everything in my life, past, present and future for good? The truth is, I just can't see how that is possible."

But God very gently answered me, "You don't have to be able to see how that is possible, because I do know how it's possible."

So why is it so hard for me to see how it is possible? Do I doubt God's ability? Well, if I am being completely honest, I guess I do. Not so much because I think He's inadequate, but because I know the darkness of the things that have happened in my life and in the lives of other people whom I know are believers! I mean, let's face it, some really horrible things have happened in the world to people. People are abused, victimized and hurt everyday. And on the other side of that coin, people are abusers, aggressors and even murderers. Yet some of those very people come to know Christ and are in fact "called according to His purpose." Paul, who actually wrote Romans, is a perfect example of that. He was a murderer and yet was called by God. So if I am to take the Bible, and God, at His word, that means that all those things work together for good too. Do you blame me for being skeptical? Are you skeptical too?

But thankfully, I am not the final say on whether what God says is true. As God reminded me, I don't have to know how, I just have to know WHO.  As I have grown in my relationship with Christ, I have learned who He is. Studying the old testament has taught me a great deal about God's character and through prayer and personal experience, I have learned that God has never let me down. He has in fact carried me when I needed carrying, walked beside me when I needed a companion and worked through me once I finally came to the end of myself and gave it all over to Him. The Creator is much smarter than the creation. God doesn't need me to understand how He does things in order for Him to be capable of being consistent and successful with absolutes such as ALL.

So do I know how God will use all of my past, present and future for good? no. But I do know that He will and on that promise, I can rest.

As a matter of fact, He has never failed. He has always been and He has never contradicted Himself. So I will sit back, rest on Him and watch how He can turn ugly to beautiful and grief into Joy.