Easter Thoughts

The tomb is empty.  Christ is risen from the dead.  Hallelujah!  He is risen indeed!

Jesus atoning sacrifice once for all because the blood of bulls and goats was not sufficient to save.  Before the beginning of the world the plan was laid because God in his infinite wisdom knew.  He knew we could not live perfect lives apart from Jesus Christ.  He knew that we, when given the choice, would rebel against all things righteous and holy apart from the Holy Spirit at work in us.  Praise God Jesus Christ on the cross gives us hope of eternal security.  Hope of eternity in Paradise with our Heavenly Father!

Praise be to Jesus Christ who took my sin!  Praise be to God the Father for establishing this plan for without it none could be saved.

Jesus has declared our sins as far as the east from the west so is our sin from the Fathers eyes.

Isn’t that an amazing thought?  How can it be?  It’s almost beyond comprehension.

One complete man.  Yet completely God.  The God willingly came to walk among sinners, the man lived homeless and poor in man’s eyes.  The God took our sin.  The man suffered.  Suffered torture and death.  The God suffered separation from the Father.  For you.  And for me.  For each one willing to trust King Jesus for eternity.

And yet there are those that believe this isn’t enough.  Those that say we must work, or maybe that there is a sin or many sins (other than blasphemy) that will bring eternal damnation.

That’s not how my Bible reads, but there are many who read more into their Bible than what is written, aren’t’ there?

We are home alone on this resurrection Sunday partly because of this very belief.  Ironic isn’t it?  This day that we celebrate the atoning sacrifice of Christ who took the sins of the world on himself.  The day that the grave was empty for my sin. We sit alone because past sin has not been forgiven.  For true forgiveness holds no record of wrongs.

I said we’re alone, but we’re not.   We are here together.  6 of us.  Living imperfect lives. Living forgiven lives because of the blood of Jesus.  Loving each other even though we’ve sinned against each more times than we’ve ever desired.  That dear friends is the Gospel! That is the Good News!  Perfect forgiveness from a perfect sacrifice that bled and died to save us from our dreadful sin. Christ’s blood.  Enough.  Completely and totally.  Nothing to be done on our part but being drawn into obedience and works as a reaction to the saving grace!

Today I am thankful.  Thankful for that blood!  Thankful that many years ago in front a draft beer at Applebee’s He called me. Thankful that I now realize that Easter is more than a basket filled with candy and a chocolate bunny rabbit.  Thankful that I now realize that Easter is more than showing up a church once or twice a year because it’s the “right” thing to do.

I’m so thankful for Shane and for our children,  Thankful that we gathered together with other believers to worship the perfect Lamb of God.  Thankful that in a short time we will gather around the table to share our traditional Easter meal.  Thankful that my children are following Jesus and living to His glory!

I pray that one day in the future our children will join us with families of their own.  That we will all celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ together!  That that we’ll have grandchildren to  wander our yard with baskets to find colored eggs.  That we will gather around our table and celebrate  the awesome gift of Jesus’ resurrection and the forgiveness of our sins as we feast together!

Praise God!  He is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed!

His grace is sufficient to forgive!

Christy

And because it just isn’t Resurrection day without it, a little classic hymn for you:

 

When You’re Empty

My boy had a track meet Tuesday night.  Afterwards, we decided to stop at a local fast food restaurant.  We chose this one because Shane had an offer for a $2.99 taco platter and there were 5 of us, because we had one of Malachi’s friends and Tabs with us.  And Shane’s cheap.  And anytime we can eat for less than 20 bucks we’ll take it.  And Pico on the side? Uh Um Yes please.

We walked in to be greeted by a gregarious young man that looked more like my kids than like me.  He wasn’t in uniformed but told us his name and loudly informed us that he worked there “sometimes.”  He also announced that they had the “best food in the whole world.”  It didn’t take long to realize that this boy had been smokin’ somethin.  We continued to be polite, but we were all watching to see where this guy was and what he was doing.  And let me add here that my husband a pretty big guy so when he begins to get nervous it puts us all on alert.

Thankfully, we walked away  without incident.  But as I’ve considered the plight of this young man, I’ve found more compassion for him than anything.

This young man is like so many today.

Empty.

At one point in my life, many years ago, I was empty too.  But God called me and claimed me as his own.

Yes, there are difficult days.  Days where my joy seems a distant memory among the purging of gold.  Because refinement and growth is not fun or easy.  But, thanks be to God!  I am no longer empty!

I pray somehow, some day Antonio discovers more than a meth pipe.   I pray that one day he will have a testimony to declare that “Jesus is the best thing in the whole world.  (Although I admit, this restaurant is one of my favorite cheap eats for Mexican).

I pray that as this Easter weekend approaches, we are all filled with the love of Jesus.  That we all glory in His saving grace of the Cross.  That we realize that apart from our sin, there is nothing that we can offer. That we can only rejoice in the sacrifice made on our behalf.

Once for all.  Jesus.  On the cross.

That in our messes of “trying better” we fail.  Always.  We fail.  This doesn’t mean we don’t try. As believers with the Holy Spirit living in us, we can do nothing less.  Yet, it’s complicated to understand how only Christ’s atoning work on saves.   His grace; completely sufficient to save us wretches from an empty life. Praise God!

He IS Risen!

Christy

BTW, It’s good to be linking up with Kate and the gang at Five Minute Friday again this week.  The past two weekends were super busy.  A track meet for my two youngest and a homeschool conference kept me away from the computer..  This week’s word was “empty”.

Encouragement From Peter

Many folks today might say that the Bible isn’t relevant to life today.  After all it is  at it’s most recent writings about 2000 years removed from our space and time. It would seem easy to dismiss.  And yet, for those who believe and are willing, those words penned so long ago can be great encouragement, great comfort in the midst of daily living.

Over the course of my married life with Shane, we have faced many struggles.  I won’t recount them here as it isn’t necessary to rehash those things that are behind us.  I will say that except for God we wouldn’t have survived as well as we have.  In recent months we have faced more than one trial.  I won’t say it’s been easy to lose so many we thought were our Christian family and also our friends.  I won’t say it’s been easy to be accused of wrongdoing and ugly things when we’ve attempted to live our best lives to God’s glory.  And I won’t say it’s easy to be told that your sins will never be forgiven or forgotten when God’s word says the blood of Christ is enough. But! You know what?  God has shown up in the midst of the storm.  While we’ve faced these trials, He’s been there carrying us, encouraging us and lifting us up.

For about the last year I have been writing Scripture longhand in spiral notebook most days as a part of my devotional time.  I found this website from one of the groups I used to be a part of on Facebook.  I don’t know much about the rest of her website, but Shannon’s Scripture Writing Plans have been an awesome addition to my devotionals each day.

April’s reading plan is on grief.  Grief. It comes in many forms and doesn’t take a death to experience.   It seems many others I know have also faced recent losses, so Shannon’s writing plan this month seems especially timely.

Yesterday, I turned to 1 Peter 1:3-9.  It was especially comforting so I thought I’d share it with you. I do my writing out of the New Living Translation.  I don’t particularly like it for every day Bible study, but it is a fantastic option for a little different perspective. If you’re facing tough times, I encourage you to read this and let the words of Peter wash over you.  Let his words renew and refresh your spirit as you heal. Let his words be a balm for your soul.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.
So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.
You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.

Learning to Embrace the Pain

It’s late (or early) and I’m awake.  I tossed and turned for as long as possible.  I thought it was close to waking up time, but it wasn’t.  And so for the first time in many months I sit here in the stillness of night and I think about Kate’s word this week. 

The word “embrace.”  I’ll admit it.  I’ve often struggled to embrace the trials that God has allowed in our lives.  Recent struggles and  struggles in our past. I have to remind myself often hat it is not for me to make someone do what I think they should.  It’s for me to love them, to pray for them and even to embrace them (if they’ll let me) and for God’s will to be done in their life and mine.

I have to remember that God could make do them do the right thing but he won’t because he IS.

The sin of others has caused great pain in our life recently.  But I know under the facade their pain is greater.   They hold too tightly to their law.  Unfortunately, they won’t let go much like a child holding their little critter.  If they squeeze too tightly for too long the little critter suffocates and the child doesn’t understand why it died.    The law is much like this.  When we use it to control us and others it  suffocates but breathe brings freedom.

I don’t want to embrace the struggle. Really I don’t.  I could whine and cry and kick and scream but I won’t because I want to grow!  I want to be more like Jesus every day.  Even if it takes the struggle to do it because I’d rather live my life through the struggles and live for Jesus than to live my life for myself and live in the world.  BTDT, no thanks!

STOP

As I heal, I find a different pain.  Not my own pain but pain for the others. Pain because they have blind eyes and cannot see. Pain because their fruit is bearing and it’s not pretty.  Pain because I fear they’ve walked to the mirror, turned away and forgotten what they look like.

I’m healing but they’re still wounded.  Instead of growing, these kind of people stand on their holy hill pronouncing judgement where God gives no judgment.  They condemn others so they can puff themselves up.  They blame shift so they can feel better about themselves but most often they are only more miserable and their desire to look perfect keeps them from admitting their pain.  It keeps them from falling on their face in humility.  It keeps them from falling on their face in worship to their Creator.  It keeps them locked in a prison of their own making when they could be free!

The pain of consequence is real. The threat of bitterness is real.  I’ve seen first hand what the fruit of bitterness can reap and I want no part of it!   I’ve been asking God to help me to forgive.   To help me love when I want to hate and to see these people through his eyes.

We’re all unacceptable.  There is nothing good within us without Jesus Christ and yet we often make our own rules.  We often attempt to define what is and what isn’t acceptable.   We make judgements and we become the jury.  We pronounce the sentence when it isn’t our job. Or we embrace universalism where God’s love is defined by the absence of consequences.  The absence of eternal damnation and all are acceptable to Him; but my friends that is a false  and dangerous theology.

We cannot live for Jesus and determine to make Scripture fit our belief system.  Christ in us compels us to desire that our lifestyle fit the Word of God.  We cannot claim to live for him when we only look for proof texts to justify our choices.  We must let the Holy Spirit work in our lives to conform us to the image of Jesus!

Lord Jesus help us to lovingly confronting those living in opposition to the Word.   Holy Spirit prick our hearts and show us our failures so we can humble ourselves and repent.  Lord Jesus you showed us how to forgive when you walked this earth.  I pray that we will follow your example when people hurt us.  I pray that we will show them your love in spite of their actions.  I pray that you’ll keep us humble before your throne.  I pray that we’ll stand firm for your truth but that we will also show grace to those around you that are blind.  Open eyes to see Lord Jesus!   Draw us closer to you in the pain.  Heal us Father. Love us Father with your perfect love.  Forgive us Father for our sin.  Thank you Jesus!  Thank you for suffering in our place.  Thank you for being the perfect spotless lamb and the only acceptable sacrifice once for all. Thank you for embracing us in our sin so we too can be spotless before our Father.  In Jesus name.  Amen!

Have a wonderful Friday friends!

Christy

Let’s Be Friends and Love Each Other

I’m linking up with Kate at the gang at Five Minute Friday today.  Where most of us break the rules, but realize that the writing is more important than the rules.   I did set my timer today, but what I wrote about wouldn’t fit into 5 minutes.  I did edit, but I just can’t ignore blatant misspelled words, especially when that squiggly red line is glaring from the computer screen.   Today’s word:  Friend

START:

A while back I attempted to enter another community to improve my writing skills. When I began writing there, I really had no idea, but I quickly found that I was definitely in the minority.  I don’t remember exactly what I wrote that brought a friendly letter from one of the moderators telling me that they had removed my post because it didn’t fit the guidelines.  We chatted back and forth by email and I thought we had come to an understanding.  In an effort to show the community that I was in fact not a hater, and could love a person even if I did not agree with their lifestyle I wrote a factual story about my first ballroom dance partner. He was my friend who died of complications from AIDS in 1985. It went over like a lead balloon. The next letter I received was not so nice. It was then that I realized that there was nothing, could have been nothing that I could write to convince him, and the community, that I was not the enemy.

A few months later, I was at a salon in Knoxville. It’s an upper end cosmetology school that I love to visit when I’m home.

Forgive me for daring to stereotype,

STOP

but in order to tell the story, I must. This young man was extravagant. In some ways, he was more feminine than me. But you know what? I didn’t think about it, and I’m sure he didn’t either. We talked, we laughed and we had FUN!  Bonus?  I got a great cut from an up and coming stylist.

When he walked me to the desk to settle the bill, he hugged me. I mean a full on body slamming hug. I admit I stepped back a bit. But it wasn’t what you might be thinking. I was a bit startled because I’d never had a stylist hug me before. I wasn’t expecting it. He explained that he loved hugs, I agreed because I think hugs are better than melted butter on warm toast.

We didn’t discuss his sexual orientation, or mine. If we had, it wouldn’t have changed anything.

Sadly, that’s what the guy in the other writing community didn’t understand. And even sadder, nothing I could have said (and I tried) could have convinced him otherwise.

His mind was made up. He had concluded I was one of “those” evil haters.

Yet, who was really the hater?

He stereotyped me based on his fear not on facts. The fact is, I never gave him, or anyone in that community, a reason to believe I hated homosexuals. It’s  not the first time I’ve been stereotyped and sadly I’m sure it won’t be the last.

It is sad really. So many people walk  around paralyzed by fear. They’re on the defense looking for those they falsely think wish them harm.

I wish I could convince those that walk in that kind of fear that most of us don’t walk around looking for someone to hate. We are not that consumed with their lifestyle choice. We’re too busy taking care of our own life. Yes, of course there will be exceptions. But there are enough haters in this world without stereotyping an entire people group based on their religious conviction without even attempting to understand that standing in opposition because of conviction doesn’t equal hate.

Because of the actions of few, many  problems are created where there aren’t any.

What happened to niceties? What happened to “live and let live?” What happened to “coexist?’ Why can’t we think the best of people instead of the worst? Why can’t we agree to disagree and move on and enjoy each other?  And yes, I know why…sin entered the world through one man.   But still, it seems like we should be to live at peace together.

Somehow, I wish that I could have met this man before finding the online community he helps moderate. I wish we could have had a pleasant friendly interaction. I wish we would have enjoyed each other’s company so much that we hugged.  I wish we could have found common ground and even been friends.

Unfortunately, I doubt that would have convinced him that I wasn’t a hater.   In fact, somehow I fear it would have made things worse.  In these kind of situations there isn’t a way to win.  My words, my actions, my friendship would have been twisted, and fear would have won instead of friendship.

Sad really isn’t it? Friendships lost before they’ve begun. Walls built because of stereotypes.

And in the style of our friend Andrew, I’ll leave you with a music video today.  Come on people now, smile on your brother…

Christy

 

The Trash Compactor

There’s a scene in Star Wars Episode IV  where Luke, Leia Chewbacca and Hans have been forced into the trash compactor to avoid the storm troopers.  Ewwww…

And some strange things begin to happen.  Some sort of garbage creature grabs Luke, and then the walls start pushing in. Will they escape?  Will they survive?  They panic and we panic right along with them.

Several things have been pressing in lately.  Although I’m not at liberty to discuss the details, I can say the similarities are almost scary.

Arrogant people. Deceived really. Twisting the truth, manipulating and blame shifting each situation for their own purpose.  And these situations are so absurd I’m not sure you’d believe me if I told you.

And because of our relationship with each situation, we are caught in the middle.

And the consequences of each of these situations is great.But it doesn’t seem to matter.  It seems they’d rather have their way than repent for their part in the wrong. The damage left behind looks much like the muck in the Star Wars scene.

And many relationships damaged beyond repair.

And we are left to explain to our children what we do not know or understand ourselves.  And that is the hardest part.  How do you explain what you yourself don’t understand?  How do you explain what you yourself cannot imagine yourself doing?

Then there is social media.  Where you learn all that you didn’t want to know about people. And your perception of them changes. I’m not ignorant.  I know it goes both ways, I’m certain people have learned things about me through my Facebook that they didn’t want to know either.

Images of people that used to be in our life with sagging pants, and lonely eyes.  Looking for love in all the wrong places because they didn’t get what they needed earlier in life.  Yes, this I can speak to, because I lived that life.  I can tell them that living for themselves won’t fix their problems.  Living for themselves, giving their bodies for worldly pleasure won’t fill the empty places.  It will only drive them to darker despair.  I can tell them that we still love them and desire healing for them.

Legalism doesn’t fulfill.  A list of rules added to God’s word only makes it impossible to please Him.  Salvation isn’t something you have one minute and whoops!  You sin, and lose the next.  It isn’t something that blows about with the wind.  It is sure.  Certain.  If you are His child.  Legalism pushes people to rebellion.  Or to arrogance.  If you can’t keep the rules, you decide to break the rules.  And if you keep most of the “important” rules you convince yourself that you’re better than most and look down your nose at those that can’t.  Then you begin to judge them.

Permissive religion doesn’t fulfill either.  Universalism where everyone goes to Heaven makes religion worthless.  It belittles the Cross.  Why would the world need a Savior to take sin if there is no sin?

And the consequences are great.  Locally and globally.

Our family is having to face some tough choices because of the sin of others.

We’ve lost friends. (or maybe better to say, many we thought were friends).

We’ve lost family.

I personally, know I’m in danger of following in the footsteps of those before me in becoming bitter, and yet I am determined to cling to Jesus.  I am determined to cling to the Author and Sustainer of life.  For I am reminded that our battle is not against flesh and blood.  I will put on God’s armor and trust him to protect me.

I am reminded of 2 Corinthians 4:

1Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”a made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

7But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

13It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.”b Since we have that same spirit ofc faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

16Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

I’ll admit it.  There are days I feel like Paul.  Overwhelmed and befuddled with grief.  Watching those around me make poor choices.  And not just poor choices, but life altering choices.  Some of those choices have affected me, like the ones I mentioned above.  Others, don’t directly affect me, but grief me nonetheless.  And I have to admit that there are days being in the trenches is hard.  Standing for truth is hard.  I find myself questioning myself.  Am I being legalistic, or judgmental, or arrogant?  Am I guilty of what I see in others?

And if I am to answer truthfully, I’d have to say yes.  I’m certain there is some legalism, judgemental attitudes and arrogance within myself.  But, I can also say that I pray fervently that God will give me (and Shane + 4) balance.  That God will reveal our arrogance, or legalistic attitude.

I admit it.  There are days that make it extremely difficult to fix my eyes on the unseen. But with God nothing is impossible.

Christy

 

 

Abandoned Dreams

Sometimes God knows better and we are forced to trust His way for our lives even when we dare to think they might be wrong. Just like most newly married couples, we had hopes and dreams for our future. We thought we knew what God wanted for us.  We thought we were gonna change the world.  We were gonna live our dream.

But things change.  And over the years, we’ve had to abandon many of those dreams.  Sometimes that has been easy, and other times it’s been difficult. But this one thing I know.  I know God is changing us to be what He wants us to be. And He will not abandon us.

We’ve learned a lot through the struggles of our almost 23 years together.  We’ve grown closer to each other and closer to Jesus through it all.  I don’t know about you but I’d rather abandon every dream I have and be a strong family that seeks to honor God than anything else we might have pursued.

And we’ve wondered if that is why the dreams must be abandoned.  God knew the desires of my heart.  The desire to be married for life, to have the family that I didn’t have.  To give my children parents who love each other and stick together through thick and thin.  He gave me someone with whom I could live out that dream.  God’s ways are higher than our ways.  He knows.  In a church or on the mission field, that might not have happened.

Stop

Sometimes I still struggle.  Sometimes I still wonder why, but ultimately I know.  I know I can trust God for his best for me and for my family.

Christy

Linking up with Kate and the gang today at Five Minute Friday.   Please forgive me for not popping around to visit y’all. I know I’ve neglected many of my friends there.   I’ve needed to step back and regroup from some things that have happened in our life and I knew my frame of mind would not be encouraging to you.  I promise, I’ll start replying to comments and visiting again soon.  I appreciate this community very much and am thankful for your love and grace.

 

Where We Grow

Good is a good place to be, right? Life flying on.  Positive, encouraging Christian radio, feel good theology where everything is rosy, God is love and your particular brand of politics is in power. Nothing negative, you won’t allow it.

Everything is peaceful, almost perfect…and yet.

I understand, I get it.  We want a happy life.  We want easy street.  Who wants pain really? Suffering?  Uh, no thank you!

Not only is it not realistic, but when there’s no suffering there’s no growth.

A chick must peck through a shell to hatch.

A seed must push it’s way through the ground to bear it’s fruit.

A caterpillar wrapped in a cocoon must grow and change to be what God ultimately designed it to be.  Once transformed, it must push it’s way through the cocoon.

Friends, it may be eutopic to believe that we should shield ourselves from the ugliness of the world, but the fact is we can’t shut out the negative.  It’s all around us.  It’s impossible to ignore and why would we want to? The negative is oftentimes where we grow.   In my last post, I mentioned Jonah.  In the belly of a big fish.  God had something to teach him that could only be taught in the dark, stinky belly of a whale.

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God may have something to teach you in the middle of a dark place. God often uses adversity to grow us.  When things are good, by our standards, it’s easy to find complacency. It’s easy to ignore the Father.  It’s easy to think we’ve got ourselves together.  Yet even on our best day, we are pathetic, helpless creatures.  Lambs feeding on grass, being protected from the big bad wolf by the Great Shepherd.  The lamb believes life to be perfect, but the wolf lurks nearby and the lamb gives no thought to even to wonder about danger.

Do I dare go far enough to say that when we want to live only for the good stuff, only for the stuff that makes us happy we are in a dangerous place?  Do I dare go far enough to say arrogance and pride may be our friend if we refuse to think of the evil and ugly things around us? If the beautiful things in life is all we want?

If we shut out the negative, we must also shut out Jesus Christ on the cross suffering.  If we shut out Jesus on the cross, we shut out a significant aspect of the Gospel.  For you can’t get to God’s love without the Cross.

Jesus Christ wasn’t lovey dovey, oooey goey.  He wasn’t a modern day hippy wearing Burks, drug rugs and tie dye.

He came to wage war against Satan in this world.  He came to FIGHT!  This battle is not against flesh and blood that we can see, but against the things we can’t see.

When we face adversity. Whether it’s 3rd world adversity or 1st world adversity, we grow.

Yes, that’s where we grow.  in the ugly, dark, musty places.  We grow in the places where we can’t find breath.  When we can’t dare to even know the next step.  Whe

If you’re complacent.  If life is sailing smoothly.  If you have no worries, and no cares.  I would challenge you to examine yourself to see if you are truly living the Gospel.  If you truly understand the fullness of Christ on the Cross for your sin.

I would also challenge you to examine yourself if you are being bombarded with burdens and trials.  Are you arrogant, prideful?  Are you harboring unrepentant sin? Are you striving for the mark of Jesus.  Do you desire the prize of Heaven or the accolades of men? God may be trying to get your attention.

I don’t know your exact situation.  It may be that your garnering the consequences of past sin, or the sin of others.  Maybe you’re not where you need to be and God is working to get your attention.  I urge you to pray for wisdom.  Pray and ask God to show you where you have sinned.  Where repentance is needed.  Where change is needed.

The hard places are not easy.  The growing is not easy.  But the hard places and growing make us stronger.

 

 

Faulty Foundations

I’ve driven by many a farmhouse that once were showcases. In their day, they must have exuded comfort and elegance.  Big front porches, beautiful architecture, great roof lines.   When a house sits empty for a lifetime, when care is not given, when upkeep is neglected they start falling apart. Oftentimes, they end up showcasing broken windows, crumbling porches and leaky roofs. These are the things that can be seen.  But what about what can’t?  What about the foundation of such grand homes that have been neglected?

We know some people that are rehabbing an old farm house.   It  sat empty for at least one lifetime. It’s one of those houses.  The houses you drive by and know it used to be beautiful in it’s day.   If the walls could talk…

I don’t think they really knew how deteriorated everything was when they bought it.   The termite damage was so bad they had to rebuild many of the interior walls.  The first winter, you could see cracks of light through the walls from the outside.

Over the past couple of years they’ve done a lot of work.  They’ve reconfigured the floor plan, rebuilt interior walls, found some fantastic bathroom fixtures, installed a wood stove, replaced the dilapidated shingles with a bright shiny metal  roof.  The attention to detail is phenomenal really.  The main floor is truly beginning to look like a work  of art.

Except they haven’t repaired the foundation.  Okay, they’ve repaired some of the foundation, but it’s a big house.   When we were last there, they admitted that the floor was separating at the base of one wall, and I don’t remember what was going on in their bedroom but something was beginning to give way.  As we drove up the road toward their driveway both my husband and I questioned what looked like a subtle dip in the roof, or maybe it was just a shadow from the nearby tree?  We knew the foundation problems hadn’t been addressed.  I wasn’t too keen on even being in the house, but I figured God was big enough to protect us for a few hours; since I’m here writing today, you know He did.

There are a few situations in our life right now that are much like this house.  On the outside, everything looks good, maybe even beautiful.  But the foundations are crumbling.  Sadly, instead of investing in the foundation, those living in those houses are running around doing damage control and are still trying to make things look pretty while the foundation is rotting away.

These situations have caused us deep pain.  We’ve been accused falsely of ugly things.  We’ve been told “if only you would have done ______” by people that have no idea.  We’ve been told how we must change without the other parties accepting any responsibility for their wrongdoing.

And we’ve wondered if there’s something in ourselves that we’re not seeing.  We’ve prayed, we’ve cried out to the heavenly places, to the God of the universe to show us how to fix it.  We’ve humbled ourselves (as best as humanly possible).  We’ve asked God to show us our part in these situations and have repented when necessary.  But in each of these situations, the sin appears to have taken root, and there is no resolution.

My husband is one of the most godly men I know.  He moves slowly, prays about everything.  Nothing he has done in any of the situations we’ve found ourselves in the middle of has been done without a lot of prayer and meditation on the “best way with the most information we have.” Yet none of these situations have turned out in a way that honors God because the sin continues. We’ve lost relationships that will likely never be repaired.

We’ve attempted reconciliation in every way possible without subjecting ourselves to playing a part in the sin. We’ve mourned, in fact we’re continuing to mourn.  And yet, we walk on.  We continue to ask God for wisdom to know how to proceed.

Our desire is to honor God above all else, but we also know that we must stand up to blatant sin.  We must protect our family from potential harm.

Sometimes boundaries are not enough.  Nothing you say will matter, the other party has made up their mind.  Sometimes they close the door on the relationship and sometimes to save yourself from the insanity you must walk away.  I’ve never been afraid to admit my sin or my struggles and I’m not gonna stop now.  I’ve struggled with anger and bitterness.  Shane and I have lashed out at each other at times when the pain overwhelms us.  I’ve shaken my fist and asked why.  And mainly we wonder how  things spiraled so far out of control.

I know we’ve not handled these situations perfectly.  I also know we have attempted every effort to right the wrongs without success.  The consequences of sin sometimes run deep.  The consequences of  unrepentant sin runs deeper.  We are not alone.  Many others  have also been deeply wounded.  We are just the most recent receivers.  At times the pain has been so bad that I’ve wanted to pack up and run away.  I’ve wondered if we can we join the witness protection plan? Just how far away can we move to make the pain stop? How far away would we have to go so the world won’t shrink? How long Oh Lord?  When will this be over?

Mercy isn’t permissive.  When sin of epic proportions are involved it takes more than “sorry” and a hug to make things right.  Mercy doesn’t respond with “oh, it’s okay” and everything’s wonderful again.  No! Mercy can be hard. Mercy desires repentance.  Mercy desires obedience.  Sometimes mercy doesn’t look merciful.  God was merciful to Jonah and it involved the belly of a big fish.

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The foundation is the most important part of a building.  The foundation is the most important part of a family.  The foundation is the most important part of a church. When a foundation is crumbling it doesn’t matter how much damage control you do up top.  The worst problem is below the surface.  When you ignore the foundation problems, and focus on making everything pretty, you end up with a beautiful cemetery filled with rotting bones.

When the foundation crumbles, the house will fall.

When the foundation crumbles, the family will fall apart.

When the foundation crumbles, a church will die.

It may be a slow death but nothing can stand firm with a faulty foundation.

The foundation of every person is faulty because none of us walk perfectly.  But, when we strive to please God only, when we are looking within our own self, when we are willing to humble ourselves and admit our sins, faults and mistakes, instead of blaming others, the Holy Spirit can work in our lives.

When we’ve so convinced ourselves that we’ve got all the answers. Or that we don’t need to humble ourselves, or when we blame others instead of accepting responsibility for our part of the problem. It causes massive problems.  Problems of foundational proportion.

Anyone that’s ever had to have a foundation repaired knows it’s costly, it’s not easy and it doesn’t look pretty.

Getting to the root of sin isn’t pretty either.  Admitting your sin (sometimes over and over again) isn’t fun.  Humbling yourself to repent (sometimes over and over and over again) certainly isn’t fun, but it’s necessary.  Changing directions, turning away from your sin to Jesus Christ is rarely easy but the rewards are phenomenal.

Remember the children’s song about the wise man and the foolish man.

The wise man built his house upon the rock,

The foolish man built his house upon the sand.

When the rains came the wise man’s house stood firm,

the foolish mans house went

SPLAT!

 

 

God and…

On the way home from our state capital yesterday evening, I passed a church sign.  A lot of the time church signs are just downright silly.  But this one actually struck something in me. Within a word or two, it said:

God doesn’t ask for success, he asks for faithfulness.

We’re gonna fail.  We’re gonna disappoint.  We’re gonna mess things up so bad that we don’t think they can be fixed.  And sometimes they won’t be able to be fixed. At least with humans.  Sometimes the human equation doesn’t include grace.  It includes preconceived notions that influence us.  It means we look through eyes that are skewed.  We are incapable of separating ourselves so much from a situation that we can be absolutely 100% unbiased.

So we try to the best of our human ability and the Holy Spirit in us and leave the rest up to God.

In other words, we are faithful to him.  That’s it.

There is no God and…

perfect obedience

the 10 commandments

“worship the “right” way”

sing the “right” songs

“WHAT!  You drank a beer last night?”

my kids act and look the “right way

baptism

wear the “right” clothes

act the right way

No, it is God alone.

God and faith alone

God and grace alone

God and Christ alone

God and grace alone

and

to the glory of God alone.

I admit, I haven’t always lived to the alones.  So far, I’ve lived more to the God and______. I think we all do that really.  We add this or that little difference and before long we’re throwing our gold in to make a golden calf.  Wandering around in the wilderness looking for what is right in front of us. Or, we end up like the Pharisees.  Making our own laws, adding to His word puffing ourselves up for looking so good when we’re crumbling on the inside.

So what’s your God and…

God doesn’t have the human that factor.  He is God alone.  I AM.  The Alpha and Omega.

God has the Jesus factor.

No matter where you’ve been.  No matter what “God and…” you’ve lived by until now.  It’s never too late to live for “God alone” instead of “God and…”

Christy