Grace

From the island of Koh Samui

(http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=2406335&searchId=6cad826248cd3f4e93da71e7b49928e3&npos=245)

Grace… Just to type the word grace or say its name is somehow calming and comforting.

What is grace exactly?

For a lot of people, grace means kindness.

For many, a God of grace is preferred over a God of justice.  In fact, there are many churches that preach either grace or justice to the exclusion of the other. 

For some churches, God’s righteousness and justice are so maximized that His love and grace are minimized.

For other churches, God’s love and grace are emphasized to the extent that God’s righteousness and justice are ignored.

While driving today, the truth struck me that grace can only be understood in the context of justice.

What is grace, except in the context of justice?

From Dictionary.com, it says this about the noun form of grace:

noun

1.

elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action:

We watched her skate with effortless grace across the ice.

2.

a pleasing or attractive quality or endowment:

He lacked the manly graces.

3.

favor or goodwill.

4.

a manifestation of favor, especially by a superior:

It was only through the dean’s grace that I wasn’t expelled from school.

5.

mercy; clemency; pardon:

He was saved by an act of grace from the governor.
Synonyms: lenity, leniency, reprieve.
Antonyms: harshness.

6.

favor shown in granting a delay or temporary immunity.

7.

an allowance of time after a debt or bill has become payable granted to the debtor before suit can be brought against him or her or a penalty applied:

The life insurance premium is due today, but we have 31 days’ grace before the policy lapses.
Comparegrace period.

Grace in the context of its verb form means:

From Dictionary.com:
verb (used with object), graced, gracing.

14.

to lend or add grace to; adorn:

Many fine paintings graced the rooms of the house.

15.

to favor or honor:

to grace an occasion with one’s presence.
Synonyms: glorify, elevate, exalt.
Antonyms: disrespect, dishonor.
And this is what Dictionary.com also says about justice:

justice

noun

the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness:

to uphold the justice of a cause.

2.

rightfulness or lawfulness, as of a claim or title; justness of ground or reason:

to complain with justice.

3.

the moral principle determining just conduct.

4.

conformity to this principle, as manifested in conduct; just conduct, dealing, or treatment.

5.

the administering of deserved punishment or reward.

6.

the maintenance or administration of what is just by law, as by judicial or other proceedings:

a court of justice.

7.

judgment of persons or causes by judicial process:

to administer justice in a community.
For people to preach grace without justice is like selling a hair-brush to someone who doesn’t have hair.  It’s worthless in that it doesn’t have any functionality nor serves any purpose to its recipient.

The very definition of grace implies that justice was deserved, but that the opposite was offered. 

Grace implies a kindness and favor from an Outside Source — from Someone who had the right to administer justice and chose instead to offer benevolence.  It also implies that the one being granted the grace was lacking grace in the first place.

What grace tells us about ourselves is that we were lacking grace in our natural state.  In fact, we were deserving of justice. 

When God grants us the noun form of grace, He is saying that He took the place that we justly deserved and the emptiness of lives, devoid of grace.  He is offering to us instead His kindness, forgiveness, immunity, righteousness, and restoring to us a life now full of grace.

Not only are we granted the noun form of grace, but we are granted the verb form of it as well.  The verb form of grace is what compels us and gives us the ability to walk the new life God has granted us through our salvation.

The beautiful truth about grace is that as Men & Women of the Bible says,

“The Christian life is often an awkward dance of two steps forward and three steps back; the key is that God honors our efforts in spite of our errors.  As you pray, put into words your desire to be available to God.  You will discover that His willingness to use you is greater than your desire to be used.

That is grace! 

God wills and desires to use us!  I love the word desire because it speaks of emotion and longing.  It speaks of His love for each of us personally — for you and for me.

John 1:16

16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.

Romans 3:24

24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Romans 5:2

By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Romans 5:15

15 But not as the offense, so also is the free gift. For if through the offense of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

Romans 5:21

21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

Grace is the Gospel’s saving and transforming message for our lives. 

Grace is what saves us into eternal life, and grace is what gives us the ability to live out our salvation. 

May the grace being offered to you today hold the full richness of what it really means for you and for me.  I, for one, can’t think of anything for which I am more grateful!

Forgiveness — A Powerful Key To Healing

  • Forgiveness is one of the most crucial elements to walking in true freedom — the spiritual and soul kind of freedom.

“Forgiving others positions your soul to receive the peace and freedom that Jesus purchased for you by suffering in your place.” (Think Differently, Live Differently)

  • Forgiveness is a powerful component of our spiritual, physical, and soul (mind, will, and emotions) healing.  

  • Forgiveness is a gift that allows us to heal.  From Think Differently, Live Differently by Bob Hamp:

Forgiveness is not a hoop we jump through to make a mad God happy.  Instead, it is a gift that allows us to heal from wounds caused by the behavior of others and to remain true to God’s nature within us.  [His Holy Spirit and the new life we have as His child] in the face of the most horrendous of evils.  A few false beliefs about forgiveness may keep people from receiving this most healing of gifts.”

  • Forgiveness opens the door for God to heal the roots of pain and fear that have maintained our anger. 

(From Think Differently, Live Differently:)  “Until this restoration process begins, the best we can hope for is to swallow our anger, our pain, and our fear.

we cannot experience healing while we still cling to the source of our pain.

When our will makes the the choice, our soul can access God’s supernatural power to forgive.”

 

  • Forgiveness enables the individual to actively engage in true living.

    One can go through the motions of living: eating, sleeping, working, and other bodily functions; but when unresolved wounds are left to fester, they hinder the individual’s ability to heal and thus truly connect the individual’s means of true life and being (God’s Spirit to heal our spirit to heal our souls and bodies).

  • Forgiveness takes responsibility for what we do with the sin of the offender — not for the sin itself.

In Think Differently, Live Differently, it says:

As long as we are holding on to anger toward another, they own real estate in our mind.  The more intense the conflict, and the longer the duration, the more acreage they own.

In maintaining resentments, you have given significant parts of your mind over to others, so you will have difficulty controlling your thoughts until you make the difficult choice to forgive.

  • Forgiveness turns the offender over to God for correction/justice. 

In Think Differently, Live Differently, it says:

“Before they sinned against you, they sinned against God.”

  • Forgiveness is a decision of the mind but also involves the release of emotions from the heart. 

    In order to forgive and heal,  it is important to acknowledge the hurt and pain that the offense caused.  Repressing emotions is ignoring a problem that won’t go away until we deal with the problem.  Forgiveness is releasing those emotions to God — every, very real one of them. 

“Forgiveness is not a rigid, uncompassionate demand from a God who does not understand.  It is His gift, allowing us to continue to love and maintain a soft heart in the face of real pain and evil.” (Think Differently, Live Differently)

When Forgiveness Seems Impossible

Recent events have brought to our attention the horrific stories of those who have been grossly wounded.  For some, the matter of abuse has resurrected a maelstrom of very personal hurt.

It is impossible to live in this world and to not be untouched by some individual or situation that has not left us without hurts.  It is when we face these hurts, that we are given a choice: to forgive or not to forgive.

Some wounds leave us with scars so deeply embedded on our souls that it seems completely impossible to forgive the offender.  What do we do when forgiveness seems impossible?

First, we have to understand what forgiveness is not.

Forgiveness is not (taken from notes from the Christian Fellowship Church Encounter Conference):

  • Forgiveness is not condoning or excusing
  • Forgiveness is not denial
  • Forgiveness is not repression
  • Forgiveness is not forgetting
  • Forgiveness is not reconciliation
  • Forgiveness is not erasing justice
  • Forgiveness is not about your feelings

Second, we have to understand what forgiveness really is.

Forgiveness is: (Notes taken from Christian Fellowship Church Encounter Conference.)

  • Canceling a debt
  • An act of grace
  • About what you; not what they do
  • Turning the offender over to God
  • A decision of the will
  • From the heart
  • A legal, spiritual transaction
  • The air we breathe in the Kingdom

“Forgiveness is the doorway to [our] healing God; it is the pathway to freedom.”  (From Christian Fellowship Church Encounter Conference.)

In the past, I experienced a situation that was hurtful to me.  I knew that I needed to forgive the individuals involved.  As I heard at a conference recently, “Unforgiveness opens the door for the enemy to come in and attack.”

This is why I knew that I needed to forgive.  Yet, I found it virtually impossible in my own strength.  Because I was having a difficult time forgiving, I began to ask God to help me.

In answer to my prayer, God gave me a very special picture that helped me to make the choice to forgive.  I saw Jesus sitting down at a bench across from me.  He then held out his hand, and I saw the scars from the nails. He then said to me, “[my name], I died for you.  You are forgiven.”  He then held out his other hand and said, “I died for …[offender’s name].  …[the offender’s name] is forgiven.”  His response was so gentle and yet so challenging.  How could I argue with that?

In a recent blog post, https://graceinthemoment.wordpress.com/2015/05/28/afraid-of-my-children-part-two-the-cause-and-the-solution, I mentioned that our areas of “bondage” aren’t just the presence of that problem in our lives.  The problem is really the lack of the solution or opposite of the problem in our lives.  In other words, if we are struggling with fear, we have a trust problem.  A trust problem indicates a problem with our relationship with God, with trusting Him.

If we are having a problem with forgiving someone, the problem isn’t just that we are holding onto bitterness or unforgiveness.  The problem is that we aren’t walking in our forgiveness.  You can’t give what you don’t have. 

Jesus has forgiven us, but perhaps we aren’t really living out that forgiveness or recognizing it.

That’s why I think God’s response to my need to forgive was so profound.  He reminded me so gently of my own sins and of how I am forgiven.  How humbling and life-changing!

Perhaps if we are struggling with unforgiveness towards someone, we need to start by asking ourselves:

  • Is there a sin in our own lives that needs to be forgiven?
  • Have we accepted God’s forgiveness for our sins? 
  • Are we walking as His child: forgiven, accepted, beloved, purified, redeemed?

Thinking Of The Duggars…

Dirt hit the “fans” within media circles this past week.  Once again, scandals were uncovered, involving another conservative, homeschooling family — the well-known Duggar family of the “TLC Series’ 19 & Counting.”

The juvenile criminal record on Josh Duggar, the oldest son of the 19 Duggar children and recently resigned director of the Family Research Council, was recently made public.  In it, the records reveal that Josh Duggar at ages 14 and 16 was charged with sexual misconduct.  (I won’t go into detail.)

Now, 11 and 13 years later, these sins are brought before the public in one harsh wave.  It’s brutal to read about such abhorrent sins, especially among fellow Christians.

There will be many opinions on whether or not Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, the parents, handled this situation correctly.

I challenge us all though that if this were/was our son, how would we have handled this situation?

  • Do we deal truthfully with sins that are heinous to face? 
  • Do we bring appropriate justice to the offender, even if it’s our own child
  • Do we humble ourselves and truly listen and acknowledge the abhorrent wrongs committed against the victims and seek their restitution? 
  • Do we make excuses or try to shield our children from the consequences of their sins? 
  • Are we more concerned with our public image then with the condition of our hearts and our children’s hearts?
  • When our children sin, do we shame them, or do we we seek true healing for them and redemption?

We may never know if Josh Duggar is and was truly repentant over his sins.  Was what he did wrong?

Absolutely, undeniably, horrifically wrong!

What I want to address though is our responses to the offender.  It is so easy to start hurling the “stones” of accusations when we discover that once again a person was caught sinning.

“Hurling stones of accusation” is different than seeking appropriate justice and dealing truthfully with the offender. 

It is the attitude and the goal. 

It is how we view the sinner and whether we seek revenge or whether we seek justice.

Seeking appropriate justice and dealing truthfully with the offender does not negate grace.  Grace never ignores the offense or minimizes the pain of the victim.

We though who preach grace must understand that grace doesn’t just apply to us; it applies to everyone — even to the worst of offenders.

Grace is Jesus. 

He saw all the ugly horror of sin and bore its unbearable weight in life-crushing, soul-agonizing torture.  He brought the hideous to justice by exchanging His own completely pure and sinless “robes of righteousness” with the “putrid” and grotesque sins of even the “worst” of offenders.

We, who are Christians, are not followers of Christ because we are saints and sinless  We are Christians because Christ exchanged our sins for His righteousness.

Christianity and Christian ministry isn’t for non-existent “perfect” people.  Christianity is comprised of sinners who have been redeemed/forgiven.

It is this recognition of our own sin that should cause us to seek not only justice but also to walk humbly before our Righteous and Holy God. A God of truth and grace, of justice and of mercy.

The story of David, in the Bible, is a reminder of the ugliness of sin and its consequences.  It is also a picture of what forgiveness and grace looks like.  David was an adulterer and a murderer.  Consequences from his sins did affect his family.  A son molested his sister.  Another son murdered a brother.  Yet, God calls David “a man after God’s own heart.”  Why?  Because David truly repented.

And because God is the father of the prodigal son, watching for his prodigal sons and daughters to come home.  Because Jesus came to redeem sinners — not the “sinless.”

Did this absolve David of the consequences of his sins?  NoDid it offer him forgiveness and the opportunity to be made whole?  Yes!

Did grace merely trivialize the offense, or did it face the offense and bring it to full excruciating justice?

Did grace offer just a facade or did it offer a complete and total transformation that exchanges heinous sins for Jesus’ own pure righteousness?

Christianity is the Gospel of grace, redeeming and transforming sinners who have repented and been forgiven and have “returned” to their Heavenly Father.

Yes, it’s hard to understand this kind of grace.  But where would we be without it?

Let’s pray for the Duggars…  Pray that as they truthfully face their own brokenness, they find the grace of God that leaves us humbled, forgiven, and redeemed

Let’s pray for the victims.

May they finally be able to give voice to their pain and may it be acknowledged. 

May they find the grace to begin or to continue in the process of finding true healing. 

May they be protected from more pain while seeking appropriate justice. 

May they finally be able to see themselves as no longer “abused” but as beautiful, whole, pure, and healed.

The Bully In The Closet

IMG_6722

There’s a lot of interest right now in the topic of “bullying.”  In fact, I recently wrote an article on “Christian Bullying” that got a lot of attention.

Sometimes though, it is so easy to focus on the wrongs among the people “out there” rather than the wrongs within ourselves.

This time, the magnifying glass may need to come a little closer to home.

As I wrote the article on “Christian Bullying,” I found myself re-evaluating my own personal actions and attitudes within my home.  I didn’t want to write about a topic about which I myself might be guilty.

There will be times when we will all struggle with the more “common” sins.  A question to be asked is: “Is this sinful attitude present in my heart?” 

If the answer is yes, I need to confess this before the Lord and to truly repent, which means to change the way in which I was going.

The root attitudes behind bullying are pride and fear.  Both of these sinful heart attitudes are very common and at the root of most sins.  Perhaps even all sins. 

Pride and fear work together.  They stem from the same lie.

Since both pride and fear are very common sinful attitudes, it’s a VERY good chance that those same sinful attitudes are prevalent in our own hearts and influence our own actions from time-to-time.

As I allowed God’s Holy Spirit to reveal my own attitudes to me, I began to see more clearly that “bullying” can be a lot closer to home than I might want to admit. 

I began to hear God’s “quiet voice” (Holy Spirit) speaking to my heart to reveal that I need to be cleaning out my own “closets”, “pantries”, and “sock drawers.” 

It’s easy for us to be so busy pointing out the flaws in our husbands, kids, relatives, and other Christians that we avoid looking at our own personal wrong attitudes and wrong actions.

Why do we shy away from that which is uncomfortable?  Fear? 

Why do we fear God’s “scalpel” that seeks to remove all the “dead growth” in our lives, all the “infectious wounds” from past hurts and lies?  Again, is it because we fear our wrong version of God?  Do we think that by admitting our sin(s), we will be forever condemned?

God knows of our sins.  He is All-Knowing!

Isn’t that the definition of “God” — that He is the most Powerful and All-Knowing Being?  If He knows about our sins already, how does our attempts to hide them help our case at all? 

Adam and Eve tried to hide from God in the Garden of Eden.  When they sinned for the first time, they discovered that the “knowing”, Satan (in the snake) promised, was a crushing awareness and personal acquaintance with their own sin.  They “knew” what sin is and the debilitating guilt and fear that accompanies it. 

Adam and Eve had sought life outside of God and found death instead.

God had given them every tree in the Garden of Eden to eat, including the Tree of Life, EXCEPT for the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Just like the rest of humanity is often guilty of, Adam and Eve chose to eat the one thing they were told not to eat.  They chose to find “life” outside of God. 

Adam and Eve had disconnected themselves from their true Source of Life and had instead looked to the Knowledge of Good and Evil as its source. 

So much of “religion” stems from that same tree“Religion” is often about trying to find our “spiritual life” from a knowledge of good and evil.  That knowledge will either lead us to personally feeling condemned and living in fear, or it will lead to a proud and/or judgmental attitude — that we are better than those around us or that we are our own source of defining what is good and not good.  The roots are the same.

When Adam and Eve sinned, everything changed!  Their world changed.  Death entered.  Their fellowship with God was hurt.

Then Jesus came.

God’s plan was to send a Savior to fix the problems that started when sin first entered.  

The Savior would connect man back into the True Source of Life (an intimate relationship with God Himself) and would work to separate man from his false “roots” of security (Knowledge of Good & Evil).

The Savior would neither leave the sinner condemned nor condone the “weeds” of sin but would work to replace fear with peace and faith, to replace pride with delighting in God’s character and who we are in Him.

Neither pride nor fear can be present when we are walking in an intimate relationship and understanding of God and Who He is and Who we are in Him.

There is no room for condemning others when we truly understand Who God is.  There is no room for fear when we personally know God.

Fear and pride come when we are disconnected from God — when we seek to find “life” outside of God.

We hang onto these “rags” when God wants to give us the richness of His grace!

Those bullies in our closet, those rags in our drawers, those dirt piles in our corners … let’s open the doors and the drawers and turn on the lights.  It’s time we stopped trying to hide and cover our shame and allow God to purify and heal us from the inside out! 

God’s plan was never to leave us hidden in the dark or to leave us condemned by our own guilt.  His plan was always to reconnect us to our True Source of Life! 

As we are “connected” to Life, we can become a true “channel” to the world around us for God’s love and light to flow. 

“How I praise Thee, precious Saviour,
That Thy love laid hold of me;
Thou hast saved and cleansed and filled me
That I might Thy channel be.

“Channels only, blessèd Master,
But with all Thy wondrous power
Flowing through us, Thou canst use us
Every day and every hour.

“Just a channel full of blessing,
To the thirsty hearts around;
To tell out Thy full salvation
All Thy loving message sound.

“Emptied that Thou shouldest fill me,
A clean vessel in Thy hand;
With no power but as Thou givest
Graciously with each command.”

By Mary Maxwell

How I Went From Seeing Red To Seeing Blue-Green

 

Colors 2

(FreeImages.com/HavardKristoffersen)

That was my day today!  I “saw” a lot of “red” today. Oh, not the pretty kind, like in flowers, fruit, or something cheerful.  No, it was the kind of day where my blood pressure must have been like lava.

The day started with some disappointment — nothing unusual in the life of a mom.  A good friend had invited us to join her son and her for a birthday celebration.  It would have been fun, but instead I spent my morning cleaning up stomach contents from a sick son.  Not pretty at all.

The Mommy mode went into full gear, and soon the sick one was ensconced in a comfy chair with all possible means of comfort given.  The laundry was churning in the wash machine.  The kitchen was clean again.  Business phone calls were made — everything from prescriptions, to getting a broken window pane fixed (previous one), to VBS invitations, to summer party planning.

The day felt productive and was going fairly smoothly.  Then, chaos erupted…

Seriously, sometimes I wonder what God was thinking (not in a disrespectful sense) when he gave me three very active boys and a fourth one on the way.  I grew up with three sisters and one very mild brother. I was the type of girl who liked reading books, drawing, playing with dolls, and pretty things.  I would play explorer at times, but I was a quiet girl.  I definitely had very little experience with busy, active boys.

Here I am now…  today…

My boys got into an argument.  One boy locked the other brothers outside.  One brother decided to take the handle to a paint roller (long kind for ceilings) from the garage and bang on the glass window of the door.  As glass from the broken window pane splintered on the floor, I saw red.  There was no blood.  I was simply furious! 

How many times have we talked to the boys again and again about consequences, controlling anger, responsibility, respecting property, and had to enact negative consequences for unwise decisions?  When would they get it?!! 

My son quickly sobered when he realized what he had done and how upset mommy was.  The rest of the evening, he was given lots of chores to do and knew not to complain or make a peep.

Too bad, the boys’ bank accounts aren’t big enough to pay for all of the stuff they break.  My husband and I decided that we would come up with an extensive list of jobs that would eventually total the amount he owes us for the glass pane.  Unfortunately, it’s not the same to us, but for him, it just might teach him something positive.

I saw even more red when I discovered that same son had also stolen chocolate candy bars from my room.

Before too many conclusions are drawn, let me assure you that we do try to address all negative behavior and enact consequences.  This kind of negative behavior is not tolerated.  The problem is changing the heart. 

It’s so easy to focus on outward behavior modification rather than the inner person.  It’s the goal of my husband and I to do both, particularly focusing on the latter.

I know we aren’t perfect parents, and there is always something more to learn.  But, I don’t know a single perfect parent and one who doesn’t have something to learn, including psychologists

Our children really aren’t “cookie cutters” who come with a complete list of personal instructions.  Each child is unique.  Each parent is unique. This means, as a parent, I must get to know the heart of my child and learn it so that I can apply the truths and principles that will successfully lead him/her to acknowledge and examine the state of his/her own heart.

So, how did my day go from “seeing red” to seeing “blue-green”? 

Blue and green are the colors of calm, peace, serenity.  They are considered soothing colors.  In fact, they are my favorite colors — perhaps because I need lots of calm in my life.  🙂

One thing I am learning is when I am upset, maybe I should say “really upset,” it’s best to not open my mouth.  So, I ignored a couple of phone calls, resisted getting on Facebook, and kept trying to remember to pray about the whole situation.

Thankfully, God was merciful and helped me to take some deep breaths and to calm down, after awhile.

By the end of the day, I was able to get all four kids ready for bed, dishes cleaned, laundry folded and put away, and then began the process of tucking the kids into their beds.  That’s when the real heart work began to occur and when I really began to see “blue-green.”

I came to the son who was the main character of these events (besides myself), and he said, “Mommy, I just can’t get it right and be good.”  Seeing his pain, I immediately felt the last remnants of my anger melt away and gently said the following,

“It is good to feel sad over sin.  The question is, ‘Now what are you going to do with that sadness and shame?’  Are you going to use that as a motivation to change your behavior and want to do better?  Or, are you going to say, ‘Well, I am bad so I might as well just be bad.’  The first choice will allow you to seek God’s help and have His forgiveness. The second choice would be believing a lie…  Have you talked with God about this, asking Him to forgive you and to help you to do better?”

My son then replied that he hadn’t.  I asked him then if he would like to pray.  He promptly began a simple prayer that went from discouragement to a very heart-felt prayer of repentance and desire for help.  As he finished, I quoted I John 1:9 to him, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

My son went to bed with a feeling of peace and the satisfaction of knowing he had been forgiven. I went to bed very thankful that God is working in my children’s lives, even when I don’t see it at the moment. I also was humbled to see how God is working in my own life. 

I too needed to learn to stay calm, even when circumstances are extremely frustrating.  The experience was a reminder to me again that “heart work” is really “God-work.” I am not in control of it, merely a vessel that God enjoys using for my own benefit.

Save

Infinity

IMG_6193

I have been reading a very interesting book by Jonathan Cahn called The HarbingerOne of the last chapters have really stood out to me.  The rest of what I will share will be direct quotes from his book:

Without judgment there would be no hope? I asked.

Without judgement, there would be no end to evil in the universe … or in man’s heart.  There would be no heaven.

“Why would there be no heaven?

“He looked away from me and toward the light of the setting sun before speaking again.  Because heaven would then be filled with locks and prisons, hatred, violence, fear, and destruction.  Heaven would cease to be heaven … and would become hell instead.  But there is a heaven, and there is a time and place of no more sorrow … no more hate … no more weeping or tears … and no more pain.  There must be a judgment.  Evil must end… beyond which is heaven.

“So, in other words, if evil entered heaven, heaven would cease to be heaven because it would have evil in it…

“…You can never judge yourself by your own standards and your own righteousness, but only in light of His righteousness. Which do you think is greater, he asked, the moral distance that separates us from the most monstrous of Nazis or that which separates us from God?

“I guess that which separates us from God.

“That’s correct, because the first separation is finite.  But the second is infinite.  So what we see as the slightest of sins within ourselves appears, in the eyes of Him who is absolute goodness, even more abhorrently evil than the crimes of the Nazis appear to us.  In the light of the absolute Good, our lust becomes as adultery and our hatred as murder.

“…Who could make it into heaven? 

“No one could stand and no one could make it into heaven.  How far would just one sin take you away from the infinite righteousness of God?

An infinite distance?

“Yes.  So how far are we from heaven?

Infinitely great.

And how long would it take us to bridge the gap, to be reconciled to God, to enter heaven?

“An infinity of time.

Eternity, he said.

“…If you have an infinite gap and an infinite problem, what do you need?

“An infinite answer?

Which means that the answer could not come from yourself or from this world.  It could only come from the infinite, from heaven … from God, which means that any given answer, any given ideology, and any given system based on the efforts of man is ruled out.

“Which rules out most answers, I said.

Which rules out every answer, he replied, every answer based on man trying to reach God, a hand reaching upward to heaven.  The answer can only come the other way, from the infinite to the finite, from heaven to earth … from God to man.

“A hand reach down from heaven?

“Exactly.  And what alone could answer an infinite judgement?

“An infinite mercy?

Yes, the infinite mercy of an infinite love.  And what alone could fill an infinite absense?

“The infinite presence of the infinite love.

“…Because it’s not about religion; it’s about love.  That’s the meaning … the overcoming of the infinite judgment by the infinite love.

“The love of God.

The love of God.  For God is love, and the nature of love is what? 

To give? I replied.

“Yes, to give of itself, to put itself in the place of the other even if it means that by so doing it must sacrifice itself.  So if God is love, then what would the ultimate manifestation of love be?

“…The giving of Himself … God giving Himself to bear the judgment of those under judgment if, by so doing, it would save them. 

“…As in Jesus…

“The infinite sacrifice, said the prophet, to bear an infinite judgment, in which all sins are nullified and all who partake are set free… forgiven … saved.  An infinite redemption in which judgment and death are overcome and a new life given… a new beginning…a new birth.  The love of God is greater than judgment… Remember… there is no sin so deep that His love isn’t deeper … no life so hopeless … no soul so far away … and no darkness so dark that His love isn’t greater still.

“…How far away from eternity do you think you are?

“One heartbeat, he replied, one heartbeat … You’re only one heartbeat away from eternity.”

Why You Don’t Have To Be Perfect To Raise Godly Children

IMG_3625

Have you ever blamed yourself for the wrong choices of your children?

Have you ever felt discouraged because you sinned in your parenting (by an angry word or expression or tone of voice) and feared that your kids might forever be scarred or have issues as a result?

Have you ever thought that you had to try harder, be better … in other words be more perfect?

Have you placed an unattainable standard before yourself in your parenting: that your kids won’t turn out “perfectly” or godly if you aren’t perfect in how you raise them?

Have you ever questioned how your kids are going to turn out to live productive and more importantly, godly lives if you are not the flawless example to them?

Have you ever felt and acted as if God’s love and in turn your love to your children is dependent upon the measure to which obedience or dare I say “perfection” is achieved?

Most of us know that God’s love is not dependent upon our obedience.  Yet, we live that way.  We walk in fear or timidity, enacting man-made laws and rituals and tradition to placate our images and ideas of what we believe God expects from us.  The reason?  Not because we always want to obey but sometimes more because we feel and live as if His love is dependent upon us — our behaviors, the measure of our “godliness.”

Why do we think and feel and live this way sometimes?  Has God ever chosen only “perfect” people to accomplish His work, ways, and will?  The Bible gives multiple examples of God choosing people that did sin and sin big time.   Some of these people are in the very line from which Christ’s earthly lineage can be traced: Tamara, Judah, Bathsheba, David, Solomon, Rahab, etc…

The Bible also gives clear guidelines and commands that define what is sin and what it isn’t.  He also clearly judges those who sin.  So what does it all mean?

Do we ignore God’s justice, or do we ignore His love?  Are they mutually agreeable and cohesive with each other?   Can both His love and His justice be singularly achieved?

God calls David a “man after His own heart.”  Yet, David was an adulterer, proud at times, irresponsible in his parenting, a murderer, etc…  As a result, the Bible does speak of judgment.  David’s house was divided in so many ways — brother against brother.  The entire nation of Israel even suffered judgment when David chose to number the armies of Israel.  David’s newborn son, the child born as a result of his adulterous affair with Bathsheba, died.  At one point, David’s son Absalom tried to wrest the kingdom from his father and David had to flee for his life.   So why did God call this man “a man after His own heart”?  Scripture also makes it clear that David had a tender and repentant heart.  He grieved over his sin and truly repented.  David submitted to authority (as in example of King Saul) and never rebelliously questioned God’s punishment.  David also had a heart of worship.  The Book of Psalms speaks time and time again of how in the midst of every circumstance, David had learned to yet praise God.

Each person that God chose to use in the genealogy of Christ’s earthly lineage (lineages of Mary and Joseph) were sinners but sinners who at some point repented and experienced redemption as a result.  The key here is their repentance and the changes in their lives that occurred.

God doesn’t choose perfect people to accomplish His will.  He uses forgiven people — people who have been forgiven because they repented.

The truth is we all sinThat isn’t an excuse to continue in our sins.  What it should be is an admission that we are sinners — you and I.  Knowing we have sinned much and have been forgiven much should result in a spirit of thankfulness and worship of One Who is Holy and Righteous Altogether! 

God doesn’t ask us to be perfect.  He asks us to be repentant and useable as a result of our submission. 

God’s grace is perhaps best shown when it is extended to the sinner — not the “perfect.”  His grace is best shown in the chaos and messiness of life.  God’s grace is all about a Savior who offers redemption to an undeserving but repentant sinner.  God’s grace is all about His perfection being extended to imperfect people. 

As mothers, this means that His grace is best demonstrated when imperfect mothers accept His forgiveness and receive His redemption in order to live lives that are forgiven and transformed through Him!  This means that the greatest work of parenting we do is not our own feeble attempts at living a “good” life but is when we learn to walk in His grace and the freedom that comes as a result.

When we sin, God’s love is not affected.  What is affected is our relationship with Him.  When we sin, we put “distance” between our hearts and God’s.

As mothers/parents, the best thing we can do for our children is to teach them what God’s grace means and to live it out before them: that Grace is God extending His forgiveness to us and offering us redemption when we accept it.  It’s learning to walk in His Grace, meaning we walk obediently, humbly, and joyfully before Him. It’s understanding that it’s not about us; it’s all about Him — His work and ways!  It’s understanding that not only was Grace a past work: the work on the cross (salvation), but it is also a present work: the daily renewing and transforming of our lives through His power!

It means, we have been forgiven much so we can forgive much!

Epic Fail Days

ImageImageImageImageImage

This past Monday felt like an epic fail.  It was Labor Day.

The day before I had commented to a lady that I wished I could pay someone to come and do deep cleaning in my house once-a-month, things like washing walls.  Her reply was, “You need to do it.  You have to do it yourself.”  Feeling the sting from the implication of those words and knowing how hard I work to keep a decently clean house, I was determined that no one could say that I am irresponsible.  Labor Day was going to literally be “labor day” for my house.

I began the morning with a systematic cleaning plan.  My systematic cleaning day turned into a frenzy of trying to keep kids quiet so my husband could study for his engineering class, clean the house, and somehow babysit kids too.  I became more and more frenzied as my kids decided that was the day to rearrange furniture and make stores and tents that involved removing stuff from every room of the house, dumping stuff in odd places, and rearranging stuff.  There I was trying to keep order while my children were being completely disorderly.  My voice was becoming more and more shrill as I sought to impose unreasonable expectations from others and myself upon my family.  The end result was disharmony, dissatisfaction, and sadness.  I ended my day with apologies to my family.  As I reviewed my day in my thoughts, I couldn’t help but shake my head and tell myself, “You knew better.  People are always more important than projects.  What’s more important?  A clean house or peaceful/joyful children?”  My day was an epic fail on so many levels.  It was with sadness that I fell asleep that evening.

The next morning I awoke so thankful though that with God, there is always a fresh start, a new day, a forgiven life!

I have a feeling that I am not the only individual that tries to live her life by others expectations and her own unreasonable expectations.  The result is always chaos, confusion, contention, comparison, conflict. 

I recently saw a quote that addressed this very heart issue.  It nailed it right on and was very convicting to me.  I’ll try to copy it for all those other individuals who struggle with expectations like I do.  There’s really a heart issue at stake.  I’ll let the quote speak for itself.

I am ashamed to admit, friends, that I need the above reminders so many times.  I wish I was there!  I wish I didn’t have epic fail days. I wish I didn’t have to apologize to my family because I burdened them with my own burdens instead of taking them to God.

God, in His great mercy though says, “His mercies are new every morning!  Great is His faithfulness!”  And Psalm 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

Sometimes, I have difficulty extending forgiveness and accepting it fully in my own life.  You know why?  Because I look at God through human eyes. I think He forgives as man forgives or doesn’t.  No, I don’t say that or believe it, but I live and act like it at times. 

I look at epic fail days, and I see myself as the failure and feel shame and discouragement.  I am missing the truth.  The truth is that yes I do need to repent, and godly sorrow leads to repentance (change).  Even in the chastening though, He is the loving Father calling me back to Himself, to walk in newness of life, to experience freedom from sin’s bondage, to accept His complete forgiveness.

The amazing truth is that I am forgiven!  Forgiveness means that God has erased my failures/sins from my account.  He doesn’t rehash it, hold it against me, hold it over me, etc… He doesn’t base my worth on how I perform.  He loves me for Himself — because of Who He is!  He can’t stop loving because He is love.

I am thankful that even in my epic fail days, God still extends grace to me.  The next time, I can grasp ahold of that Grace and find that it meets me right where I am.

Did You Visit Zacchaeus?

Today the boys and I read about Zacchaeus during our Bible time.  This Bible story made an impression on me.  I couldn’t help but compare the two main characters in this narrative.  Zacchaeus was physically unattractive.  Zacchaeus was socially unappealing.  Zacchaeus morally appalling.  Zacchaeus was everything we don’t want to be — other than rich.  His wealth was gained from cheating people.  The only people he could socialize with were those who hoped to share some of his wealth — that and his money.  The cold gleam of money is a lonely companion, but money was all he could really claim.  Even the wealthy sometimes wish for human companionship, and I wonder if that was one of the reasons why he went to see Jesus.  Perhaps, he hoped to finally gain acceptance from someone famous to insure Zacchaeus’ own popularity or acceptance among the religious elite.

Then, we have Jesus.  We are told that Jesus was not overly attractive.  We are also told he didn’t worry about doing the popular thing.  He did the right thing —  no matter what.  He could care less about wealth.  He only cared about the hearts of people.  He demonstrated that people were his greatest treasure.

Zacchaeus finally had his chance to meet Jesus.  The crowd was too tall and too dense for a very short man.  Zacchaeus knew how to push his way to the top though, and he did just that by climbing the tallest tree in the vicinity.  From that vantage point, he could see the press of the crowd and finally Jesus.

Zacchaeus was another type of person that you and I would have probably rolled our eyes about, made disparaging remarks about, or simply overlooked.  We don’t often like to socialize with those who make us uncomfortable or threaten our popularity due to association.  Sure, we would  have liked sharing his wealth, but that’s about it.  We’ll take your money and fill our church coffers but the rest… too uncomfortable.  Not Jesus!  He didn’t ignore, make snide remarks, offer empty and shallow platitudes.  Jesus saw a man with shallow aspirations, limited love, but with a “mile-high” longing for acceptance… a man who felt disdain all his life but who still hoped and dreamed that someone would accept him and love him  — not for his wealth — just for himself.

Jesus met Zacchaeus that day and commanded him to come down from the tree.  Jesus told Zacchaeus that he would be eating with him that day.  Can you imagine the gasps and whispers at such a statement?!!  “What was Jesus thinking?  Eating with the likes of Zacchaeus?!”

Jesus saw a man who was yearning and ready to be confronted with love.  Zacchaeus changed forever after that visit with Jesus.  He finally meant someone who loved him unconditionally, and who gave him the courage to confront his own sins and fears and the power to change through forgiveness.  Love does that!  It gives confidence — confidence to confront our own weaknesses and courage to reach out and love others.  Zacchaeus just needed to see God’s love in action, and then as a changed man he was able to love others.  No longer would he be a cheater or have only his wealth to call a friend.  From then on, Zacchaeus would have a Savior to call his own and the gift of loving others to replace his former wealth.  The cold gleam of money had been replaced with the warm beam of love!