Saturday, April 18, 2015

Yo-Yo Dance with God

Several years ago, my friend and her husband chose to love a young boy who was not their own.  They welcomed him into their family and he became theirs.  He immediately had all the privileges of a son – love, care, family vacations, Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles and cousins, wealth and most of all he was able to learn about God and His love for him. 

This journey has not been easy, in fact I know she would say, hands down, it is the hardest thing she has ever done or will do.  And there is no guarantee of the future.

You see, their little boy, even though he has been given this amazing gift of love, cannot accept it.  His past and the things that happened to him before he came to live with them have scarred his life and are holding him captive.  He is unable to embrace this love, to bask in its warmth and to allow its light to shine in his life.  He has built a fortress around his heart and to let that love in is too frightening and threatening for him.  He wants the love and is drawn to it but then pulls away because it threatens to break down his defenses.

http://www.freeimages.com/photo/818029
As I watch this gifted and talented young boy run from true, unfailing, unconditional love, I cannot help but see myself reflected in him.  I do this very thing with God.  I am His chosen child and I want His love, in fact I’m drawn to it like a moth to a flame but then I find myself pulling away because His love exposes my innermost being and I don’t like what I see. . .  Why is it so hard to receive pure and undefiled love?  Why does my heart do this yo-yo dance with God?  Why do I allow fear to keep me from completely enjoying and reveling in God’s incredible love? . . . . .

And then I think of my friend and her incredible love for her son.  She has given everything for him.  She loves him unconditionally and no matter how she is treated by him, she continues to give of herself, to endure through the pain and to love unconditionally.

She is my hero!  She is the strongest person I know and she demonstrates God’s great love and incredible patience with him every day twenty-four - seven, three hundred and sixty-five days a year!  In her weakness I see her strength in God grow and in her brokenness and pain I have seen God bring her unspeakable joy. 

And as I see myself reflected in her son, I see God reflected in her. . . His grace that I did nothing to deserve, His patience when I am obnoxious and hurtful, His love when I am unlovely, His gentle touch when I am hurting and in pain.  That’s how my friend loves her son and that’s how God loves me!

How great the Father’s love for us

How vast beyond all measure

That He should give His only son

To make a wretch His treasure!

                                                      -Stuart Townend
 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Kingdom of Me


Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life.  Romans 8.5-7  (MSG)
  
When my boys were young, they were fascinated with looking at their muscles in the bathroom mirror.  It usually happened after bath time. They would stand in front of the mirror, hair slicked back, scrawny arms flexed, bragging about how big their muscles were.  Often, they would use their fingers to push up their muscles so that they would look bigger than they really were.

Spiritually we do the same thing my boys loved to do.  We stand in front of our mirror, flexing our moral muscle as we focus on the good we see in ourselves all the while bragging about our greatness and ignoring how broken and sinful we really are. 

We lose sight of God and become consumed with looking at our own reflection.  We would rather stand in front of the mirror making our own assessments of ourselves than allowing God to point out our areas of needed growth and change.  When it comes to down to it, we don’t want difficult – we want easy.  We don’t want transformation – we want information.  We don’t want God’s Spirit directing our lives – we want our own way.   

Kay Warren in her book, Dangerous Surrender, writes this:  I, like many other adults, devote a fair amount of time, energy and money to controlling, polishing protecting and defending my own private little kingdom.  Like a despotic ruler in mythical story, I can be the omnipotent potentate, supreme authority, oppressive dictator, and highly exalted one in the Kingdom of Me.  Of course, I would never say it out loud and might be outraged that anyone would even suggest that I operate that way, but it’s the reality of the struggle I face every day.  So do you.  At my worst, I rule over my domain with an iron hand, fiercely protecting my territory, my possessions, my reputation, my persona, my dignity, my rights as queen.  I am in control.  As Gary Thomas observes, “The biggest block to our surrender is not our appetites and wayward desires but our addiction to running our own lives.

“Focusing on self is the opposite of focusing on God.  Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God and ends up thinking more about self than God.”  (Romans 8.8 MSG)

We can’t have it both ways.  It’s either God or us.  The question is do we trust God enough to let Him run our life? 

We all experience insecurity from time to time, some more than others.  But what is insecurity?

The dictionary defines “insecurity” as the lack of confidence or assurance  When we are insecure we move into lock down mode . . . we must protect the kingdom at all cost, we cannot let anyone see our self-doubt, our lack of confidence.  Insecurity forces us to focus on ourselves.

The only way we will be truly secure is when we seek our value in God, when we relinquish the Kingdom of Me and embrace the Kingdom of God.  When we get off our throne and let God reign.  When we stop looking in the mirror and start looking at Him.
 
Attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious and free life!  (Romans 8.7b MSG)  Welcome to the Kingdom!  (The Kingdom of God that is.)

 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Priceless!


We’ve all seen those Mastercard commercials.  A dad takes his son to a baseball game . . .
Tickets to the game . . . $50
Hot Dogs . . . $10
Conversation with his son . . . Priceless! 

After watching a few people in my sphere bite the dust ethically, I thought of a new advertisement . . .

Having an emotional affair . . . $The person you love
Embezzling money from your company . . . $ Your job
A Clear Conscience and peace of mind . . .  Priceless! 

Having peace of mind never seems very valuable until it's gone. 

Why don’t we ever see the consequences BEFORE we make a decision to step into the abyss?  

The emotional turmoil of living a double life is excruciating.  Being in one place and thinking of another.  Constantly obsessed someone will find out.  Mapping out all kinds of plans just in case . . . Conflicted and consumed with desires for the unspeakable.  Ignoring and overlooking the treasures already in front of you. 

Why would anyone choose such a life? 

The crazy thing is . . . we all do at one time or another.  
 
Why?

Because sin is deceptive and never shows the horror waiting behind the curtain. 

It’s the old adage of the frog in the pot of water.  We don’t realize what we stepped into until it’s too late and there seems to be no escape.
 
I don’t want a life like that!  I want to live with no regrets.  How about you?

So how do we keep from falling into the abyss?  Is it walking as close to the edge as possible without falling in?  NEVER! 

It’s living as far away from the edge as possible.   

It’s choosing a life of integrity when nobody is watching.  It's in the hidden and secret places, where it’s just you and God. 

For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him. 1 Chronicles 28.9b 

We live a life of purity by carving out time in our busy day to find our God, to center our self and be reminded of what's truly important.  It’s in the little things . . .   

It’s saying, “NO” to opportunities.  It’s choosing to live as if someone is ALWAYS watching.  It’s surrendering your desires to God and looking to Him to fill you.  It’s refusing to listen to the lies and camping out on truth.  It’s stopping to look behind the curtain instead of rushing headlong. 

It’s remembering that peace of mind and a clear conscience are Priceless! 

The only one who can take that away from you is YOU!
Have mercy on me, O God because of Your unfailing love.  Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins . . .  Purify me from my sins and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.  Psalm 51. 1, 7

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Gotcha Day!

Eleven years ago, my sister and her husband adopted a little five year old boy and their lives have never been the same since.  They went to court, stood before a judge and agreed to take this boy as their own. It was my nephew’s “Gotcha Day”!  To commemorate the day and remind their son of his entrance into their family they planted a small little pine tree in their yard.  And they named it the Gotcha Tree.

That tree is a reminder to their son that he belongs to them.  He's part of their family.

As I looked at that tree I was reminded of my own Gotcha Day.  The day I was adopted into God’s family.  The day I became His! 

God sent Him (Jesus) to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that He could adopt us as His very own children.  And because we are His children, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.”  Now we are no longer a slave but God’s own child.  And since you are His child, God has made you His heir.  Galatians 4.5-7 

The day we surrender our lives over to Jesus is our Gotcha Day!    

We were slaves to sin, enemies of Him unable to make ourselves worthy enough to approach a Holy God.  But Jesus, when He took the punishment for our sin, said, “I’ve got this! You no longer have to strive for something you can never attain . . . I gotcha!” 
http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1121232

It was on a tree, hands and feet nailed into its wood and forced into the ground, which held our Savior and commemorates our Gotcha Day.  This gotcha tree reminds us that we are no longer unworthy sinners but children of the King! 

We have a New Identity.  New Status.  New Position.

We have been adopted into God’s Family.  We are no longer slaves, hired hands or beggars.  We are His children and heirs to the Kingdom. 

We have a Gotcha Day!  How. Amazing. Is. That!
 
Do you have a Gotcha Day?  You can.  The Bible says you need to believe and receive.  Believe that only Jesus can save you from your sins and receive his gift of salvation.  "Jesus, I know I'm a sinner and I can't save myself.  I accept your gift of salvation, I understand Jesus took my place when He died on the cross and I want You to come into my life, wash me clean and make me your child.  Amen." 
 
If you prayed that prayer and you believe what God says . . .  It's your Gotcha Day!  You are now a child of God.  Tell someone.  (I'd love to hear from you!) 
 
 The Old Rugged Cross
On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the Dearest and Best
For a worold of lost sinners was slain. 
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it someday for a crown!

 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Jailbreak!

http://www.freeimages.com/photo/331274





“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for He has anointed Me to bring Good News to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.”  Luke 4.18-19

 






Jesus came to set the captives free! 

But most of the people Jesus came in contact with never even recognized they were in spiritual bondage.  They were so focused on their Roman captivity, they neglected to understand who their real captor was!

In Romans, Paul spells it out clearly  . . .  our captor is SIN.  Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin.   Romans 6.19

Captivity to sin is all we’d ever known.  The cage of sin was where we resided and we had made a pretty comfortable home there.  Our shackles of sin held us hostage but we didn’t feel bound, in fact it was just the opposite - we felt free. 

Sin was our shackles, our bondage, our captivity.  But Jesus died to set us free!  He removed the chains that bound us and hemmed us in.  His love is our jailbreak!

It wasn’t until Jesus set us free that we realized our incarceration.  We understood our sin and invited Christ into our lives to free us from this bondage.  And He did!

So why do we keep going back to the cage?  Why do we shackle ourselves with the guilt of our sin?  Why do we wrap the chains back around us and refuse to leave the jail?

We believe the lies that our sin is too ugly for God to forgive.  We refuse to believe God has forgiven us because we can’t forgive ourselves.  This jail cell is all we’ve ever known, it’s comfortable.  It’s “safe”.

If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good?  . . .  We left the old country of sin behind . . . We entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land!  Romans 6.1-2 (MSG)

God set you free!  There is no need for penance – it has already been paid in full!  Your sin is covered, washed away by the blood of God’s own Son.  There is nothing left to do but embrace this new way of living, this freedom.  Leave the cage and all its shackles behind and walk into this new land of grace and hope! 

Our jailbreak is NOW!