Faith, Hope, Jesus, Love, Redemption, Restoration

Be a Neva

The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.”

Psalm 34:22

I sat on the mottled shag carpet staring at the mess. My younger brother and I had just finished building a little town with large, plastic blocks. Then, without warning, he slapped the tall buildings with his toddler hands. The blocks collapsed onto the coffee table with a crash. My brother smiled then grabbed a block and started over.

Years later I found myself staring at a different mess. The building blocks of my life were scattered. My marriage was seemingly over. I had no foreseeable future. I had no education. I was alone. But God set a plan of redemption in motion that reached far beyond my salvation. Immediately, He started building, block by block, until something new— something indestructible—was built on a strong foundation.

The first block He chose after saving me was a person. As I walked into the Bible study and sat in the center of a semi-circle table, I noticed her writing on the whiteboard. The woman stood on her toes so she could reach the top of the board as she finished her notes. Finally, she lowered her arm and turned toward the class.

 “Good morning! I’m Neva True.” She announced with a smile. Her short, gray hair framed her joyful face like a silver hat of curls. As I remember, she talked about the Holy Spirit and asked us what we knew about Pentecost. I leaned toward my friend and asked, “What’s Pentecost?” She shrugged and we both turned our attention to Mrs. True.

That day Neva became my spiritual mother. We often sat at her round table for two and ate cookies as she poured tea into my cup and love into my heart. She encouraged me to love my unbelieving husband even if he didn’t “deserve it,” pointing me to 1 Peter 3. She cheered me on by saying things like, “Keep on being your joyful self and don’t worry about tomorrow.” Most importantly, Neva pushed me into the arms of a loving Father and taught me to pray deep, faith-filled groanings and to trust God with the results. She is also the one God used to ignite my love for writing. Neva would often search through her old journals for things that would encourage her daughters in the Lord. I have one of her hand-written journal pages she wrote when she was a young mother and all her children had the flu. Now, just having her handwriting is special to me.

Why is this a story of redemption? Because my own mother was terribly broken and unable to love me with wisdom and affection. She was trapped in a marriage to an alcoholic and was brought up in an environment much the same. My mother was a survivor and taught us to survive. But I was unable to thrive without the sunshine of unconditional love and encouragement. My mother did the best she could considering her background and mental state, but she did not have Christ and she lacked the ability to demonstrate love—real, physical affection and verbal affirmation—which makes up the rich soil of a healthy growing heart. That’s why Neva means so much to me. She was a gift from God when I was a spiritual infant. He supplied all my needs, even a mom who nourished and loved me to maturity.

Are you a Neva? God uses people as vehicles of both salvation and redemption. Our part is being available and responsive. My relationship with Neva enabled me to trust people again. Her encouragement and faithfulness gave me direction as her face was always tilted toward Christ. She encouraged me to walk in the light with courage, saying things like, “I hope you start writing before I die so I can read it!” or, “Marlene, you’ll be a giant in the faith someday.” No pressure, just encouragement. She didn’t care that I had no formal education. I was her spiritual daughter. She was my mom. I don’t know how many “kids’ she had but she always made me feel like I was her only child. She always had time for me. This is Jesus’ heart too. Jesus is our Redeemer! Not only does He redeem our souls, but He also redeems relationships, starting with our relationship with Him. Yes, He redeemed my marriage and, after fourteen years, saved my husband. I now enjoy the fruit of being equally-yoked to a strong, Godly man—something I did not expect but I suspect Neva did!

God not only redeems souls and relationships; He also redeems our emotional brokenness using the fragments to build something more beautiful than we can imagine. Take refuge in God, trusting Him with all things because He is our Redeemer. God knows what we need and has the ability to provide. God is a resurrecting God. He creates abundant life where there was only death. He builds beauty from the ashes and uses unlikely construction workers like Neva True and you and me to transform lives. So, I encourage you to see God’s redemptive work in your own life and be a Neva to someone else.

Faith, Gospel, grace, Grief, Holiness, Hope, Jesus, Life, Love, Obedience, Rebellion, Redemption, Repentance, Rest, Restoration, Uncategorized

Death & Resurrection

The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem
Photographer: Glen Bergstrom

Would you die a brutal death to save someone who hated you even if you knew you would come back to life? Easter is all about the death and resurrection of Jesus, but did you know that He died for people who hated Him? Do you see yourself? Yes, you are the one Jesus died for while you were His enemy. Easter is about you before you knew God and about you right now if you don’t know Him still. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV). It also says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NIV). The language is so poetic we may miss the weight of the statement. Jesus was offered up to be beaten, whipped, scorned, rejected and crucified to pay for the sins of the world for all time so the world could be reconciled to God through the blood of Jesus Christ. He suffered and died for you and me before we gave Him a thought.

Even more fantastic is the fact that He suffered and died for the very people who were beating Him, the very people who pulled out His beard and spit on Him, the men who scourged Him and the soldiers who mocked Him. He died for the ones who pierced His hands and feet with nails. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Jesus died for people who hated Him, for people who doubted Him and for people who rejected Him. Jesus died for you.

If you don’t think you needed Jesus to die for you than this may seem extreme. But the truth is we are all depraved and separated from a Holy God because of our sin. Yes, we are ALL sinners, meaning we miss the mark of holiness (which God demands because He is Holy). Because of our very nature we are born with the propensity to rebel and want to be our own God. The great news for you and me is that what God demands He also provides! We can enter into God’s holiness by accepting the gift Jesus is offering.

How do I know? Because I am living proof. Jesus took my sin and gave me His righteousness. I drank, for the first time, the Living Water. It was finished. Like a flower which bursts out of the ground, I was made new. The dead seed was my hard, sinful heart and Christ made me alive! The turning point for me was grief. I was broken and alone after suffering a huge loss and God met me in the darkness. Jesus said He was sent to heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind; to liberate those who are oppressed (Luke 4:18). Boy, did I qualify!

How did this happen? The Bible says,

Men become right with God by putting their trust in Jesus Christ…For all men have sinned and have missed the shining-greatness of God. Anyone can be made right with God by the free gift of His loving-favor. It is Jesus Christ Who bought them with His blood and made them free from their sins. God gave Jesus Christ to the world. Men’s sins can be forgiven through the blood of Christ when they put their trust in Him. God gave His Son Jesus Christ to show how right He is…He shows that He is the One Who has no sin. God makes anyone right with Himself who puts his trust in Jesus” (Romans 3:22-26, NLV).

Romans 3:22-26

How do we know this is true? Because He rose from the dead just like He said He would. There were hundreds if not thousands of witnesses to both His death and resurrection. No one could survive crucifixion, and no one could deny that He was raised because they saw him and ate with him and spoke with Him. It turned the world upside down because it was prophesied centuries before it happened, and everything made sense. They understood that “the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23, NIV).

You see, God is just and loving at the same time. His grace and truth are perfect; and God has placed eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) so we would never be satisfied apart from Him. Also, He is not only the Way and the Truth, He is also the Life. If you have ever placed a dead seed in the ground and witnessed its rebirth you have seen the power of God and a picture of Christ’s death and resurrection. Would you plant the dead seed of your sinful heart in the soil of God’s love and let Him resurrect you to new life? Will you believe He died for you and is Risen? He is Risen indeed!

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.”

Matthew 28:5-6 NASB
Alan Jackson
The Old Rugged Cross
Faith, grace, Hope, Humility, Jesus, Love, Trust

God Knows

Nothing about me is hidden from you!
I was secretly woven together deep in the earth below, but with your own eyes you saw my body being formed.
Even before I was born, you had written in your book everything I would do.

Psalm 139:15-16 CEV

Do you ever feel like God has stepped out for a minute and isn’t paying attention? Or, perhaps it seems like a long time since you’ve “heard” from Him. Could it be that the subtle messages He’s sending are hidden in plain sight? Sometimes life is so distracting and overwhelming that we miss those little icons of hope and guidance God leaves for us in the chaos.

Recently, just after New Year’s, we went to Disney World with our two adult sons. It was the first time we had all been together at Disney since they were teenagers. The Holiday crowds had not left. There was hardly enough air to breathe let alone space to walk. Lines were long, rides broke down and we were feeling, well, not as happy as the happiest place on earth should make you feel. We did have fun, even waiting in line, playing trivia games and laughing way too loud. We were the crazy, joyful family that people rolled their eyes at but secretly wanted to join. Still, after the third time of standing in line for an hour only to have the ride break down and have to leave, we were discouraged. Then, I found Mickey. All the times I had visited in the past I never noticed the little Mickey symbols embedded in the most unlikely places. It was a sign to slow down and enjoy the little things they had to offer.

Walt Disney is no match for God’s creativity. He too leaves us signs of His thoughtfulness and attention to detail. When I am looking for Him in the everyday, expecting Him to show up in unlikely places, I see Him so clearly. Just last week I had several God symbols placed strategically in my path at the “right” time. On three different occasions God led me to a scripture passage or topic and reinforced the message through odd encounters that no one could have planned but God.

First, after preparing to teach a women’s Bible study on sexual purity, I searched for an audio teaching on the topic for more insight. I was on my way to the gym and wanted something quick. No luck. So, I hopped in the car and turned on the Christian radio station. David Jeremiah was on, which was odd because his program should have ended fifteen minutes earlier. Also surprising was the topic. He was teaching from Proverbs on sexual purity using the very same verses I just studied! In the same way the Mickey on the manhole cover revealed Walt Disney’s genius, God was showing me He was the master of detail. God knew what I needed to hear. He also knew I would miss it if He didn’t change the timing. The programming was off by fifteen minutes but God wasn’t! Okay, it’s not quite like “making the sun stand still,” but can I get a “wow?” Yes, He could have ushered me out to the car earlier but He chose to make it obvious, like the Mickey symbol I had never noticed before. So clear. So cool.

The second “God symbol” was in Acts, chapter one. (I’m reading the Bible chronologically and this is where I happened to be that day.) Again, while driving, I turned on the radio and heard Chuck Swindoll reading from Acts, chapter one, preaching about Jesus’ ascension. His focus was on the joy the disciples felt after Jesus ascended, verses the depression they felt after His death. They understood the big picture. Their eyes were opened and they were filled with joy. They knew they had a job to do and they had a promise. None of this occurred to me that morning. I had failed to meditate on the word, even though I read it. But, God had more for me.

I discovered the last “God symbol” after having lunch with a friend who was navigating conflict with friends. She had been rejected by two friends in the same day. The two incidents were unrelated and not her fault. No grace, no love, just yuck. Ouch! After encouraging her and sharing what I knew from life and God’s Word about healthy, Godly friendships, I went home. As I was preparing dinner that night I decided to listen to the In Touch podcast by Charles Stanley. Guess what? The program was called Right Relationships! Stanley talked about how Jesus is our perfect friend but He made us for relationship. Then he went on to share what a healthy, Godly friendship looks like. He quoted Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times.” I quickly sent the link to my friend and thanked God for His ever-present help.

Imagine, everywhere you go and everything you do, God is a part of your journey. God revealed so many wonderful truths to me in a very short period of time but the over-arching truth–the aha moment– is that God is with me! He is my intimate friend. He guides me and loves me through His Word, His Spirit and through other people. He makes Himself known in miraculous ways, proving that He is real, loving and knows our name. My friend, God is Good. God loves His children. God is intimately involved in our lives. God is always with you. God’s timing is perfect. God knows…you.

But God has revealed it to us by the Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.

1 Corinthians 2:10
Faith, grace, Humility, Love, Pride, Sanctification, Self Righteousness

I Forgot

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

John 13:34-35

Have you ever forgotten something important? I have.

“Did everyone grab their passports,” I heard someone ask their family as the bus passed the road sign for Mt. Arbel on our way from Galilee to Jerusalem. Panic struck me as I shouted, “I forgot my passport!” My face was hot and my heart pumped hard with fear. I heard people saying, “We have to turn around!” and “Thank God you remembered!” There was so much grace. Inwardly, though, my pride was crushed and what I heard in my heart was,”What a stupid little girl.”

Once again I was “that guy,” the one who inconvenienced an entire busload of people and threw off the schedule for the whole day all because I forgot to check the hotel safe. When we finally “snuck” back onto the bus everyone was very gracious, kind and loving. My husband, Marty, was struck by their reaction and looked up John 13:34-35, “Everyone will know you are My disciples by your love for one another.” Well, anyone who witnessed the grace and love that morning would have no doubt that this was a group of Jesus’ disciples. We didn’t deserve grace. We were “losers” who forgot their passports — the one thing you don’t forget when visiting a foreign country. But, what we experienced was the love of Jesus.

Ironically, before I realized my mistake I was feeling quite good about myself. We were on the bus early. I was a “good girl.” I was obedient and thoughtful. Then I wasn’t. Just like that I was the bad girl, the stupid girl and the inconsiderate one. Feelings of incompetence and humiliation overwhelmed me until God, through his people, showered us with the love of Christ…

“It’s okay.”

“Others have done the same.”

“Thank you because we got to use the restroom.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“Praise God! I’m thankful you realized it now.”

Through all these comments God was saying, “I love you, even when you make mistakes!” The truth is, I can be absent minded and forgetful, but that doesn’t define me. God’s love defines me and my value comes from the fact that Jesus paid a very high price for me. I am His beloved and He is my Abba, Father.

So, why am I surprised by the grace and love of fellow believers? Because I believe I deserve rejection and condemnation when I mess up. In fact, I have been programmed to expect it. But that is not God’s heart. He is a good Dad. He is a patient Father. He is love. Likewise, Jesus revealed the Father’s heart when He touched the afflicted, caring for the needs of God’s messy children. He came to save me even before I knew I needed saving.

Over the years, God has taught me to renew my mind with His word, allowing it to clear away the dirt of the past. The things done to me He calls me to forgive. The lies I believe, like “I have to be good, perfect, etc. in order to me loved and accepted,” He tells me to lay down at the cross and trust His unconditional love. Like the man He healed at the Pool of Bethesda He asks me, “Do you want to be made well.” Then He reminds me, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Go and sin no more.”

Yes, striving to make myself good is sin. Pride is a false God and one I too often trust. I am thankful that God allows us, all of us, to fail. (Even the most competent people fail.) It is an act of grace. Only then, when we recognize our sin, be it pride or shame, can we walk in the light of His forgiveness. There is no striving for God’s love. He is love and bear hugs us to death! He knows to be humbled is to be saved from ourselves. To mess up is to need Him. It is all those empty places He longs to fill in our hearts. Those places we try to stuff with pleasure and performance will never be filled apart from Him. The hole is too vast and only God’s love can fill it. In fact, He made us that way.

This Christmas let your light shine in the lives of those who are not perfect in the same way our fellow bus-mates did for us. Leave room for mistakes in all your relationships (and for yourself), allowing God to cover the offense. We are not perfect and cannot blame or hold tight an offense when we have been forgiven so much. This Christmas, don’t forget.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Ephesians 2:8
Covenant, Faith, grace, Hope, Insecurity, Jesus, Love, Redemption

Love Happened

Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.”

John 14:22-23 NASB
A stepping stone on the beach of Tabgha, Israel on the Northern Shore of the Sea of Galilee where it is believed Jesus restored Peter after His resurrection.

Marriage in the Middle-East looks very different than in the West. In general, the son prepares a place for his bride by building another story on top of his father’s house. Therefore, tiered homes with flat roofs pepper the hillsides, each tier representing another generation of the same family. The son is expected to stay with his father. The bride, however, leaves her family, exchanging her identity for her husband’s. The son loves the bride and she loves him and he brings her to his father.

When I was ten years old my mother finally left my father. He was, what would be called today, an abuser, albeit a charming one. He was not a good example of a father, and yet I loved him. Unfortunately, the day we left was also the last time I saw my father. His infrequent calls did not help the fact that he never came to see us. Not once. Somehow, he was able to disconnect with his three children and forget. No longer in my father’s house, I felt abandoned and dismissed. I also felt vulnerable, weak and unprotected. Over time I learned to hate my father and blamed him for my insecurities. He was the source of so much pain that I shut him out of my heart altogether. Then, at the age of fifty-four, my father died. I was only sixteen but I remember feeling nothing at all. I thought, “He obviously didn’t care about me so why should I care about him?” Years passed before I felt the love of a father again.

Because of my experience, when I read John 14:22-23 what popped into my head were the words, “Love happened.” When Judas (not Iscariot) asked the question, “What then has happened,” instead of a direct answer to his question Jesus gave him hope. He basically said, “I happened, Judas.” It wasn’t about the past. It was about Jesus as the Bridegroom who loves His bride. It was about the covenant that was about to be made. It was about Jesus allowing us entry into His Father’s house. It was about redemptive love.

When I was grown all I wanted to do was get married and have a family. I wanted to belong to someone who loved me. I could not wait to change my name and enter into marriage. Unfortunately, because of my brokenness and that of my husband’s my marriage looked similar to my mother’s–full of conflict and void of love. Those familiar feelings (abandoned, dismissed, vulnerable) slowly crept into my everyday. I had no hope. Then I met someone who swept me off my feet. He offered to come live with me and I said, “Yes!” His name was Jesus. 

Finally, Love happened! Jesus scooped me up, revealing Himself to me. He bound my broken heart, dressed me in white and gave me a secure place to abide. But, He also loved me deeply and promised to never leave me or forsake me. He ushered me into a family I did not know and gave me His name, “Christian.” Even still, He is preparing a place for me in His Father’s house. His Spirit, which abides in me, is like an engagement ring–a promise of forever. My part is to love Him by keeping His Word. My part is to love God with all my heart, mind, soul and strength and to love others as myself. My part is to wait, preparing myself for Him. My part is to receive His everlasting love.

If you were wondering, my husband and I are still married and he loves the LORD too. Jesus eventually gave us both hope and not only redeemed us individually but our marriage as well. As this advent week of hope comes to a close, remember the hope of Heaven where we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever! Remember that we are not home yet but are confident of our future with Him. Remember, Love happened. 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 NIV

Commitment, Faith, Love, Submission, Surrender, Trust

Brothers & Sisters

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”

Hebrews 10:19-22

Reading Hebrews 10 is like drinking from a firehose.  Here Paul assures us that we can draw near to God with confidence because the Way was made possible through Christ’s death and resurrection.  We are no longer guilty but cleansed and washed by blood and water.  The Old Testament sacrificial system was a shadow of Christ’s atonement and could never take away sin.  But God, from before the foundation of the world, provided all we need for life and Godliness.  But, this promise was directed to a community of believers; a family of “brothers and sisters” in the faith, whom Paul assumed would read his letter as they gathered together as one body.

Therefore, we can conclude that community is an important part of our walk as believers.  Without it we are prone to the harsh elements of this world as well as single-minded interpretations or conclusions based on our own feelings and experiences.  To illustrate, this past January, after leaving a case of water in my car overnight in three-degree temperatures, I discovered that only two of the water bottles were frozen.  Only two out of  twenty-four froze because only two were separated from the rest.  They had somehow popped loose of the plastic wrapping and were leaning out of the casing, no longer touching the other bottles.  They froze because they lacked the insulation the “community” of water bottles offered. Disaffected, distanced and divided from the group, the water in the bottles hardened because they were vulnerable to the affects of the outside world just like the human heart.

In the same way,  we can become cold and hard hearted when separated from a community of “brothers and sisters.”  When our family first moved to New England from Oregon it took an entire year before I plugged in to a local church.  During that time I was angry with God and felt sorry for myself. “What were You thinking moving us across  the country without providing a church family?”  My heart was hardened to God’s timing and sovereignty.  However, not being connected to a community of believers allowed me to indulge in self-pity.  Eventually, my jaded attitude led to a divine spanking in the form of a Poison Ivy rash all over my body, my very first EVER sinus infection because, what do you know, I’m allergic to New England, and finally, walking pneumonia with chest-burning coughing spells during the worst winter in who knows how long that included a Nor’easter which dumped three-feet of snow in one day.  It does seem like God was trying to get my attention.

However, in God’s defense, He did provide a Mother’s of Pre-Schoolers (MOPS) group and a loving Christian neighbor.  Unfortunately, I was too distracted by my expectations to notice His provision and chose to pop out of the plastic wrapping and freeze.   Not only will I never forget this experience, I also share it with others in the event that they are tempted to “give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.”  Whether you are planning to move, taking a second job or just don’t want to commit to being a part of a church, I beg you to pause and consider the consequences.  Don’t allow your heart to harden to God’s love for you which He demonstrated on the cross and is experienced through His church.  You were made for community to “spur one another on to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:23).   See you at church!

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” 

Hebrews 10:23-25

Anxiety, Faith, grace, Hope, Love, Overwhelmed, Rest

Crazy Grace

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”  James 1:19-20

Christmas is a time to reflect on what’s important and express gratitude for the precious gift of God’s Son.  “Peace on Earth, goodwill to men…”  If this is true, why are we so angry and impatient?  Between traffic and long lines to “prickly” relatives, Christmas seems to bring out the worst in people.  Why is it that we all seem to be somewhere on the spectrum of insanity during the “most wonderful time of the year?”  Could there be a dark spiritual campaign that ramps up every Black Friday to blur the vision of the grace God bestowed on humanity by becoming a man for the sake of our eternal salvation?

Personally, I have to admit that my focus is not on the coming Messiah during Christmas, rather, the coming company or Christmas meal that needs preparing or the gifts that need buying and wrapping and sending.  Insanity is the only word for it.  We all go a little crazy during the Christmas season.  It is fitting, then, in our culture of out-of-control “doing,”  that Christmas is followed so closely by the New Year.  Around the corner it comes with optimistic newness, forgiveness, if you will, for our December sins.

Because of this, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is my favorite week of the year.  Everything stops (except for basketball which is one more reason empty nesting is awesome).  There is time to rest, reflect and look ahead to a brand new year, God willing.  Instead of angry and impatient we feel optimistic and hopeful.  This is crazy grace.  The fact is, God not only sees us through our imbalanced, imperfect celebration of His Son’s birth, but also showers us with forgiveness and hope.  His love keeps us from being consumed by our fears, insecurities, failures and, yes, insanity.

In short, Lamentations 3:23 says, “His compassions never fail.”  His compassions (plural) never (that means never, ever) fail.  The word “compassions” reflects God’s heart for us in a powerful way.  It means God has the same affection for you and me that a pregnant mother has for the baby in her womb, “as cherishing the fetus.”  Regardless of our insanity level His grace is crazier still.  We can’t out-give God and we certainly can’t out “crazy” Him.  But for the grace of God we would all perish.

“Yet this I call to mind, therefore I have hope:

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,

for His compassions never fail. 

They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”

Lamentations 3:21-23

 

Covenant, Faith, Gospel, Hope, Life, Love, Uncategorized

True Love, True Life

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”  John 14:6

All physical life is completely dependent on the sun.  That may seem intuitive but when I heard this statement recently I was struck by the physical parallel of a profound spiritual truth.  All spiritual life is completely dependent on the SON!  Even with its exclusivity, I have never heard anyone complain about the way life is sustained.  It is narrow, no doubt, but everyone seems to agree that without the sun we are all doomed.   However, many argue against the reality of Jesus, the Son of God, being the only Way to eternal life with the Father.  Colossians 1:15-17 says, He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”  So, it is the Son of God who holds all things together physically, even the sun we so desperately need.  However, everything and everyone eventually dies.

Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).  

But, how do we know that it’s true?  The answer is simple. When you accept by faith that Jesus died for you personally to pay the penalty for your sins that keep you apart from God because He is holy, and enter into a relationship with Him, then you are cleansed from all unrighteousness (literally in Christ or covered by Christ’s righteousness) so God no longer counts your sin against you because the debt has been paid by God Himself in the flesh (Jesus).  Because He loved the world so much He made a way for us to be reconciled with Him (John 3:16).  When we believe this by faith (accept the gift) we enter into spiritual life (born again) and are a new creation, completely forgiven and sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit.  This conversion from death to life is palpable and you will experience God in the same way a lifeless seed, when planted in fertile soil, watered, and exposed to the sun bursts forth into new life.  You will know by experience!

How I pray everyone who does not know God personally would realize that they are spiritually dead, like a seed, and would accept the gift of life from Jesus, the Light of the world, the living Water, the Son of God!

And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.  These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:11-13 

If you would like to know more please check out the links below.

https://billygraham.org/answer/you-can-know-god-personally-as-he-comes-to-live-within-you-by-his-spirit/

https://www.cru.org/how-to-know-god/would-you-like-to-know-god-personally.html

Faith, Holiness, Love, Righteousness, Surrender, Uncategorized

What to Wear

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:12-15

Outfit snafu’s have been common occurrences in my life and usually happen at weddings.  I’ve accidentally worn the same color as the bridesmaids, overdressed and underdressed and once almost fainted from the heat because my dress was too hot for an outdoor, summer wedding. (It was almost one-hundred degrees outside!)   I struggle with what to wear on a daily basis too.  (It doesn’t help that most of my clothes don’t fit but that’s another topic.)  What colors should I wear?  What style looks best with by shape?  What is my shape?  Does curvy mean short and 25 pounds overweight?   Not only does it not come naturally to me to put an outfit together but I don’t even know what is appropriate for certain occasions.  (Google is my friend.) Sometimes I feel that way relationally too.  I ask myself what I should say or do in certain situations.  It can be confusing, especially during conflict.  However, Paul makes it very clear what we are to “wear” as God’s children on every occasion.

In Colossians 3:12-15 Paul starts by telling us our body type.  We are, “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved.” We have inherited God’s characteristics as His children. Therefore, we ARE holy because God is holy! Now, put on the “clothes” that suit your body type, reflecting who you are in Christ: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, long-suffering, forgiveness, love  and peace.  I want to dress like that!  But, it seems unattainable. It’s like someone telling you to look like an airbrushed picture of a supermodel on the front of a magazine who has a personal trainer, plastic surgeon and stylist working with her on a daily basis.  Well, no matter how much I exercise I will never look like Gisele.  (I didn’t have her parents!)  But, the attributes Paul asks us to put on are spiritually genetic, passed down form my Heavenly Father.  I am a beloved child of God and I do have His Holy Spirit who is all of those beautiful things in me.   You see, we too have a personal trainer; someone to help us get dressed and walk out onto the runway of life showing off His magnificent design.  So, with pleasure I take off my old self and put on the new at His request, surrendering to my Designer.  This outfit always fits perfectly!  So, as we walk down the red carpet of life and people ask, “What are you wearing?”  Say, “Jesus.”

“…to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”  Ephesians 4:22-24

 

 

Commitment, Covenant, Love, Righteousness, Uncategorized

His Banner Over Me is Love

 

“He has brought me to his banquet hall,  And his banner over me is love.” Song of Solomon 2:4

When I married my husband twenty-four years ago I had no idea what a covenant was nor did I understand love as defined by God.  My motive for marriage was completely selfish.  I wanted someone to love me and take care of me.  I wanted to have children.  I desired a “savior” who would love me unconditionally and fill the void in my life.  The sad truth is that I never considered my husband, nor did it cross my mind that he would have insecurities and needs.  The reality was that he was coming into the marriage just as empty as me.  We had nothing to offer one another.  It wasn’t too many years before we felt completely discouraged and even betrayed by one another.  Fortunately, God used this very desperate circumstance to introduce me to Himself.  Jesus found me wallowing in the shame puddle of loneliness and imminent divorce and said,

“I will betroth you to Me forever;
Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice,
In lovingkindness and in compassion,
And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness.
Then you will know the Lord.”  

Hosea 2:19-20

Yes, He has brought me to His banquet hall,  And His banner over me is love.  In the Song of Solomon the “banner of love” can refer to a man’s limited, romantic love for a woman, but the deeper meaning points to God’s intimate, extreme love for Jesus’ bride, the Church.  To understand where I got this idea let’s break down Song of Solomon 2:4 using the Hebrew definitions:

  1. “He has brought” =  bow’: to enter, come in

  2. “me to His banquet” = yayinwine (A symbol of the Holy Spirit)
  3. “hall” = bayith’: house; temple; home (We are the Temple of God)
  4. “and His banner” = degel: banner; standard  (Covering)
  5. “over” = al: over (in excess)
  6. “me is love” =  ‘ahabah: God’s love to His people

https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb/sng/2/4/t_conc_673004

Do you see it?  A personal application would be that God has made me a new creation by entering my spirit with His life giving Holy Spirit just like sperm enters an egg, creating new life.  I am the temple of the living God (1 Corinthians 3:16).  He dwells in me and I in Him (John 6:56), and He covers me with His excessive love (Psalm 36:7).  We are one.

 

There is now a shadow of this tender affection in my own marriage; it is something holy and set apart.   God not only forgave me but taught me to forgive.  He also restored our marriage and eventually brought my husband into the banquet hall as well.  He is so gracious!  So, after meditating on Song of Solomon 2:4, it is easy to understand why God takes marriage and sexual intimacy so seriously.  It is meant to be a picture of His glorious, single-minded love for His church.  Mark 10:7-9 gives us an understanding of the forever-covenant God intended for marriage, serving as a reflection of His forever-love for you and me,  “‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’  So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”    It’s God’s love that enables Marty and me to remain in love, unseparated.

As we reflect on our position of security based on God’s faithfulness, remember that Jesus is our rock.  He is the faithful husband that gave Himself up for us.  We are covered by His blood and have entered into a forever-covenant with Him.  God loves us with a lavish love demonstrated by the death and resurrection of His Son.  We are adopted into His family and, as Jesus’ forever Bride, can boldly enter the banquet hall wrapped in Heaven’s wedding gown.  Amen and Amen!

 

“I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,  As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”  Isaiah 61:10