He Saw Me in the Future!

Have you ever had the experience of someone coming up from behind you, clamping their hands over your eyes, without warning, exclaiming, “Guess who!”  For a moment you are confused, caught unaware, and then by scent or voice recognition, you take a guess.  Sometimes it is clear, other times it is a surprise – either way, the hands are lifted off your eyes and there is perfect revelation and joy as you recognize the playful spirit behind the mystery.

That’s how it was for me when I gave more thought to an all too familiar passage of scripture: Romans 5:8.  Jesus died for me, while I was a sinner.

Yadda, yadda, yadda.  How many times had I heard this read from the pulpit or proclaimed by a fellow church-goer on communion Sunday.  Like hands clamped over my eyes, I had guessed at the meaning nonchalantly.  I get it. I am a sinner and Christ died for me. Plain and simple on the surface, I thought I knew whose hands were covering my eyes.   Aaaaah! – but when the hands came off, I saw so much more –  recognition of truth in this all too familiar passage.

Do you see?

While!

It’s in the word while…..

WHILE I was a sinner….HE SAW ME IN THE FUTURE!  He saw past me – the sinner – and chose to pour grace out on me and save me from the punishment of my sins….this is the revealed mystery.  Jesus sees us beyond our sinful state!  Before we were born, before we physically sinned, He saw us through it all and died for us; Grace poured out in faith and love, abundantly. 

In turn, we ought to do the same.

We need to see beyond people’s sin. No avoiding, no judging, but instead: pour grace abundantly.  The mystery paid forward: we need to see others as Jesus sees them – just as he sees us; God sees all of us as His children.

Friend, Jesus sees you in the future as well and He died for you too.

What an awesome verse! 

Quoting the words from a recent conversation with Bill Vanderbush, “Jesus is even better than we think.”

 

 

 

 

WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?

Did you see the mother in the yellow dress rapping her son upside the head today on the social media?

Or maybe you saw the visions of police lining the Baltimore streets like a wall in their suits of armor and shields?

Screaming and running and ducking and smashing and chaos pushes the fear and the anger up, and up, and up to explosive levels.

Which side are  you on?

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Disdainful outcries rumble as family members and co-workers give their two cents on the horrible events of the day.

“What is happening to this country?” 

One thing is for sure: it is nothing new.

What happened in Baltimore has happened throughout all of history before; and I am NOT talking about racism.

I am talking about the human condition.

Take a moment to look back to the earliest days recorded in the time of Genesis; one brother against the other brother because of a dark heart full of uncontrolled anger….a “who-is-better-than-who” situation.

The result? Murder.

“Who-is-better-than-who” has been done a lot in history….resulting in wars and crime and divorce and all levels of arguments.  It is the condition of natural sin; otherwise known in religious circles as the “sinful nature.”  The human condition is sinful nature.

Will it ever change? Can it ever change?

To be honest…. not as long as we remain humans on this earth.

Lucky for us, however…there is a remedy.  And it begins with each one of us.  And it begins in the heart.  It takes a heart deciding to believe in Jesus Christ as the Savior; deciding to follow Jesus and His ways. Putting off the old and putting on the new – being transformed with a new vision of life and who we are in it.  The Scriptures instruct us:

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2

“…put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;  to be made new in the attitude of your minds;  and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Eph. 4:22b & 23

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Eph. 4: 31 – 32

Yes, it begins with us.  It begins with being humble (us) and it begins with forgiveness (Jesus’ toward us).

The side to be on is Jesus’ side.

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In Christ, we can forgive. In Christ, we can love.

And we know because we are told, that The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” 1Peter 4:8

Pray and forgive; Pray and love….in our homes, in our workplace, in our communities.

It is not about race, or justice, or anger….or “who-is-better-than-who.”

It is always and forever will be about the heart.

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Total change for our human condition – the sinful nature – comes when Jesus returns to take up His own into heaven. Until then, we have to persevere and keep our hearts and minds focused on Jesus’ side.

So, dear friends, hold on and claim hope because, “hope does not disappoint.” Romans 5:5a.

The side to be on is Jesus’ side.

Figuratively: Where IS HE today?

Last night, I saw Him in my minds eye, bludgeoned.

I saw Him bleeding and full of sorrow and anguish.  Sweat and lacerations, mixed salt and blood, surely must have had its sting!  His human body weakened.  His human body failing; trembling, yet withstanding.  Feeling the pain of His Father turning away from Him, so that He could experience death with the weight of sin, this is what He chose. This, that I deserved, is what he chose willingly.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:14

On the cross, Jesus suffered beyond human imagining.  

I cannot fit it into my brain really.  How he must have felt!

The length at which He was willing to go to save His sheep; to save me; to save you….. The overriding emotion had to be love. Only love could have kept Him nailed to that wooden cross.  For certainly He had the power and the ability to resist and his earthly enemies and the death He was destined to – because He is God, omnipotent – all powerful and over EVERY thing.

Jesus’ spirit was strong.  His spirit was untouchable by human hands.  Jesus gave His spirit up to the Father.  In His power He gave it. It was finished.

On the cross it was finished.  He bore the weight of all humanity’s sin, past, present, and future.  When He died, the price was paid. Then and there on the cross the blood sacrifice was given, and we, the sheep were set free from death and given a Way.

But, where is He today?

Figuratively speaking, where is Jesus today after the moment of His death on the cross and that moment in time when it is recorded that He rose from the dead, ascended into heaven?  

This time between last night, Good Friday and His dying on the cross, and now – the time before Easter Sunday and His resurrection? He told us as He spoke to another dying on a cross nearby.

“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43

Paradise is the place of rest.  The holding place for believer’s until the final resurrection.

I imagine a place of peace.  Soothing and comforting.

Jesus did not go to suffer more.  He was not tormented beyond the cross.

Jesus did the complete work on the cross; dying once and for all.

Figuratively, he is in Paradise, waiting to reveal His entire purpose for coming to earth!

“For Christ … died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust…” (1 Peter 3:18)

He died for me.  He died for you.  He died for everyone in the past, everyone in the present, and everyone yet to be born.  

I do not know about you…but I am feeling overwhelmingly thankful.  Overwhelmingly small.  Overwhelmingly loved.

Today, I imagine, in my minds eye…so that I can remember, that I am loved with the greatest love there ever is.

Can you feel it?  The love is for you too!

Tears in the hearing.

Bill day.

It always begins with bill day.  But it has been getting worse and worse.  Like many, there is just not enough money at the end of the payday to make good on all the debts incurred over the past several years.

Debt is like a snowball; it starts out small and it is relatively easy to push around, but the more and more it is rolled, the bigger and bigger it gets until it is no longer able to be pushed because of its size and weight. Well, here I am, nearly crushed by the weight and size of my debts.  And I panic at the thought that I am unable to write a full tithe. I am sick to my stomach.

Guilty.

I am sick to my stomach with guilt. I feel the weight of my sinful actions upon me. I feel unworthy of His blessings.

That was Friday past.

Fast forward  to Sunday morning.

The songs were sung and the offering collected and the Scripture reading was read, in order, as usual. But unusual was my hearing. Unusual was my response. Never before in my twenty four years of listening to the Word being read, did this happen to me!

Welling up inside, my mind raced, whaaaat is this?  Warm trickles overflowed and I could not stop them.  I had tears in the hearing of God’s Word.  There was no new speaker emoting with fevered preaching.  There was no moving testimony reaching into the memory core of like experience.  It was just the familiar voice of our assistant pastor quietly and evenly reading. The Word alone triggered my tears.

Tears in the hearing.  God was speaking to me.

God’s Word is powerful.

God’s Word is alive.

The Holy Spirit filled me to overflowing and I was saturated in the love of the Father; enveloped in the arms of Grace. My Guilt was absorbed by the Word and I found myself being forgiven. Accepted. Loved absolutely.

In the very moment!

Since Friday, I had been carrying the weight and since Friday I had been desiring forgiveness for my failing. Loving the LORD, I hoped.

And the Words were read and received:

“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much.” Luke 7:47

The welling up began with the woman standing behind Jesus weeping (Luke 7:38).  That was me, in my imagination, I related. Since Friday I had been weeping in my heart over my sin; the sin of not trusting God for so many things.  The sin of thinking I could do it all on my own; of pride.

Broken and repaired simultaneously, the tears rolled and fell.

The unusual is that in the innermost depths of my heart, I came seeking.  Days before I had been consciously seeking. Loving, and with hope, I entered the sanctuary.

God knew that.  And He met me with open arms and spoke right into my very soul.

What an awesome Father is He!

Praise His Holy Name!

…A Peacock Vow?

Water aerobics is my choice exercise program.  While breathlessly working out in the deep water, my gaze focused upon the white board trivia fact of the day:

“The first New Year’s Resolutions began with the Ancient Babylonians making promises to their gods to pay their debts and returned borrowed objects!”

Later, at home I googled Wikipedia I learned that the Romans made promises to the god Janus, and in the Medieval era, knights took the “Peacock Vow.”  Whaaaat?!

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Yup – a vow to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry!  What that has to do with Peacocks I am sure I do not know!

The most popular Resolution of modern day, is……You guessed it! …. to lose weight…go on a diet and join a gym in the process.

As I struggled to keep my legs kicking to the beat of the music – water resistance fighting me….I wondered.  Even in Babylonian times, I wondered how long New Year Resolutions lasted.  All of us have good intentions, but most Resolutions do not last but a few weeks. A few months if one is lucky.

More thought.

And the “If you Give  A Mouse a Cookie” story line came to mind.

I think I would title a new book called, “If you give a Resolution a Name”  And it would go like this:

If you give a Resolution a Name, you will surely fail.  You will try real hard and have every good intention to fulfill your resolve.  But, most likely you will fall short. Lose impetus. Be distracted from it.  And quite simply, you will fail.

Why?  Because we all lack perfect self control.  No matter what your Resolution is: be it to lose weight, go to the gym, master a new instrument, be more generous, stop eating sugar, pay off all your debt, or be more chivalrous (!)….it ALL takes an enormous amount of self control in order to follow through.  And, to be frank, we all lack self control.  Self Control is a supernatural gift.  Scripture says it is a fruit of the Spirit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22 – 23

So IF you want to be true to your Resolution, you need self control.  And to gain self control, you need to ask for the Holy Spirit’s fruit.

Now, the Holy Spirit cannot be bought.  It cannot be ordered.  It can only be given.

And so, I began to think:  Thank you LORD for leaving us the Holy Spirit.  Because the only way we even have access to the Holy Spirit is because Jesus left the earth.  It was His gracious giving that He gave us the Holy Spirit in his stead. (John 16:5 – 7)

And so, I began to think some more:  Thank You Jesus for leaving.  For dying on the cross. For coming.  For being born.  Christmas.  Here we are, just days after that celebration.

Ab work began with the “rowing the boat” motion and water was splashing everywhere….and my mind kept on.

Why did Jesus come anyway?

Because we lacked.  We failed.  We fell short.  Right from the very beginning of history, mankind lacked self control.  Eve ate what she was forbidden to eat.  She lacked self control to do what was right.  Adam lacked in watching over her. (Genesis 3:6)

BUT, God had a plan. Jesus. Only Jesus could fill the void, cover the lack, and redeem our failure.  Our sin nature – our weakness to give in to temptation – our bent toward failing to fulfill even what we know and desire to do as right.

“He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” Galatians 3:14

So…. If you want to give a Resolution a Name….

You need to acknowledge God as Almighty Creator, Sovereign Master.

You then need to understand your condition and your need for a Savior; His name is Jesus. Forgiveness is for everyone.

You need to believe, confess your sin, and ask Jesus into your heart.  When you do this, the Holy Spirit will fill you full.

Having access to the Holy Spirit, you need to ask for help with self control.  The power of the Holy Spirit will give it to you.  Lasting Self Control is a supernatural gift.

So, if you have self control powered not by your own will and fortitude…..but powered by the Holy Spirit, your New Year’s Resolution has a chance to be fulfilled.

If you give your Resolution a Name, then you must turn to God.  Turn to Jesus. And pray for the Holy Spirit’s gifting of self control.

So, what is your New Year Resolution?  Did you give it a name?  Was it a Peacock Vow?

Whatever it is, may you be blessed with a deeper understanding of God and all that He has for you in this New Year, 2014.

Be filled.

Be Filled with the Holy Spirit, dear friend.

“… Instead, be filled with the Spirit,” Ephesians 5:18

The Fix to the Ugly “S” Word

“IT”S A BOY!”

I had the awesome privilege of announcing that FIVE times!

There is nothing quite like the excitement of announcing the birth of a baby.  Adoration and the full-est feeling of hope springs forth in the wonder of it all.  As a mom, you cannot hold that newborn close enough; there is a certain magnetism that occurs.

Have you ever tried to pry a newborn from a new mother?  It is exceedingly difficult!

And so, in Isaiah (9:6 KJV)), I find the phrase,“… a child is born, …a son is given;”  hard to swallow.

Now what kind of birth announcement is T H A T?

Here’s the new baby, now let’s give him away?

Yet, this is just what God’s plan was.

Why?

Again, it always starts at the beginning Genesis 3: 13 (NIV):

Then the LORD God said to the woman, “what is this you have done?”

The woman said, ” The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

This is the confession of sin entering the world.  The male and female that God created chose to turn away from Him. The willful heart gave in to deception and temptation and sin entered in.  The ugly “S” word, S – I – N, remained.

Sin remains.  It taints every human heart.

Sin cannot exist in the presence of God.  Humankind was therefore separated from God.  And like a new mother and her newborn, separation could not continue to be.  And so, God had a  plan.  From the beginning He had a plan.

Jesus; the baby born,… the son given, was the fix to the ugly “S” word.

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After Adam and Eve realized their failure and their sin filled-ness, they attempted to cover it all up; they sought to hide.

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”

(Genesis 3: 7)

Totally inadequate.  Fig leaves could not cover up the wrong.  Skins of animals could not cover up the sin.  Sacrificial blood of animals could not make the sinful heart clean.

Only God the Father could make the way.

Only God the Creator could design the perfect plan of redemption.

And He did it through the baby, Jesus.

Jesus, fully God and fully man, One without sin.

It was His blood that had to be given.

So there we have it!

…”a child born”….that’s Jesus.

…”a son given”….that’s Jesus.

Jesus came to earth to be born, and more importantly was born so He could die. On a cross His blood was poured out.

He was ultimately G I V E N. 

It is the only way we,

you and me,

all those before us and after Adam and Eve,

and all those yet to be born

are able to enter into the presence of our Creator; our Father.

GOD.

For us and to us, 

Jesus; the baby born,… the son given, IS the fix to the ugly “S” word.

What an awesome GIFT!

“To God be the Glory, Great things He has done….” (turn up your sound & sing along!)

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=to+god+be+the+glory+youtube&FORM=VIRE5#view=detail&mid=B478C151D3F880F1F81EB478C151D3F880F1F81E

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 “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”  (Isaiah 9:6)

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More to come….