Friday, December 11, 2015

His Grace Is Enough

As I sit here preparing my Sunday School lesson for this week, I am reading through the first chapter of Matthew which begins with one of those exciting genealogies we all love so much when reading through the Bible. (read slight sarcasm here)

But as I read through this one this year, it occurs to me that 2 Timothy 3:16 tells me that ALL scripture is inspired by God and ALL scripture is useful. So if the genealogy is here -  it must be worth my time.

The first, and most obvious, reason is to prove the lineage of Christ and His right to the throne of Israel. It traces His Messianic lineage back to David and further to Abraham both of whom the Jews recognized would be ancestors to the Messiah.

As we read on, though, there are some interesting characters indeed. Jacob was a liar. Tamar (the fact that a woman is included is unheard of) who seduced her former father in law, Judah, in order to continue her deceased husband's line (Genesis 38). Rahab (another woman AND a Gentile) who was a prostitute, but saved the spies in Jericho (Joshua 2; Hebrews 11). Bathsheba (yet another woman) who committed adultery with King David. Rehoboam and Manasseh, two of the most evil kings in Judah's history. And then there is Jeconiah. We don't usually talk about him much, but he was so evil that God cursed him so that none of his offspring would ever sit on the throne again. Bad dudes.

There are plenty of good folks, too, and some that started good and ended up bad and vice versa. Kind of sounds like a normal family, huh?

The point is this.. Jesus family line was made up of people who were prostitutes, adulterers, liars, foreigners, and just plain evil. But God - I always love those two words together - but God was able to use them anyway to bring about the birth of Christ. And in spite of His family history, God was able to use Jesus.

Family history is not an excuse not to be used of God. It's an opportunity to show His grace. no matter what is in your family's past, His grace is enough. Your personal past is not an excuse not to be  used of God. It's an opportunity to show His grace. Whatever you have done before today - His grace is enough. Let Him cover your past with His grace and move you forward in His mercy.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Friday, June 26, 2015

My Sin's Better Than Your Sin?

I have tried so hard not to write this all day long, but I suppose it's one of those things that until I do it - the itch in my fingers won't go away.... sigh.... I've been hearing the title to this post all day in my head (sung to the tune of the old Oscar Mayer hot dog commercial). 

One thing I have seen recently several times is the justification that one shouldn't throw stones at someone for a particular sin (or insert lifestyle here), if they have another particular sin in their life. Kind of a "you can't judge my sin, because you sin, too" statement. For those who have posted that and are waiting for me to come up with a marvelously spiritual rationalization...sorry...but you are right. When the Pharisees wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11, Jesus said to them "let whoever is without sin cast the first stone". No stones were thrown that day, but we will come back to this story in a minute.

The simple fact of the matter is this: we have ALL sinned. Romans 3:23 says clearly that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." In our simple, finite human minds, we rank sin. Murder is worse than adultery. One receives a death penalty and one gets a slap on the hand these days. In God's view, though, sin is sin. Anything that does not measure up with His holiness separates us from Him - no matter how large or small that sin might seem. Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin (not particular sins, but the state of being in sin) is death. We all get the death penalty in God's eyes. No sin gets special treatment. God is the ultimate fair judge and there is only one way to escape the death penalty.

Back to the story of the adulterous woman: Most like to end that story with the lack of stone casting, but it doesn't end there. After her accusers have left, Jesus tells her, without condemning her, to go and sin no more. Here's the rub - it doesn't matter what the sin IS, what matters is whether you continue to live in it, whether you repent of it, whether you ask the God of heaven to forgive you for it. 

John 3:16 tells us that God doesn't just want to sit on His throne judging and condemning us. He LOVES us. He loved the WORLD so much that He was willing to give His one and only Son, Jesus Christ to die for every sin. He didn't want us to be separated from Him, so He gave us a pass on the death penalty, but only if we REPENT and accept the forgiveness that He offers to us freely. Romans 8:1 says "there is NO condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus." The King James Version adds the statement in this verse "who walk not after the flesh".

How do you come to belong to Christ?
Romans 10:9-10 "If you declare with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved."

Acts 2:38 in Peter's sermon at Pentecost he told the people, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins..."

God loves you. 1 Timothy 2:4 says that God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that God is not slow in keeping His promise (that He will return), as some understand slowness. Instead, He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish (the death penalty), but everyone to come to repentance.

Is my sin better? Nope. No better, no worse. Sin is sin and the consequences are the same for everyone short of belief in Jesus Christ. His message is still the same. He still loves the world. He wants you to belong to Him.

Being a Christ follower doesn't make me sinless, it makes me forgiven. It doesn't make me a judge, but it does tell me in James 5 that whoever turns a sinner for the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sin. I think the following quote from atheist comedian Penn Jillette sums it up 

“I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward—and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytize and who say just leave me along and keep your religion to yourself—how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? 
“I mean, if I believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”

Monday, January 5, 2015

2015 - The Year of Standing Still

Since the New Year started, I have seen everyone well, maybe not everyone, posting their verse for the year or their word for this year. I want to be that spiritual, really, I do. But reality reigns at my house. Truth be told, I hadn't even thought about a verse or a word for the year. I'm not sure I could remember what my verse and word were for last year, so why bother with another one?

We had a lovely time ringing in the New Year with some wonderful friends and maybe the whole evening just had me waxing nostalgic. I looked at these people - some we had done life with for a long time. We have traveled together, laughed together, mourned together, and loved together. I looked at others who are more newcomers to the scene and think about what our future together will bring. It's exciting and a little scary.

On our way home, it was dark and there were still a few fireworks going off in the distance.. my thoughts turned toward the year past and other circumstances we have encountered. (New Years Eve does tend to make one reflective, after all.) I was thinking about all the things I felt needed to happen to clear those circumstances right up. I thought about a few people that I would like to shake some sense into. And then, I believe God spoke to me - shook some sense into me.

Some verses came to mind and kind of set me straight. They made me realize my desire to be in fix things. In short, to play God... OUCH!

Exodus 14:13, 14 " Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD WILL FIGHT FOR YOU; YOU NEED ONLY TO BE STILL." 

The Israelites had left Egypt and the Egyptians decided to purse and bring them back. They were scared. They thought they were going to die. What happened? God parted the Red Sea, the Israelites walked through like nothing and the water closed over the Egyptian army and killed them all. The Israelites didn't have to lift a finger to fight. Hmmmm.....

2 Chronicles 20 is such a beautiful chapter. The Ammonites and Moabites were coming to make war with Judah and the people came from all over to "inquire of the Lord". They were scared. They thought they were going to die. And Jehoshaphat prayed. The best line in his prayer: "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on YOU." God's response: "Do not be afraid or discouraged...For the battle is not yours, but God's...You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; STAND FIRM and see the deliverance the Lord will give you."
What happened? While the people were standing firm and praising God, He set ambushes in place. The next morning, the people of Judah found a bunch of dead bodies. The enemy was defeated and they never lifted a finger to fight.

So what does this have to do with me? I need to stand still and stand firm. Standing still doesn't mean doing nothing. Standing still and standing firm means standing up for what you believe in. This is not a passive act, it takes a lot of effort.

  • Standing still requires trust/faith. If the Israelites hadn't trusted God and crossed the Red Sea, they would have died at the hands of the Egyptians. I must have trust that God has a plan for me and for those I love. I need to let Him part the waters.
  • Standing still requires obedience. In either scripture, disobedience would have spelled disaster. It spells disaster for me too, because I am NOT God. Whew!
  • Standing still can still involve activity. While I am standing still I can pray and praise. I can inquire of the Lord. I can put my eyes on Him.
  • Standing still requires patience. We have to wait on God not knowing how He is going to intervene or when. Sometimes I wish He would give me the 10 year plan, but He doesn't. I have to be patient.
  • Standing still requires that I relinquish control. I cannot control the situations around me and I cannot control the people around me. God can. He is Sovereign and He will fight for me.
  • Standing still means knowing that God has got my back no matter what is going on in my life that I want to change.
I don't want anyone to think it is the people in my life who are my enemies. It is the circumstances. It is THE enemy. And, frankly, it is my desire to be in control. At the risk of bringing up a song everyone is ready to forget these days, I just need to "Let It Go"! 

So this will be my year of learning to stand still.  To trust. To be obedient. To put my eyes on Him. The year of Standing Still.

"Be still and know that I am God;
I WILL BE EXALTED among the nations,
I WILL BE EXALTED among the earth."
The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Psalm 46:10-11