Consistent watering required

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

I was reminded lately that for something to grow, we must water it. Seems simple enough for us gardeners, water is life. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone on vacation and left very (very very) detailed watering instructions, only to come home and find my plants browning and wilting. While watering is important, deep watering is essential. Yes, I’m saying that all watering is not equal. I can think of no better example of this than how many of us approach scripture, and the truths that it permeates into our lives.

The above scripture in one that I wish we could all have tattooed on our hearts. I truly believe that if we could grab a hold of this one truth, we would look at and approach our lives so differently.

I was recently speaking with a woman about some of the challenges she is facing in life. As we sat talking, and she shared with me her difficulties, I’m thinking to myself that if she only knew how much God loved her. She doesn’t know how she’s going to support her family, find a better place to live, get clean, make better decisions. As she cried desperately about all that is happening, I asked her if she had any other support system, family, friends, or a church family? She told me through her tears that she used to go to church and knows she should go back but can’t do it until she gets her life cleaned up. Once her life is more in order then she can go back to church. My heart broke…

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

Why isn’t this a bumper sticker? Why isn’t this a T-shirt? Why isn’t this blasted across billboards on every highway across the country? There isn’t ANYTHING that anyone of us can do to clean ourselves up to be presentable to God. Not one of us is ever, even at our very best, worthy to approach Him on our own.

Perhaps if we all accepted and shared that we’re in the same boat, regardless of how it may appear on the outside. We are all just as broken, sinful, and unworthy as the next person. for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-24

We can’t do anything to be worthy of God’s love or Christ’s sacrifice. We don’t have to clean ourselves up to come to God, we come dirty, we come shamed, we come broken, we come guilty, and no matter He will come running to embrace us, every time, without exception, and without condition.

One of my favorite parables, because of what it tells us about God’s love, is the Parable of the Prodigal Son. We are all either the prodigal son or the oldest son, and in each case unworthy of God’s love, but in both cases, we are embraced, loved, provided for and precious, regardless of our own sinful condition. Whether we’re going through the motions doing what we think we’re supposed to do, without love in our heart, or we selfishly threw away all that we were given to pursue our own worldly desires, Christ died for us!

I could go on and on sharing examples from Scripture of God’s unconditional and perfect love. A love that is equally given to each of us regardless of our current, past or future condition. No one is any better or worse than you, and as such no more or less worthy of it.

I hugged this woman who was sharing with me. I shared this passage of scripture with her. Even though she smiled and said, “I know”, I prayed as she walked out the door that God would pierce her heart and allow that scripture to take root and grow. I ask for God to give me more opportunities to share this truth, to live it out myself, to see those around me with God’s eyes as loved and cherished.

We all have sinned and fallen short, but God has good news…it is by grace we have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God!

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change your life, and our world!

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We are not immune!

we are not immune

While I was listening to Jack Graham this morning on the radio, he said something that I loved and feel many of us need to hear, Christianity is not immunity. Think about that for a moment, do we believe that because we have put our faith in Jesus that our lives are now going to be easy and that everything we want is going to quickly fall into place? No, really, think about it. How often have we gotten frustrated or angry because what we thought should happen, didn’t. Or what we thought God should do, He didn’t. If we really take a good hard look in scripture, we quickly see that Jesus never promised us a smooth ride. In fact, He offered up the opposite. And in the midst of it, He calls us to be at peace, without anxiety, full of hope and joy.

Paul tells us, ” You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:10-17

Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-4

Consider it joy whenever you face trials of many kinds.

Being a Christian does not mean our lives will be free from troubles, in fact, it’s quite the contrary. Our very existence is in opposition to the world. What we believe the world considers foolish, and we are told throughout scripture is that we will face trials and persecutions, just as Christ did. It is never a matter of if but when. If we follow Christ, we will have a share in His sufferings. Anyone who tells you differently is not sharing truth.

Being a Christian does not mean we are now immune to the disease of this world, the disease of sin and death. It means we are in a constant battle for our lives, and the lives of those around us. What we are told in scripture is that when we face challenges, we don’t face them alone, we don’t need to be anxious, we don’t need to fear the trials and tribulations of this world because God has overcome the world. What does that mean? Well, it means that we’ll experience some pretty awful stuff in this life, but we do it so that we can have an eternity free from suffering as we share in Christ’s inheritance.

My grandmother used to tell me, “the human mind and body can endure just about anything, so long as we can conceive of the end.” We know there is an end, we know the battle is won, we know that we will finally be in the arms of the savior and the suffering will cease. It is that hope, that confidence that allows us to whether the storms of this life.

The particular challenges that you are facing right now, they are hard, they seem overwhelming, you’re wondering how you can make it one more day. Perhaps it’s your health or that of someone you love, perhaps it’s your finances or your job. I don’t know what your trial is, I do know that it is not insurmountable. I do know you are not alone. I do know that God’s promises are true and can be counted on. I do know that you are not facing anything that hundreds or thousands have not faced before you. I do know that if you hold on to Christ, it will not destroy you.

We are not immune to the sin of this world. Jesus blood is more like Teflon. the arrows of this life will fly at us, Jesus blood empowers us to stand firm against those forces and not be destroyed. They don’t have to penetrate who we are in Him.

Christianity is not immunity; Christianity is the rudder that allows us to navigate through the trials of this life until we can securely anchor ourselves in the Kingdom with our savior.

Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change our world!

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“Prodigal Son Wins Mega Millions”

nypost_lotteryIn our youth group recently we have been getting the teens involved by encouraging them to pick our study topics. Each week one teen is selected and they work with one leader to pose and answer, from scripture, any question they may have. I will admit I was afraid aliens, dinosaurs and other silliness would claim the forefront, but was pleasantly surprised by the depth of the questions asked. Questions about homosexuality, where is God when bad things happen, and most recently, why do so many have to hit rock bottom before turning to God?

Needless to say we’ve had some amazing conversations, and it has been a huge growth opportunity as our teens dig deep to get answers to questions that really matter to them. This most recent question we discusses in the context of the parable of the Prodigal Son. As many of have done, he prioritized the wrong things, went all in and found himself at rock bottom. He was faced with the decision of turning to his father or death.  It took him hitting rock bottom to turn to his salvation. It’s a beautiful story and one we can all probably identify with.

I got to thinking this morning, what about those that follow the same path; seeking self promotion at any cost, placing fame and fortune above all else. What happens when the prodigal son spends his last dollar on a lottery ticket…and wins? Because, we see this happen as well. People who put themselves and their interests and their happiness above all else, often to the detriment of many…succeed and get all they want in this world. What does that story tell us? Where is God when good things seem to happen to not so good people?

We read about these people throughout the Psalms, the wicked prospering and mockingly stating that God either doesn’t care, is asleep or doesn’t see their actions. Since the begging of time people have called out to God to bring ‘justice’ on the wicked. However, the wicked still seem to prosper, the wicked still seem to triumph over the oppressed, the wicked still seem to win.

Let me bring your attention to another story in the bible, also found in the book of Luke, just one chapter later. This is a story about a poor, sick, oppressed man who dies in abject poverty and pain, Lazarus, and a rich man who had every good thing in life, neglecting the needs of those around him. Both men die, and as such have very different experiences.

“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.” Luke 16:22-24

Lazarus, was one of the least of men and so received a mighty reward in heaven. The rich man, on the other hand, who had not used his blessings on earth to bless others, who had used his blessings on earth to glorify himself by satisfying his fleshly desires, went to Hades.

Yes, people in this world, who chose to help themselves first, will be last in the life after this one.But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.” Luke 16:25-26

The story continues with the rich man’s plea for Abraham to send Lazarus to the home of the rich man’s father to warn his brothers to change their lives so they will not suffer the same fate (sounds very Charles Dickens). To which Abraham replies, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” Luke 16:31

If the prodigal son won mega millions, his outcome would be of his making. Would he use his blessings to bless others, or would he continue down a path of selfishness and waste? We obviously can’t say. What we can say, is if he chose the latter, his rewards, all his rewards would be used up in this short lifetime. There would be nothing for him in the next. Yes, good things happen to bad, or wicked, or selfish people. Or perhaps it’s better stated that good things seem to happen to wicked people. The truth of it is, that they may seem to have all they want for a time, but our lives here on this earth are short compared to our eternity with Jesus. That short moment of pleasure will cost them eternity. Where our short moment of suffering will yield us an eternity of glory with our savior.

Good things, bad things, here on earth doesn’t matter. What matters is what we do with what we have while we’re here. Did we give God the glory by placing our faith in Jesus and blessing others with thanksgiving, or did we live to glorify and please ourselves? Mega millions mean nothing in the light of eternal salvation.

I’d love to hear from you. If you like what you’ve read, please share and comment.

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The Old Can’t Contain the New

new and oldI have often read and re-read the parable of the wineskins, it’s one that serves as a reminder for me to renew my thoughts daily, to keep aligned with the mind of Christ, and not with that of the world. This parable is taught by Jesus in 3 of the 4 gospels, however I had not paid as much attention to the passage which immediately precedes this. “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse.” Matt 9:16

I find it funny, as someone who sews regularly, that this point didn’t pop out to me first. As a young girl learning to sew with my mother, the first thing we had to do after bringing home our fabric treasure hoard, (and it was often a hoard) was wash it. You should never create your masterpiece out of unwashed fabric, or after washing a completed garment, it may shrink, tearing the stitches, pulling away from the zipper or, even worse, end up smaller than you’d planned. The point being made here, is if you try to patch something old with new, unshrunk fabric, it doesn’t work. It’s the same with trying to patch holes in old ideas, legalistic views, or worldly habits, with Christ, they don’t fit. One will pull away at the other until the whole garment is destroyed.

This concept of not patching the old along with the new is woven throughout the scriptures. We read that we must loose the old dead self, we can’t fill old wineskins with new wine, unshrunk cloth to old garments. We can’t continue to live our old life once we become a new creation in Christ.

There is a level of dissonance that will keep us from enjoying all the fullness that is our inheritance with Christ. When we have an encounter with Jesus through the Holy Spirit and give him our lives, we can’t continue to live as we did. That is the whole point! Why would we reach out for Christ to free us from the death trap of our lives, then chose to live a life unchanged. We’re robbing ourselves of Christ’s promises. That kind of life, isn’t really a life at all, in constant battle with one’s self. This is what Christ meant when He spoke about being hot or cold, cause lukewarm He’ll spit you out (Revelation 3:15-16).

This internal warring can only lead to corruption and death. When we continue in our old ways not only are we missing out on God’s best for our lives, we aren’t being a good witness to those around us, we will not live in peace, we will not grow in Christ and eventually get discouraged and fall prey to the pulls of the flesh. Jesus, when responding to the Pharisees claim that He had cast out demons in the name of Beelzebub, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposed himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end  has come.” Mark 3:23-26

If we, as followers of Chris,t continue to pursue our fleshly desires, our end will come. We can not survive in a state of division against ourselves. We will either chose to give Christ our all or chose to follow the world, there is no in between. Also, if we are indeed all members of one body (as we are told in scripture) and you are still choosing to live as part of the world, what effect will that have on the body? How can we perform the function God created for us, if we are still choosing to live in world?

Unshrunk cloth destroys old garments, old wineskins burst from new wine, a house divided against itself can not stand. We have a daily choice, to design our garments with new fabric woven from threads of scripture, stitched together with prayer and cleansed by the blood of Christ.

We can’t continue to try and cover the old with the new, the old must be completely thrown away, that is the only way we can walk anew with Christ.

I’d love to hear from you. If you like what you’ve read, please share and comment.

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