Thursday, April 30, 2009

Free Series -- Part II

Maybe you can relate with these thoughts:

“No way I’m coming to God. He’s going to ask me to give up everything fun!”

“I’d have to change too much before I could approach Him. He only wants good people.”

“I don’t want to change my lifestyle. I like being in control of my own life.”

“I want to lead a fulfilling life, so I’m going to do this without God.” (see John 10:10)

“He would take all of my friends away and make me stop going to the ___ (fill in the blank with ‘bar,’ ‘club,’ etc.).”

“I never get very far when I try to pray. God certainly doesn’t fill me up like ___ does.” (again, fill in the blank with words that fit for you: food, drugs, alcohol, sex, friends, partying)

Do you long for something you can’t even name? Some kind of satisfaction you haven’t found, though, wow, have you tried. You long for unconditional love, acceptance, a thrill, satisfaction, contentment, success. Only Jesus can fulfill you. You think what you have (by chasing lesser lovers) is good. But if you could see it through God’s lens, you’d see the ultimate result is not life. Any “satisfaction” you find in that substitute is not long lasting and it’s certainly not without later consequences. Food will increase your waistline. (Unless you binge and purge, and what good is that? Your body needs nutrition or there is a host of consequences to face.) Alcohol will give you a hangover. Drugs control you over time.

But when you turn to Jesus, and surrender everything (even your wrong perceptions about Him), He will fill up your heart and mind (soul) and give you lasting satisfaction. He will cut off those other pursuits because you will see them as they are—lacking in substance and only addressing a fleshly need, not the motivation behind it all—a deeper need.

We don’t like giving up control, but here’s what Jesus says:

If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it. (Luke 17:33, NLT)

Put your life into God’s hands. He will free you. The lesser lovers you have turned to will no longer have control of you. (That’s what it feels like, doesn’t it? “I have to have a drink!”) Addictions are hard taskmasters. Jesus is gentle.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29 NLT)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Free from Excuses Series

Recently, I took a quiz online, but didn’t fill in any name information, etc. The website holder was just looking for a way of increasing their database of names and email addresses, and I didn’t want to contribute. After going through all the questions, agonizing over my answers and checking the appropriate boxes, I finished with a sigh. But when I clicked on “get results” the screen refreshed with this ominous phrase:

Six errors prohibited this user from being saved.

With language like that I couldn’t help thinking of salvation in broader terms. Today I’m going to begin a series where we’ll consider six reasons people use to avoid salvation through Jesus as their Savior.

Here’s our first one: condemnation. Can you relate with this thought: “I’ve gone too far. You don’t know what I’ve done. There is no way God could forgive me.”??

You say that because you know God is holy. And he is. And on our own, we cannot go to heaven, we cannot be forgiven. But through God all things are possible.

Let me explain: There is a liar who hates you (the devil). He’s been lying to you in three ways, about 1) YOURSELF, 2) OTHER PEOPLE, and 3) GOD.

1) yourself—“You have gone too far. There is no hope for you. You are the one person who is beyond even God’s ability to forgive.” Problem here, if this reasoning has kept you from being saved, you’ve believed the lies.

2) others—“Can you believe what that person said about you? You know they hate you.” OR “Look at those clothes. Ugh!” OR “She’s only being nice to you because she wants something.”

3) God—“He can’t really love you. Look at everything you’ve done. God’s love is for the good people. You’d never qualify.”

Here’s the truth: Jesus is God. He is not petty or spiteful, prideful or hateful. He does not disqualify the “condemned” from His grace. He is full of love and mercy. He is also sinless and was therefore the perfect substitute for us—the perfect Lamb of God who died in my place, in your place, so we could be forgiven, and welcomed by the perfect God, our Creator.

Take a look at John 1:29 because this is good news!!

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, NKJV)

“Takes away the sins of the world.” --- The sins of Hitler, Charles Manson, Ted Bundy. Me. You.

All our sins are gone. They were dealt with on the cross. That should make us rejoice (it should never lead to a license to sin.) Since all the sins have already been dealt with—past, present, future, our response is now the key. Will we receive His free gift of salvation? Will we humble ourselves and accept the truth—we need Him and His mercy. We’re lost unless He intervenes. There is so much freedom in just admitting that truth.

If we do not receive His free gift of salvation, it won’t matter that the sins are gone. They’ve been “taken away.”

Those names listed above are of real people with real sin who, like you and me, had a choice—to receive Jesus as Savior, or not. To accept forgiveness, or not. To humble themselves and “bend the knee” to a new Master (rather than self) and trust in the mercy of God, or not. If they did not, if you do not, if I do not, we are not saved. But, oh if we do… NO MORE CONDEMNATION:

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Rom. 8:1)

Then, as we learn to “walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit,” the enemy has less grounds for even accusing us. God’s Spirit inside us will confirm we are the Lord’s and He does not condemn those Jesus’ sacrifice covers. (Remember it only covers you if you receive it, recognizing Jesus as your personal Savior.) God’s is the type of family you enter just by saying “yes.” Our response (which is based in free will) gets us in. We don’t have to be on the outside feeling rejected. It’s up to us to acknowledge His path to acceptance and adoption. “Whosoever will” may come. (John 3:16)

Condemnation makes us feel vulnerable, unlovable and brokenhearted. If our very Creator can’t even accept us, we are hopeless. In that painful state, remember:

The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart,

And saves such as have a contrite spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

Humble yourself and realize you need Him. Pray, asking Him to come and save you. You haven’t gone too far. You are loved. You can be forgiven and live outside the burden of all that condemnation (real and perceived). You can be a member of the family of God.

He’s reaching to you. Reach back.

He’s chasing you. Surrender.

Let Jesus love you free.

Friday, April 17, 2009


You've probably seen it. Everyone's talking about it--Susan Boyle's performance on Britain's Got Talent. When I watched, here's what struck me. Without the mocking of the crowd, the obvious criticism and judging of this woman even before she sings, the ultimate victory of her performance wouldn't have mesmerized viewers. As we watch one of her dreams come true (she's been singing since she was 12) we are transported. She nailed her solo. She captured our imaginations. She elicited our cynicism and for that we all felt conviction. From judgmental expressions, the audience went to cheers and standing ovations. From criticism to conviction. From us against her, to "we're with you!" But without the darkness, the success wouldn't have tasted so good. The same is true in fiction and the same is true in our lives as God is glorified by bringing us through to victory. If you haven't seen it, take a look. You won't regret it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Faithful or Successful?

Have you heard this piece of wisdom--God doesn't call us to be successful, but rather faithful? I heard that phrase last night and now I'm toying with the ideas hidden there.

Who can be objective about success? No one. That's why there are so many cliches about what success is, or how you'll know it when it comes. It's definition is arbitrary.

And as you strive for whatever it is you would call success (assuming you're striving), what if doors don't open? Does that make you a failure? Do you blame yourself? Does God blame you?

Or, what if God isn't calling us to fulfill some arbitrary definition of success, but rather just to be faithful to what His calling is. The whole idea that He's in the journey with us and the journey is as valuable (or more so?) than the destination. That means, for me, that though I haven't published tons of books, as long as I am pursuing God and remaining faithful in my callings (wife, mother, teacher, cell pastor, writer), I am pleasing to Him. He wants us to be overcomers, not quitters. Disappointment can chase you down into a pit, but if faithfulness becomes the goal, then we know every moment isn't wasted. That and God's system is one of sowing and reaping. If you spend enough time pursuing something, putting in the hours and learning the trade, you will eventually see fruit--if nothing more, you'll be better at what you do. There is a reward, even if it isn't what you thought it would be.

For me, this idea of faithfulness being the goal has freed me from self-imposed (and projected) burdens.

How about you?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

It’s Good Friday. Last night as I was almost asleep, I pondered Jesus’ sacrifice, especially the fact He was scourged. His skin was lacerated, his muscles shredded. As one who has suffered the pain of involuntarily tight muscles in my back, resulting from not being struck or torn, I couldn’t imagine the pain of muscles undergoing what He experienced. And I thought, I wonder if He was somehow anesthetized. Maybe a grace of God or something.

But He said, “I felt it.”

Gulp. “You did? Why would you willingly go through that?”

“I did it for you. For the love of you.”


“…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2)

You are the joy set before Him. You are the reason why.

And it didn’t stop with those lacerations. He then went to the cross. For you. A perfect, sinless sacrifice so you and I could be forgiven by a holy God.

And thank God it didn’t stop with the cross or the grave!

Jesus arose! He lives. He lives in me and in everyone who believes. Whosoever will may come.

Come to the cross this Good Friday and lay your life down in exchange for His. He loves you. He died for you. He has Easter gifts for you today: forgiveness and new life.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What Kind of Spin?

We're on spring break around here, and it's been great weather--just what you'd order at a drive-thru weather request center if you could--70-degrees and sunny all day. What a difference from April 1st when it was snowing.

The kiddos are off school so we took a drive yesterday and visited our old hometown. Wow, the changes--a bustling city has sprung up, and there are a gazillion houses where there used to be huge yards and groves of trees. Needless to say, it wasn't a happy sight. At least for me. I like quiet, country settings. That's part of my personality, so to see all the houses and busy-ness made me ache for our new neighborhood of quiet homes, large yards and trees.

We also swung past my daughter's old school. Drove through the circle drive where I used to drop her off as a 1st grader. Oh, wow. That was nearly 10 years ago now. Ten. The ache started to grow. But then it hit me. I don't have to mourn the fact the past is over. I can celebrate where we are now. And boy do I. I'm abundantly grateful for our current home, in a new setting with quiet trees and no house butting against ours with windows like eyes peering into our backyard.

Our response depended on the spin we put on our experience yesterday and the experiences of the past. Our past was nice--no horrific memories or painful events to squelch, or regrets to manage. Instead, a few years of solitude before huge changes swept in. And now, a pleasant present to be thankful for. The mourning faded in light of gratitude. It's good to cut back to the past for a brief moment, catch the differences and let the present press back in. God was with us back then, and he's here with us now. He has promised to be with us in the future, too. So, like spinning the van around to head back to our current residence, off we go.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Happy April!

Don't you just love that it's April? A new month. A new beginning. Time to flip calendar pages and change white board dates. Time for setting new goals or spring cleaning. Today feels new, and I'm ready for something different. Like bed linens, sometimes we just need a fresh change. Here are some tips for bringing about a little welcome change into your life:

~ rearrange some furniture to give your rooms a fresh expression

~ change it up--change your menu, your linens, your shower curtains or bathroom towel theme, change the fragrance you wear or the fragrance which enhances your home

~ if you usually bake banana bread, try zucchini instead :-)

~ if you're tired of old habits, change them. Nothing changes until something changes. Commit and go for it.

Just some thoughts this first morning of April. And though it's snowing today, (!!) I know it'll be feeling like springtime soon. Our pet bird is flapping around, splashing in her water dish. She knows it's time for a change of seasons and a little freshening of her feathers. Change is in the air.