Sunday, June 9, 2013

He Who Is Without Sin

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

This verse from John 8 has been preached on, read and even sung (Rebecca St. James) in my presence many times. Often, I have heard it preached in such a way as to solidify me in the place as one of those that is not without sin. It would be referenced in a lesson that was to defend the cause to not judge one another.

Today I heard this verse and for the first time I realized that 'He who is without sin" was present in that scenario! Jesus not only was sending away those who could not pass judgment, but was showing himself as safe, one who knows our sin problem and would not leave us. "He knows our sin, to our weakness is no strange"

How safe to know that God, as though we are constantly being brought before Him with our sinful transgressions against us, not only sends away our Accuser but says to us, "Neither do I condemn you". If there is anyone who is without sin, has the ability to judge, it would be Him, yet for those covered by His Blood we hear him say, 'I know what you've done and I see the sin that you are struggling with, yet I do not condemn you'.
Go and sin no more
He said "I will not condemn you,
I'll forgive and I'll forget it all
Go and sin no more
My child, let me remind you it
is I who'll lead and guide you as you go"
~ Rebecca St. James

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Not the same thing

The importance of a daily quiet time has been impressed upon me since the early day of middle school church camp. I have yet to be consistently faithful to a daily quiet time and already  I'm learning that God desires more than reading the Word. It sounds obvious, but acknowledging that prayer isn't synonymous with reading the Bible, is a big eye-opener for me.

The easy solution would be to say that prayer can happen any time, any place, with eyes open, closed, head bowed or while driving down the road. While this type of prayer is beneficial, I have yet to experience, on a routine basis, true confession and intersession in my communication with God. There must be an intentional time before the Lord where I seek to claim His will for my life.

As cliche as it may sound, true communion with God is too important to not take time for. For reasons that don't have to be explained to us, God has established Kingdom on an ask/ receive economy (James 4:3). This means realizing that there are things that God could have in store for my marriage, family and spiritual growth that simply aren't because I haven't asked.

It's time that I begin seeing things through God's economy and merely stop getting through with my daily Bible time,skipping out on the deeper communion with God that is available to me.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Return. Remain.

Feelings of familiarity are such a blessing and familiarity with Scripture, proves to be a solid anchor.

The new TV series on the History channel "The Bible" had me following along through Genesis to Exodus with the portrayal of Abraham, Lot and Noah. One particular verse, in Genesis 19 really stood out to me:

"Early the next morning 
Abraham got up and 
to the place where he had
stood before the Lord"

Morning Bible time has more or less been a familiar habit in my life for many seasons. Each day lending itself to unique struggles- yet cultivating roots, nonetheless. Proving more of God's faithfulness in teaching, than an ability for me to present myself before Him daily. 

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus provides the example of getting up early (Mark 1:35) to go before the Father. It's the familiarity to this meeting that serves as both the blessing and the anchor. Genesis 18:22:

"...but Abraham 
standing before the Lord"

"Remain in Me and I will remain in you.
No branch can bear fruit by itself;
it must remain in the vine.
Neither can you bear fruit
unless you remain in Me" -John 15:4

No matter where I find myself, how close or distant I feel to the Lord the words 'return' and 'remain' will always serve as poignant reminders of the anchor and familiarity that is continually offered in the Lord. 

"You can never fall too far, so fast, so far that you can't get back when you're lost. Where you are is never too late, so bad, so much that you can't change" - Unspoken "Who you Are"

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Be Human

The following post, title included, is an excerpt from John Ortberg's "The Me I Want to be".

"In the church, we have a sin problem.

The problem is not that we sin- everyone has that problem. Our problem is that we can't talk about it. We are comfortable with stories about people who used to sin, and people often get invited to give testimonies as long as they have happy endings... I used to have a problem, but then I met God, and now I'm doing much better.

Imagine going to see a counselor and saying, 'I only want to talk about the problems I used to have. Please do not ask me to acknowledge any current problems. It would be embarrassing. I'm afraid you might reject me.' ... Why would anyone go to church to try to convince the people there that they don't need a church?"

The author then goes on to give an example of a small group that he was in with a group of young married men. The guys met regularly until one week a friend didn't show. His absence led to the uncovering of a compulsive gambling problem this individual had struggled with for years. John questioned how had his own need to look better that he really was contribute to a culture of superficiality. Concluding that what should have been a place of greatest safety and healing was not.

"David was Israel's greatest king- but he was also a polygamist. He was a terrible father. He coveted another man's wife, committed adultery with her, attempted to deceive her husband, eventually had the husband murdered, and covered up his crime for a year. He was a liar, an adulterer, a coveter, and a murderer. As a friend of mine noted, no one at the time was wearing a "What Would David Do?" bracelet.

Yet he was called a man after his [God's] own heart.

Is it possible for someone to be struggling so deeply with sin and yet still long for God at the same time?

I heard a Christian leader speak about the two great sins that plagued his spiritual life. One was that there were times when he was on an airplane and was not as bold in witnessing to the passenger next to him as Jesus would have been. His other confession was that there were times when his mind wandered while he was praying. He expressed great angst over these sins.

What hope does that leave for those of us who, as the author Anne Lamott says, do things that make Jesus want to drink gin out of the cat dish? Even in writing this, I confront a strange problem. If a pastor confesses to serious sin, people think he should leave the pastorate. If he only confesses to safe, non-scandalous sins, people think he is inauthentic and hypocritical. So at this moment I find myself wanting to make some confession that will look vulnerable and honest, yet not be so scandalous as to cost me my job. I cannot confess sin without sinning in the act.

You don't have to be victorious to join Alcoholics Anonymous- just needy. There are no 'recovered addicts,' only people in the process of recovering, because as soon as sobriety leads to self-righteousness, for disaster to come is just a matter of time.

However, relationships grow deep when people become real, which is to say, honest about the sin that is common to us all."

The Spirit Flows in Transparency, So Come As You Are

"In writing to this early community of believers, the apostle Paul said, "Accept one another then just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God." Acceptance is more than being liked by someone. Jesus didn't say, "clean up a little bit, if you just dress better, read the Bible more, then I'll let you into my family." Of course He is going to help me become my best self, but I don't have to pretend to be any better than I am to be in Jesus' circle. How did Jesus accept you? Just the way you are. When someone knows the embarrassing, humiliating, truth about me and still accepts me, I come alive."

"The gift of confession is that I can only be loved to the extent that I am known. In this community of believers gathered around the cross, there is no room for pedestals. In the Bible, marriage (along with other relationships) is not the fulfillment of our dreams; it is a place where we learn."

I am truly thankful, that in this season, the One whose name is Faithful and True, has used relationships and circumstances to teach me. "Jesus will always lead us toward growth, and growth always requires risk, and risk always means failure. So Jesus is always leading us toward failure. But He never gives up on a student because he or she fails. He will never stop helping a follower of His who is sincerely seeking to grow."
How unfortunate it would be to measure my success based on current circumstances and feelings. The danger of a prosperity Gospel, is failing to see with the eyes of faith, that fruitful branches will be, and are being, pruned (John 15:2).

Just as I am, without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me... And now-to glory in Your cross, O Lamb of God, I come.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Faithful One

"The one who calls you is faithful and He will do it."
1 Thessalonians 5:24

The one who created you is faithful
"So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good."
1 Peter 4:19

The one who is with you is faithful
"I will fear no evil, for you are with me" Psalm 23:4
"The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." Zephaniah 3:17

The one who instructs me is faithful
"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you." Psalm 32:8

The one who forms my heart is faithful
"From His dwelling place He watches all who live on earth- He who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do."
Psalm 33:14-15

The one who is my shield is faithful
"The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him and I am helped." Psalm 28:7

The one who loves me is faithful
"Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love; according to your great compassion, blot out my transgressions" Psalm 51:1

The one who is my strength is faithful
"O Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in times of distress." Isaiah 33:2

The one who is my life is faithful
"When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory." Colossians 3:4

The one on whom I wait is faithful
"By faith Abraham, even though he was past age- and Sarah herself barren- was enabled to become a father because he considered Him faithful who had made the promise." Hebrews 11:11
"And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised." Hebrews 6:15

Just as I am, I would be lost; but mercy and grace my freedom cost. And now to glory in your cross, O Lamb of God I come.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

painful now, but later on

John 13:3-8, 14&15

"Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power and that He had come from God and was returning to God; so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to Him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"

Jesus replied, "You do not realize what I am doing, but later you will understand."

"No," said Peter, "You shall never wash my feet."

Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me."

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set for you an example that you should do as I have done for you."

Hebrews 12: 7-11

"Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline) then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit the the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."

In both circumstances Jesus takes the time to address the alternative; 'Unless I wash you' and 'if you are not disciplined ', It is by this we 'become true sons' and 'have a part with Him'.

We do not realize what Jesus is doing. Be it in the form of humility that comes from washed feet, or through painful discipline; with the Lord there is always the hope and motivation of a 'later on'.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

from life's first cry to final breath

In recent months I have been exposed to both life's first cry and the final breath.

My grandmother's final breaths took place after the removal of life support. I witnessed through a phone call, the singing of "It is Well" by other family members around her bed. I also heard the struggle as her body gasped for air, painfully unaware of the blissful home that was so imminent. A step into the land of the living.

Just this past week I was able to visit a friend in the hospital who had just given birth. I heard, as the father proudly showed off the video, the first cry of life as their son was welcomed into the world. A step into the land of the dying.

My father has often quoted to us such a paradox: At birth we enter 'the land of the dying' and with our departure, enter 'the land of the living'. As Francis Chan said in one of his books, "I'm not being morbid, just realistic." Such a realization ought to be received with the humility spoken of in Micah 6:8.

No Psalm better conveys to me the reality of what this life is, than Psalm 90.

"Lord, You have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born
or You brought forth the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting You are God.

You turn men back to dust,
saying, "Return to dust, O sons of men."
For a thousand years in Your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.

You sweep men away in the sleep of death;
they are like the new grass of the morning-
though in the morning it springs up new,
by the evening it is dry and withered.

We are consumed by Your anger
and terrified by Your indignation.
You have set our iniquities before You,
our secret sins in the light of Your presence.

All our days pass away under Your wrath;
we finish our years with a moan.
The length of our days is seventy years-
or eighty, if we have the strength;
yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

Who knows the power of Your anger?
For Your wrath is as great as the fear that is due You.

Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Relent, O Lord! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
Satisfy us in the morning with Your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Make us glad for as many days as You have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.
May Your deeds be shown to Your servants,
Your splendor to their children.

May the favor of our God rest upon us;
establish the work of our hands for us-
yes, establish the work of our hands. "

"From life's first cry, to final breath Jesus commands my destiny. No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand. Until He returns, or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I stand." -In Christ Alone, Keith and Kristyn Getty