Monday, October 26, 2009

Unashamed and Testifying

"So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me, His prisoner. 
But join with me in sufferings for the gospel by the power of God, who has saved us 
and called us to a holy life--not because of anything we have done, 
but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus
 before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light
 through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher."
2 Timothy 1:8-11

In these verses Paul instructs Timothy to not be ashamed of the testimony of Jesus Christ. That may seem odd unless we keep in mind that the Jewish community often associated suffering with unconfessed sin and the early church suffered because of their faith. However, Paul knew that although God’s Son did not sin, He suffered tremendously during His life on earth. He suffered even more in His death because He paid for our sin. To demonstrate His love, Christ took on our shame and our sin and gave us His righteousness! I hope our desire is to not be ashamed to speak His name or to testify of His love and goodness. If we ever find ourselves in a situation in which we are ashamed I hope we will figure out way and turn back quickly. When we hurt, I hope we will rest in His love and comfort, praising Him in the pain. I hope we will never be afraid or ashamed to be mocked, ridiculed, or rejected for His name's sake because Jesus was not ashamed to call us friends, to be mocked, ridiculed, and rejected for us.

These verses point out how Christ abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. I remember receiving an email that said one of the men from a former church needed prayer. His 21-year-old daughter had gotten spinal meningitis and died very unexpectedly. They are a family who loves God. I want to quote a part of the email Glen sent out when she died. “"Britt is with the living and loving Lord, celebrating in wonderment the beauties of His heart, His hands, and His works --"This day you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43) -- "In Thy presence in fullness of joy; In thy right hand there are pleasures forever" (Psalm 16:11) -- God delighted in her homecoming and welcomed her -- "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints." (Psalm 116:15). Though we grieve (in the mist of a supernatural peace that under girds my family at this time), we do not grieve as those who have no hope (I Thessalonians 4:13), for we will join her in His future -- many lessons learned, many changes made upon us, miracles of comfort abounded -- the goodness of His heart and tenderness of His care was so obvious to my family, in the midst of anguish, despair, and sorrow…"

I have not seen Brittany's parents for years, but we have heard her dad, Glen, preach and know He loves God with all of His heart, soul, and mind. He has led many people to the Lord and will continue to do so. Because of Christ's resurrection, we each have the same hope Glen expressed in his letter. The pain and suffering in this world will be nothing compared to the fullness of God he will experience with Him in glory. In this life all of us will grieve, but we will not grieve as people without eternal hope. Because of Christ, our grief will not turn to despair, but it will lead us into a deeper intimacy with the God who passionately loves us! It will make us homesick for heaven.

Salvation is not just fire insurance to save us from hell. While we never want to get over the fact that in love Jesus took God's wrath for our sin, we remember He called us with a Holy calling according to His purpose and grace. Each of us has been called to grow in holiness and to develop and use the gifts Christ gave us. If we seek Him with all of our hearts He will reveal Himself and His plans. As we offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God, there is no safer place to be than in the center of His will. God may lead us to become a missionaries, teach school, come along side the hurting, encourage others to trust God, or exhort others to follow Him more intently. Maybe you will lead a person bound in sin into a relationship with the Creator. You don't need to wait until "you grow up" or until you are perfect, for God to use you. Life will knock you around and hurt at times, but in the center of His will, there is hope, purpose, peace, and courage to face whatever comes your way. I encourage you to reflect on Christ's life, death and resurrection and ask Him to reveal His purpose for Your life and then live life unashamedly knowing He holds you in His hand.

Prayer: Father, I praise You for abolishing death’s sting. Thank you for the tremendous testimony Glen has had over the years. Father, I also pray that each of us would be unashamed of the gospel of Christ, that we would willingly suffer loss for the sake of spreading Your word. Please give us the courage to proudly proclaim Your truth and testimony of Your love to those at home, at school, our neighborhoods, and even to those in our youth groups and churches that might need to be reminded. Teach us each to use the gifts and answer the calling to a life of service and a life of love. Amen.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Justified By Grace

"After the suffering of His soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied, by His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, and He will bear their iniquities."
Isaiah 53:11

The early morning air was still damp and chilly as Christ entered the temple. He sat down as a crowd began gathering around Him and He began teaching them from the scriptures. All of a sudden the sound of His strong clear voice was drowned out by a group of angry men as they drug a scantily dressed woman into the temple. A thud was heard as they thrust her into the midst of the crowd at the Saviors feet. There she sat trembling, both from fear and the cold with her eyes cast down, her countenance displaying the shame with which she was filled. Claiming they had caught her in the act of adultery, they pelted Jesus with questions, asking if they should stone her as the law required. He glanced around the crowd for the man of being caught with her, but he was nowhere to be found. She alone lay crumpled at His feet.

As Jesus looked into the face of the woman, His heart burned with compassion. He knew she was burdened by the weight of her sin and she had been trying to meet her needs in ways that would never satisfy a hungry, broken heart. Just as her partner used her for his own selfish needs and disappeared, leaving her to bear the brunt of their sin, Christ discerned she was being used again--this time by pious religious leaders. Their real problem was with Him and they were using her to trap Him. As the questions kept coming, Jesus bent over and wrote in the sand. The crowd grew quiet. If He were to tell them to set the woman free, He would be accused of not following the law. If He were to tell them the woman should be stoned, the people shackled by sin would be afraid to come to Him. He stood to face the leaders. Unwilling to play into their hands, He spoke quietly, but firmly. His words echoed into the stillness of the morning and into the coldness of their hearts; "He who has not sinned may cast the first stone." He sat down and again and continued to write with his finger in the sand.

In the presence of the holy Savior, even the accusers' stony hearts began to burn with conviction. Maybe each was remembering their sin or maybe they were being convicted of their collective sin of using this woman for their agenda of trying to expose Christ as a fraud. As their consciences were stirred, one by one, from oldest to the youngest, the men stole away. In the light of Christ's righteousness, those who had exposed her sin, realized they were just as sinful as she was. After her accusers were gone, the broken woman was left alone in the midst of those who had sincerely come to learn from Jesus. She realized that out of all the men there that morning, Jesus was the only one who had the right to condemn her. The silence grew as the angry men departed and the rest of the crowd waited to see what He would do. He stopped writing and looked around as He asked, "Where did your accusers go? Is there no one left to condemn you?"

She responded quietly, "No one, Lord."

He looked at her intently, but kindly, "I do not condemn you either; go and sin no more."

As she turned to leave, she noticed something in Christ's eyes she had not expected to see. Where she had expected to see judgment, she saw grace and forgiveness. Where she had expected to see anger, she saw compassion. Where she had expected to see hatred, she saw love. Where she had expected to see condemnation, she saw acceptance. She knew that while He hated her sin, He hated more what her sin did to her. The dignity that had been stripped by her sin and her accusers was restored in that glance. She had looked into the eyes of God – the God who had every right to condemn her, but had chosen to forgive her. She did not realize until later that Jesus would be the one to die on the cross to pay for the sin He forgave. Even though His forgiveness was freely given, His act of mercy cost Him His life.

Just as Christ bore the sin of this woman, He has born our sin. If any of us were drug to a public setting and thrust at His feet as she was, we, too, would find forgiveness. When we fail and the enemy accuses us and tells us God can't forgive this time, we know Jesus paid for it all. When we are feeling the guilt and come expecting to find condemnation, we will always find grace! The look of disappointment we often expect will never be there. But, compassion and concern will be. He has promised to never push us away, no matter how bad we blow it. He has born all of our iniquity, and his arms and heart remain forever open to us. I want to make sure I fully understand God’s grace and the depth of my sin, so that I never become like the men who were so hateful to this woman. I want to always be someone to draw others into His presence for the right reasons.

Can you relate to any of the people in this account? May He draw you to His feet and may you rest in His grace and His love.

Prayer: Father, thank You for Your mercy and your grace. Thank You for Your compassion and Your love. Thank You for Your acceptance and for restoring us to a right relationship with You. Thank You for restoring our worth as people that You created with a purpose. Help us never take for granted the forgiveness that was so costly to You. May we demonstrate Your grace and mercy to those around us as we learn to forgive as you do…it may never cost us our life, but it could cost us our pride, our own sense of fairness, and our "right" not to be hurt again. Amen.


Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!