Monday, November 19, 2012

Do You Believe Me?

“Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?
If I am telling you the truth why don’t you believe me?”
John 8:46

A few years ago we baby sat a 7-month-old chocolate lab for one of our sons. She was a precious dog because she had a sensitive conscience. When we were gone for awhile and then came home, she would respond one of two ways. If she had been good, she would run to us and jumps up on us, putting her front paws on either side of our waists for hugs. It was a literal hug--we know this because when she saw my husband and I hug she pushed us apart and “hugged” each of us! If she had behaved badly, by unrolling a roll of toilet paper, dumping a trash over, or chewing on a shoe she would head to the back door when we walked in the front door with tail between her legs. She looked so pitiful with her head down. I have known people who had the same kind of conscience Hazel did. No one has to confront them, because they tell on themselves. I have also known a couple of people who were caught in sin and so guilty, but they could throw out words like the verse above and challenge any one who didn’t believe their lies. The above verse was spoken by Christ who invited people to examine His life to be He is who He says He is — both God and man.

Look at the first part of the statement. Christ invited the crowds who were against Him to prove Him guilty of sin? I don’t know about you, but the idea of saying that to someone causes me to cringe. Others would not have to try hard to find the sin in my life. If they followed me around, they could see just how often my motives are selfish. They would not have to wait long to hear an unkind word or gossip slip out of my mouth. They would not have to wait too long to see that I spend more time seeking love rather than giving it freely. They would not have to talk to me for long before some hint of a disrespectful attitude or doubtful spirit surfaced.

On the other hand, think about Christ who was perfect. Nothing He did was wrong. He never had to apologize for His actions or words. He did the right thing every time at the right time. There was not a word that came out of His mouth that was rude, crude, untruthful, slanderous, or backbiting. He never had to apologize for a word hastily spoken in anger and never had to feel the sting of regretting words he could not retract. He never related to others in sinful ways. He always loved them and treated even the most sinful and sick with dignity and respect. He was gentle and kind and went out of His way to offer forgiveness. Even though He spoke strongly to the Pharisees, He was forthright and had the authority to confront them because they were religious leaders who were keeping others in bondage with their burdensome rules. As a man, He never touched or looked at woman in a way that and made her feel uncomfortable or used. He showed women affection without any impropriety. He never had to confess adultery or lust. He never lashed out in anger. He never had to be thankful no one could read His thoughts. He never had to confess sin. He never had to ask forgiveness for breaking a promise or doing something late. He continued to persevere in love in the face of misunderstanding, face of slander being hurled at Him. He loved those who denied and betrayed Him. He loved in the face of hatred, facing His own death with courage. He laid down His life so He could reconcile us to the Father.

Since no one could prove Him guilty of sin, it is odd that sometimes we have difficulty believing His word. Think of some of His promises and invitations. Come boldly to throne of grace in your time of need.” How often do we wait because we are ashamed and we come timidly with our head hung down like our dog did? When I read the words “come boldly” I think of a little child who has been nurtured and is so confident in his parents’ love that no matter what he does he runs to them expecting acceptance and joy on his arrival. I knew a student that could not believe someone would not rejoice over him and everything he did. I always wondered if how I perceived him was accurate and if he knew he came across that way. Then when he shared his testimony he said that he thought He was the coolest person before he came to know the Lord and learned to recognize his sin. He shared that after coming to know Jesus, he knew he wasn't so cool, but He was loved sacrificially by God. We can approach God with that kind of confidence only when we are humble enough to recognize it is because of what Jesus did that we have access to Him. He meets us where we are at, not because we are “cool” but because He is faithful to His promises.

I have a really hard time wrapping my mind around Christ’s perfection. I don’t know how to even describe it. But, I know it helps me believe what He says in His word. I know He will never leave me or forsake me, because He doesn’t lie. He forgives me, because He said it is finished as He died in my place on the cross. I believe Him when He says I am a work in progress and He is not finished with me yet, because He is faithful. I believe Him when He says He delights in me and sings joyful songs over me!

I am thankful the sinless One took on my sin and died in my place, bearing the Father’s wrath for me. His actions tell me I am worth dying for. Have you examined His life through the gospels? Do you believe He is who He said He is? Do you rest in His great love and offer Him a sacrifice of praise? If you doubt, it is okay…examine the Word and allow it to strengthen your faith! He is trustworthy and true!

Prayer: Father we praise You for You holiness. We praise you because no word You spoke was ever
spoken in haste…always timely and appropriate. We praise You as the sinless one who loved in through Your actions and in the ways You related. You were bold in your love and in the way you confronted sin. By comparison we are sinful and rely solely on your grace. Thank you for taking our shame and giving us your righteousness. Please help us reflect your character. Thank You for the promise of completing what you have begun in us. Amen.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Escaping the Snares

“And the Lord’s bondservant must not be quarrelsome,
but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 
with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, 
if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the 
knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and 
escape from the snares of the devil, 
having been held captive by him to do his will."  
2 Timothy 3:24-26

Have you ever found yourself in a situation in which you repeatedly tried to make something work, but couldn’t? I was in that situation when I first started playing computer games. I would try a game and when I would lose it I would try again and again. I didn't know why I continued to fail until I watched my daughter, who was 10 at the time, play “Pac Man.” As I watched her, I noticed she tried something new at each stage of the game until she had gone through every level and obtained a high score, where as I tried the same thing over and over.
As I look back at my life, I realize I have struggled with the same sinful pattern repeatedly and tried repeatedly to resolve them, but I had been trying to resolve them the same way and my way didn't work. I felt like a failure and wondered if I would ever be able to overcome besetting sin. I would commit to stopping something every morning during my quiet time, but by evening I had done the very thing I had committed to stopping. It was like being trapped in a snare. I realized I was trying to stop simply because I knew I should, but I didn’t really have godly sorrow over the sin or a heartfelt desire to give it up. I just tried to do it because it was the right thing to do. The above verse contains an important principal dealing with growth and besetting sin.      
First, I need to understand God is the one who works repentance in our hearts. Sometimes we are given to feelings of deep shame for not being more godly. It is often at those times that we try to muster up strength within ourselves to overcome sinful patterns, only to find we fail over and over. We may also find ourselves wanting to give up a sin and holding on to it at the same time, ashamed of this ambivalence. It was when I meditated on this verse I realized repentance is a grace God extends to us. As we confess to God and ask Him to cleanse us, He begins that cleansing by granting us repentance--a change of mind about sin with which we struggle. As we bring to Him the struggle of our ambivalence, God can quiet the desire for sin and help us overcome it. He will eventually change our love for specific sins to a hatred for it. Repentance has as its core God’s goodness and God's love manifested in us. As we grow to love God and others, we grow in our desire not to hurt God or His creation and we sin less. Shaming ourselves never helps us overcome sin, but focusing on God and how we can demonstrate love to Him and others does. As we catch glimpses of His holiness we will be compelled to confess our sin, crying out to Him for victory.     
Secondly, understanding God grants repentance will help us as we relate to people. Some of my struggle has been in relational patterns pf confronting someone in my power and having the relationship remain the same. God has called us to confront, but if nothing changes, we need to look at how we confront. We need to realize a confrontation is useless if we don’t bathe it in prayer and love. We should pray for our own heart, so we approach another in humility, love, and gentleness and are not trapped in the sins of a critical spirit, bitterness of heart, and contempt. Then we should also pray for the heart of the other before we approach, that God would prepare their heart for repentance. It is never the words we speak that changes a heart, it is the Holy Spirit's work of grace. We are simply to obey God as humble, loving truth speakers and then let Him work in the heart of the person. We too often want try to induce an immediate change, but if we do it in our own power and timing, the change is usually external and temporary. If we bathe the process in prayer and leave the results to God, He can transform the person’s heart and the change invoked will be internal and work out in an external way we can see. We also need to confront with God’s truth, because His truth is what the Holy Spirit uses to convict and set free.  
As we contemplate God's Word we want to ask ourselves, "Am I trying to muster growth and overcome sin in my own power or am I seeking the Lord, prayerfully reading His word? Am I confessing my sin and allowing Him to work an act of grace in my heart, resulting in true repentance?Am I praying for those I need to confront? Am I willing to be God’s messenger, letting Him do the necessary work in their heart?" We can tell the answer to the last question, by how responsible we feel for the person’s choices. Let us remember to not get in the middle of the relationship God wants to develop with another person. Let us continually encourage each other to love God and to seek to bring Him honor and glory by our lifestyles. 

Prayer: Lord than you for working in us an act of repentance that caused us to change from unbelievers living for ourselves to believers living for you. Please continue to reveal our sin to us and help us to be honest and to confess our sin so you might continually work acts of repentance that cause us to become more like you. 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!