Tag Archives: grace

Identity Theft

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What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Romans 7:24-25a

We live in a world of sin, and as Christians, somehow expect ourselves not to sin. I don’t know about you, but when I mess up I will fret for days about my mistake. Growing up my parents rarely had to discipline me because I would punish myself. Despite our constant self-applied guilt trips and sin’s attempts to rob us of our true identity, God expects us to live in freedom through His grace.

In Romans 7 Paul seems to ramble on and on about sin, the law, and the new way of the Spirit. I never quite understood this chapter until I read a Girlfriends in God devotion by Sharon Jaynes. Jaynes describes an untrained volunteer applying drywall. After hours of doing the job correctly he accidentally switches his power tool to reverse, and doesn’t understand why the screws won’t go into the drywall. The lesson here is that sometimes the problem is us and our sinful nature. We feel we can’t get ahead no matter how hard we try, and sometimes it comes down to resetting our direction through repentance.

There are a few things we should be aware of before over-analyzing our mistakes:

  1. We have direct access to grace and mercy. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
  2. From the time Adam and Eve sinned sin has lived within mankind, including you and me. (Romans 7:17-18)
  3. Despite the sin living within us we are a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

If you have given your life to Christ by repenting, declaring that Jesus is your Lord and Savior, and being baptized then these three things are true. What is your response to this? Often my response is to hide in fear of judgment, but that is not what God called us to do. No, He has already given us enough grace to cover our sins if we choose to repent daily. I believe the first step to repentance is believing their is an end result of forgiveness. The second is knowing that, because sin lives within us, we will sin despite our best efforts. Paul says in Romans 7, “Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”

Friends, God shows you unlimited grace. Show yourselves some. Instead of fretting about mistakes you’ve made, admit to making them, repent to God, and move on in freedom.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.

Ephesians 2:8

I would like to thank Sharon Jaynes of Girlfriends in God who continues to inspire me with daily devotions, and to Robert and Marcia Scott, faithful and redeemed, for their sermon on Grace this last Sunday at Great Commission Christian Church in Richmond, California. You can listen to their sermon at http://www.gccubed.org. You are God’s mouthpiece in a broken world.

Heavenly Father, Your grace is more than sufficient. Remind us to turn from our sin daily, not by the law of Moses which we are sure to fail, but by loving you wholeheartedly and repenting genuinely. Help us to let go of our past and embrace our present, never missing a moment of joy for the fear of judgment. For Your unending, unconditional love, we thank you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Hide and No Seek

When God created man he was free to do anything but eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Of course, we all know that they did eat from it, and then tried to hide from God. All too often we do the same.

I can think of 3 main reasons we hide from God:

1. We don’t want Him to see our sin. This is when we do the same as Adam and Eve. We hide because we are ashamed/guilty and afraid of the consequences. If you have been around kids you know this is often what they do. ‘I don’t want a spanking so I will hide under the table.’ Mom and dad are ripping them away from the table leg in order to properly discipline them. Why are we doing the very things we find so juvenile?

Lord, help me humble myself before you in confession and repentance (turning away from sin), that I may accept your grace and mercy to forgive me. May your Holy Spirit convict my heart of those sins I have committed but not realized, that I could confess and repent of even those. Amen.

2. We are afraid of our calling. If you’ve truly lived a life after God’s own heart he’s asked you to do some difficult things. I remember once I was at a conference of all pastors. I was the furthest thing from a pastor, but my pastor cared enough to take me with him that night. At the end of the service some of the pastors were going through the crowd to pray for each person. Suddenly a pastor stopped at me and placed his hands on my shoulders. He prayed in tongues so I wasn’t sure of what he said. Then he looked up and said, “God says… Does that mean anything to you?” At that moment I knew I had been healed from a condition I felt was destined to get worse.

Here I am in a crowd of people I don’t know. The service is ending. It’s late at night and people want to get home, and God calls me to go on stage and give my testimony in front of that huge crowd. I told God no, but just as the doors were opening for the crowd to leave I ran up to the stage and asked to speak. I faithfully gave my testimony, and I have been healed ever since. I don’t know why God called me to do that. Maybe it was to encourage someone in the crowd, or maybe it was just so I could hear myself say that God healed me. I will never know, but I am glad I had the willingness to obey instead of hiding from the call to share.

Lord, help me remember what you have already said to me. Let the Holy Spirit remind me of just how I fit into your plan. Help me except that my calling may seem impossible, but that it is also HIMpossible. I need not hide from what you know to be best for me. Amen.

3. We don’t know we are hiding. This past weekend I attended the BASS Convention at Redwood Chapel Christian Church in Castro Valley, California. I had the pleasure of hearing a message from Pastor Derwin Gray of Transformation Church, South Carolina. He said something along the lines of, if you are going to church four times a week you have to ask yourself if you are hiding in your church. God told us to reach the unreached and the Christ-less. So why are we hiding in church? It seems good to go to prayer meeting, Bible study, cell group, Sunday service, but when do you really reach outside those four walls to reach the brokenhearted, the needy, the abused? When was the last time you served someone outside your church, shared the Gospel through your actions, prayed for a coworker? God does not live in a building. When He talks about the church He is not referring to the building. He is referring to the people in the building who have the Holy Spirit IN them. In them. That means you can go out on the streets, whether it be in the inner city, overseas, or in your own neighborhood and live out the Gospel and make that your church.

I’m not saying to stop going to church. I’m only saying that perhaps Christians should change their perspective to see everywhere they go as a place needing God, needing the Holy Spirit, and since Jesus tells us the Holy Spirit lives in us, guess what, we get to it bring wherever we go. Let me say it again. Wherever you are is your church, is where you share the Gospel by your actions and your words, and where you give Him the glory. Notice Jesus did most of his teaching outside the four walls of a church. We find him teaching at a well, on a boat, at a home, (and yes) in a temple. Did He ever stop teaching?

Lord, how I want to step out of the safety of my church and into the mission field. I dedicate my time, resources, heart, and mind to the unreached and the Christless. Give me strength to face the unknown, the difficult questions, a cruel and unkind world, and live a life after Jesus, an extraordinary life where I can see your work unveiled. Amen.

 

If you are hiding you may as well give up because it just looks silly to God. It’s like hiding behind an open window. He is all-seeing, all-knowing, all-LOVING.

If you think of another reason people hide, or you would like to share your own struggle or triumph in this area, please leave a comment below.

Resolve to Resolve

This past Sunday my church continued it’s tradition of having a giving thanks service on the last Sunday of the year. Pastor Joseph sent out an email a day or two before prompting us to come prepared with what we wanted to share with the congregation. As I reflected I realized the thing I am most thankful for in 2013 is the breakthrough I had forgiving my dad. From the outside it might have appeared that my dad and I had a great relationship. My dad always hugs me, we go father-daughter dates, we tell inside jokes, but inside I held on to the times my dad hurt me. To be close to my dad meant the risk of reopening past wounds. In Spring 2013 I was home for a visit with my parents. What started out as a lovely day of kayaking ended in the reopening of my festering wound. Even though my dad had been calm and collected most of the day one little bout of frustration brought back thoughts of unforgiven arguments.

I’ve heard people say, and probably uttered the very words myself, “Why should I forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it?” The very definition of forgiveness implies that the pardon is undeserved. Through the gentle guidance and counsel of my pastor’s wife Marlin I was able to recognize that much of my physical and emotional pain stemmed from the grudges I held against my dad. Not only was I holding him in bondage but myself. To break the chains of unforgiveness would grant us both freedom, but I could not gain freedom without also granting him freedom. It is like a prison guard shackled to a prisoner. In order for him to be free he must also set the prisoner free. What a predicament!

In my pain and struggle to forgive, in my moment of desperation on that spring day, I went in my parents’ guest room, opened my Bible, and prayed. I don’t remember exactly what I prayed, but when I came out I slowly ate my dinner in silence and let the Holy Spirit stir within me. Afterward I knocked on my dad’s bedroom door, “Can I come in?” I sat next to him on the bed and tried pouring out my heart in my own heartfelt words, but it didn’t seem to sink in to him how hard this conversation was for me. Finally I looked him in the eyes, I had no words to speak and yet my lips spoke, “Dad, you know the Bible front to back. You know the men of the Bible are remembered not for being perfect, but for being changed. I don’t want you to be remembered as a man who wouldn’t change.” I’ve never seen a tear come to my dad’s eye before that day except maybe one other occasion, but I like to think I saw a tear that evening. After our conversation I had to leave to make the trek back to the Bay Area. It hurt to leave it like that, but as I drove home I heard the song “Changed” by Rascal Flatts. I knew God had already begun His work in my dad’s heart, but just as importantly He had begun His work in my heart. Not only has my dad been changed, but we have both been set free.

Due to privacy I didn’t want to reveal what exactly I forgave my dad for, but I do want to clarify it was typical father-daughter stuff, nothing major. However I do want to stress that God wants us to forgive even the harshest of hurts.

My Aunt Wanda told me to watch the video clip below. She was very moved and inspired by this man’s ability to forgive. I hope you are too.

Is there someone deserving or, more importantly, undeserving who you need to forgive? Take a moment to ask the Holy Spirit to help you start. It’s the best New Year’s resolution. I guarantee it.

On Earth Peace, Goodwill Toward Men

Tonight I attended Christmas Eve service with my family. As with any such service the story of the first Christmas was told from scripture. Luke 2:13-14 was read, “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” I pondered this scripture throughout the service.
First, what are heavenly hosts? According to Wikipedia “heavenly hosts” are a large army of good angels. This makes sense because right before the verses above Scripture describes an angel giving the message of the King’s birth to the shepherds. After the angel had finished the heavenly hosts joined the angel to praise the Lord.
The second point I pondered was why were they saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men?” Of all the things they could say, why was this what they chose to say, that for which they praised God? Tonight’s sermon highlighted the message the angel brought, “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” Of course the newborn King would bring good tidings of great joy. After all, He is our Savior, our Messiah, our Immanuel (God with us). As I think about the praise of the heavenly hosts I can see why they praise God for the King he sent; why they speak of the peace that will come over all the earth with the presence of this new King, for Jesus is the provider of peace that passes all understanding. But why do the heavenly hosts say, “goodwill toward men.” Perhaps the reason I didn’t understand is because I didn’t fully understand the definition of “goodwill.” Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “goodwill” as “a kindly feeling of approval and support : benevolent interest or concern.” God sent His son to be born fully human and fully God because he had a genuine interest and concern for His people. He was willing to give Himself as a sacrifice for our sins.
Because of these verses I have examined a bit of God’s character a little more deeply than before. He is a compassionate and generous giver of love, peace, grace, and mercy, and He NEVER desires for us to hold onto guilt and shame. Those things are from Satan and from our own misunderstanding. If he wanted us to struggle with guilt and shame He would have never sent his precious son. If there is a bit of guilt or shame, residue from past sins, and you have genuinely confessed and repented, remember that to deny His forgiveness is to say His sacrifice is not enough. Let the healing begin today because Christmas is about the peace and goodwill God provides which came in the form of a baby King.

My Testimony – Part 1

As you may have read in “The Author” page, I have been in the church since I was about 7 years old. Though I have attended church for the past 25 years, my road has not been straight. As the Rascal Flatts song goes “God blessed the broken road.” Though I did not walk on a straight path, God was always with me and in the hardest of times I found that He was the only constant, my loyal partner and guide. It’s hard to admit you are wrong, to accept His grace and mercy, but when we enter into a place of humility we can fully experience the depth and width of His love. 

Always an innocent and a late bloomer, college hit me like a ton of lead. If you throw a ton of lead onto a paper boat what do you think happens? That’s kind of what happened to me, but as I was sinking I always looked up through the layers of heavy water to the one thing I knew was true. Temptations and peer pressure sunk this paper boat, but at the floor of this ocean people gathered around me to push me back up to the surface. A great mentor, Kim Davis, who I showed little to no appreciation to at the time kept me from scraping my hull on the ocean floor. And as she exited another Kim and her husband Michael entered giving me the most non-judgmental encouragement possible. This refining process was not an overnight job. It took many years, many miracles, and many people to bring this boat to the surface. 

Now that I am back afloat God is strengthening this paper boat through His Word, His children, and prayer. God knows I have a long way to go, but he uses this paper vessel everyday, if I allow it, to speak life and truth into others. Who knows? Maybe one day this soggy paper will be a giant barge for Jesus.