Tag Archives: sin

To Polish or Paint

As a newly engaged woman I am constantly obsessing over the sparkly ring on my finger, not because I’m materialistic but because it is a reminder of my fiancé’s love for and commitment to me. While slipping into my flats this morning I noticed how my ring glittered and glistened while my recently polished toenails were already chipped and dull. 

This one observation spurred me to think of and pray for those in my life who are experiencing hardship. We don’t know the reason for specific struggles and suffering, but we can trust that God uses these instances to bring us closer to Him and to polish us. Why does it take struggles and suffering to be polished? Well, like my toenails, if our flaws were simply painted over, we would just be back to our damaged selves right away, but God chooses to scrub off our blemishes and make us shiny and new. We don’t have to return to the dull-in-spirit sinners we were before. 

For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance. – Psalm 66:10-12

When I look back on the valley journey it took to get to this mountaintop joy-filled time of my life, I honestly don’t see how I could have gotten here without the many valleys along the way. In addition, I wouldn’t be the person I am now without those valley, those times of refinement and scrubbing. There were times I felt hopeless, worthless, and ashamed. If God had just painted over my sin instead of washing it away, I couldn’t be the wife and daughter he is making me to be. I might look nice, but I couldn’t love like Christ. 

The biggest lesson learned through suffering is this, His thoughts are higher than my thoughts and His ways are higher than my ways. We will never have all the answers to the “why me?” questions in life, but we aren’t meant to. We are meant to trust God and His process no matter how painful it is because we know He is good all the time…even when we can’t feel it. 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

Pray for someone who doesn’t have the strength to pray right now and reflect on the good that has come out of the worst in your life. 

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Whose Open Tomb?

With two upcoming baptisms just around the corner, I think it’s only appropriate to reflect on what it means to be baptized. What does it symbolize? And why should baptism be celebrated?

Just as a wedding is a ceremony representing a commitment between husband and wife, so is a baptism a ceremony representing a covenant between God and man. Baptism is such an important public declaration of commitment to Christ that Jesus commands it in the scripture many refer to as the Great Commission. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus says:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

If Jesus commanded his disciples to baptize, he wants the same for you and me. He wants us to proudly proclaim that he is our Lord and Savior.

The act of baptism symbolizes Jesus’ death for our sins and burial in the tomb, and his miraculous resurrection on the third day. This is why so many prefer to be immersed in water versus the “sprinkle” baptism. The symbolism is perhaps better experienced in the immersion baptism.

So if the idea is that we die to our old lives of sin, and experience a “spiritual resurrection” when we emerge from the water, then is Jesus’ tomb the only empty grave? If we are truly made new, no longer spiritually dead in our sin, and alive through the cleansing/forgiveness of our sins, then aren’t our graves just as empty as Jesus’?

Visualize this, on the day that you take your last breath on earth, after that breath, you are in a garden, your body has never felt more alive, your skin is flawless, your conscience clear, all you concern yourself with is praising the Father for who he is, not just what he’s done. You look up from your prayer and praise and see your friends approaching a grave. As you look closer, you notice that your name is engraved in the headstone, the date is today. How can you be seeing your own grave, covered in fresh soil, flowers tossed on top? How can it be?

Then you remember that day you decided to give your life to God. You remember the day you were baptized, the symbolism the pastor described. You are taken back to his words, “When she emerges from the water, it symbolizes Christ’s resurrection. Like Him she is made new, alive again, born again, adopted into Christ’s family, a child of God.” You immediately know why you are looking at your grave. There may be a body inside, but your spirit was resurrected the day you accepted Jesus as the forgiver of your sin. You proclaimed it through your baptism, and now you have a first class seat to seeing it completed. You realize how faithful the Father is, how you had taken this step of faith for granted all those years ago, but now you see the reality of your decision to make that covenant with Christ. Do you think you’d have any regrets?

Whose tomb is empty? Is it yours? If it isn’t, do you want to invite Jesus into your life, accept him as your Lord and Savior, forgiver of your sins? You can make that decision now. Just talk to Jesus. Tell him you want to make a covenant with him for eternal, forgiven life as a child of God.

Repentance: A Real Heart-Shifter

I’ll admit it. Even though I know God will make all things right, I still struggle with resentment and anger toward people that sin against God even though they know better. I realize that this is a character flaw, a sin, to point out the speck in another’s eye while I have a full grown sequoia log in mine, but I really take it personally when I see someone sinning with such determination. As you might imagine, bearing such a heavy load of disappointment and frustration can seem unbearable at times and can turn me into a person I really don’t like. To cope with all this pent up anger, I have discovered a solution.

Back in September of last year a member of my church created a 40 Days of Prayer and Fasting prayer plan for repentance and breakthrough for America. Included in this 40-day plan was repentance for various sins we ourselves have committed as well as those of our families, churches, state, and country. Through this repentance on behalf of others I found my perspective was changed. I struggled less with resentment and disgust for the sinner and felt more compassion and motivation to help.

I’m convinced that the enemy will use sin however he can to harm us. If you start feeling hate or disgust toward an individual that offended you and God, guess what. Satan will use that to produce more and more hate. Even if someone has offended God, He still calls us to love them. He even tells us He blesses the poor in spirit. He gives them the kingdom of heaven. How much more should we bless them? We are called to hate the sin, not the sinner. Oh, how hard that is to do, especially while watching the nightly news.

Perfect Father, we need your help. We are not perfect, and we live in a world that is not perfect. Lord, we know that this is not our home, but regardless of that You have put us here with a purpose. We are called to judge, but that judgment is directed at the sin, not the sinner. Lord, help us to love the least of these, the poor in spirit. Help us to bow our heads and thank You that You love us all. Change our perspectives as we say, ‘Heavenly Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do, and even if they do know what they do, Lord, forgive them and change their hearts.’ Cause a heart-shifting in us, that we may no longer resent, no longer hold grudges, but love the way that You love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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.

Purifier

Shame and guilt. Most likely, we have all experienced it. There is such thing as good shame and guilt, the kind that tells us not to do something that is bad for us, a conscience, if you will. And while good shame exists, I’m going to address the ugly shame and guilt that can linger for years if not treated by our Purifier.

This evening as I ran my bath I thought about purity. When I think of the word I think of something new, something just out of the packaging, unmarred, clean, fresh, a car with that new car smell. Those things are pure. While we are able to wash most things and bring them almost back to their pure status, do we ever consider purifying ourselves? Sometimes we are so wrapped up in the pain of our guilt and shame that we forget there is a way to not only bring ourselves almost back to pure status, but all the way back to pure status. We are not like the pure white snow that gets trampled and driven on, never to be clean again.

In Marilyn Hontz’s book Shame Lifter she describes toxic shame and how we can purify ourselves.

Shame likes to cover God’s truth with a wet, heavy blanket. It threatens to snuff out life. How was I going to throw back that wet, suffucating blanket? Only by believing and applying God’s truth.

In 1 John 1:9 apostle John writes “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” It doesn’t say that he will think about forgiving us or he will hold a grudge against us. No. It says he will forgive us. His forgiveness is guaranteed. To feel toxic shame is to let the guilt of wrongdoing penetrate into your identity. Hontz describes it as letting the external become part of the internal. And as she said in the above quote, we can only be freed by believing and applying God’s truth.

In his book Mr. Jones Meet the Master the late Peter Marshall a Scottish preacher and former chaplain of the United States Senate references this quote from The Historic Jesus: Facts or Fancies:

Christ has suffered for our sins. He has paid the penalty for us, so that there is therefore no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. He has, with His own blood, written “Paid” across the ledgers of Heaven.

Jesus’ blood shed for the atonement of our sins is more than enough to cleanse us of our wrongdoing, no matter how big or how little. To hold onto toxic shame is to deny this fact.

To get you started freeing yourself from toxic shame listen to the promise in this song by Big Daddy Weave and meditate on the truth it tells.

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.