Choosing pink toothpaste

Walking down the toothpaste aisle at our grocery store as a child, I saw a kind of toothpaste unlike the ordinary blue kind I was used to.  It was a pink toothpaste and it had my favorite characters on it.

My mom warned me I might not like the flavor of the toothpaste.  I was sure I would.  She warned me I might not.  But with my favorite characters on it, how could it possibly taste bad?  I was sure that I would want to use every last bit of the toothpaste.

However . . I tried it once . . and found out that, just because your favorite characters are on something doesn’t mean it will taste good.  My mom and dad ended up using up the pink toothpaste.

It’s a little story of grace.  My parents used up what I had asked for, pleaded for, and found out I despised.  It reminds me of the ultimate story of grace, when Christ took in all the sin that we had asked for, pleaded for, and discovered we despised.  Even though none of it belonged to Him, even though He had every right to demand that we carry it ourselves, He bore our sin for us . . all the way to the cross.

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. (Isaiah 53:4, NIV)

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Published in: on June 25, 2014 at 4:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Tailgate

One time my aunt and I were out grocery shopping at a local bulk goods store.  We were coming out, about to cross the street, when a pickup truck pulled out of the parking lot.  His tailgate was down and, as he accelerated, a gallon of milk rolled out the back of his truck.

There was nothing we could do to stop him.  As he drove down the road, a large carton of strawberries spilled out of his truck and on the road.  He disappeared from sight.

I’m reminded of the parable of the seeds.  One seed, in particular, landed along the path.  The seed never had a chance to grow because it was quickly scooped up by birds.

“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.” (Mark 4:3-4, NIV)

Some people receive the Good News about Christ in this kind of way.  It’s like loading salvation in someone’s pickup, only to have them ride off spilling it everywhere because either they didn’t want to keep the message or didn’t yet know how to.

We can’t give up on these people, though.  As we pray for them and continue to share the Gospel with them as God gives us opportunities, they may place their tailgate up.  🙂

Take a moment to pray for those people in your life . . right now.

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. (1 Timothy 2:1, NLT)

Published in: on June 24, 2014 at 11:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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Bounce

Financial calculationWhen I was a teenager, I got my first paying job at a fast food restaurant. My mom helped me open a checking account.

I felt like big stuff having a checking account. I loved that I had the power to write checks.

I loved that power too much.

My mom carefully taught me how to balance my checkbook. For a short time, I kept up with it. After that, I sort of estimated. Or just believed the money would be there.

My mom insisted I balance the checkbook one night, and I realized something very important.

The check I’d written that day was going to bounce. It wasn’t even a check for stuff I needed, but just stuff I’d wanted to have.

I felt embarrassed about it, and I tried to brush it off as no big deal. But Mom wouldn’t have it.

Mom told me the store could put my name on display at the registers for the clerks to look at, to make sure not to accept anymore checks from me. And, to top it off, the bank doesn’t look keenly on bounced checks and charges an overdraft fee—and I didn’t even have any money in savings for the bank to draw from.

After I realized more of the gravity of the situation, Mom told me she would pay the debt—I think the check was for something like $200 and much of the money I didn’t have.

I didn’t realize it at the time nearly so much as I see it now, but my mother was presenting a clear picture of the Gospel for me that day.

First, God gives us the freedom to choose how we will spend our lives. But in Adam, we all chose to turn away from God and now we have a sin nature that makes right choices impossible apart from Christ.

Second, we all get in debt to sin. And not sinning for things we need—just things we want. We have no excuse for the sin we get ourselves into. We’re careless about getting ourselves into sin. We don’t realize the full consequences.

Third, we defend ourselves when confronted with sin. We try to brush it off or justify it as if it’s no big deal—or we regress into self-pity and remorse.

Fourth, God convicts us of our sin. We see that we have no excuse and that we have no way out on our own.

Fifth, God offers to pay our debt. We can start all over again, debt free, by belief in His Son. (For someone who is already a Christian who sins, we get a fresh start in our walk with Him.)

This miracle is made possible by grace. God takes our debt—sure to bounce back to us on Judgment Day—and pays it all off. He takes on our poverty, and we inherit His righteousness. This is the power of the cross.

He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:14, NLT)

The power of a name

I have a fear of forgetting people’s names. Really, I have a fear of calling someone the wrong name. So I usually avoid calling someone by their name unless I know them very well, for this reason:

“Well, hi, Beth, how are you today?”

“My name’s not Beth. It’s Rachel.”

I mean, where do you go from here? What do you say?

“Hi . . Rachel. I know the name Beth doesn’t sound like Rachel, and I don’t even know anyone named Beth who reminds me of you, but I do want you to know I remember who you are and I care deeply about our friendship.”

*buzzer sound*

Before Ben and I were ever married, I warned him about my fear of calling him the wrong name. And I have. At least three times. There’s nobody on earth I love more, and I have called my beloved, my soulmate the wrong name. How do I explain that? Thankfully, I’m blessed with an understanding husband.

Recently one of our pastors at church said that many people’s favorite word of all is their name. And many people don’t get to hear their name nearly as often as they long for.

I’m inept with names. But God isn’t. Scripture tells us that God identifies each star with ease (see Psalm 147:4). And if we think He’s forgotten us, we can think again. In a passage about His love for Israel, His chosen people, He tells them that He has their names on His palms. Surely God does the same for His people today.

Imagine God, with a ballpoint pen, writing your name on His palm. Whenever He turns his hand over, He looks down at His palm and sees your name. And He thinks of you.

See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands. (Isaiah 49:16a, NLT)

Chinese Acrobats

One year for my birthday, Mom took me to see the Chinese Acrobats in Branson.  What these athletes do is truly extraordinary.  They are moving pieces of art.  Their balance, strength, and ability to conform their bodies showcase the years of training and ongoing practice needed to do the impossible.

The Chinese Acrobats remind me of our training as followers of Christ.  Sometimes we feel like God is being too hard on us, or allowing too many challenges to come our way.  We don’t realize that He is training us for our spectacular debut as His new creation.  Every struggle, every time of testing is the exact practice needed to enable us to do the impossible.

As we are made more and more into the image of Christ, our old habits and hangups grow weary of the training and slip off like old skin, and our new nature is showcased for the world to see.

Training the body helps a little, but godly living helps in every way. Godly living has the promise of life now and in the world to come. (1 Timothy 4:8, GW)

Adventure

I delight in You, and the adventure ahead . . but only because You’re in it.

Published in: on June 13, 2014 at 7:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Married

A few weeks ago I was filling out a form that asked my status: single, married, divorced.  I checked single.

Then I caught myself and scribbled it out.

Today, I was thinking about Ben and I spending more time with other singles like us and I realized again.

I’m not single anymore.

I’m still in limbo between calling myself my old last name and my new one.  Because I haven’t gotten everything transferred over to my new name, I still get people calling asking for me by my old last name.

And, most of the time, I forget to wear my wedding rings.

This time of learning to be married but still sometimes thinking like a single reminds me of how, as believers, we sometimes act like beggars and orphans, even though we are really royal children of God.  This new identity can be difficult to live out simply because we are so used to being who we were before.

This is all the more reason to be gracious towards our family of believers, especially new believers.  We are all learning what it means to be a new person, and we are all growing into our identity as children of God.  We should be gentle and encouraging when we remind our family in Christ who they are in Him.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV)

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2, NIV)

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. (Colossians 3:12, NLT)

Published in: on June 12, 2014 at 1:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Super Nintendos and Grace

I was about 10 or 11 the summer I begged my mom to buy me a Super Nintendo.  At that time, I believe the package deal came with Super Mario World.  Super Mario World.

I had one goal that summer: get that Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

The problem was, I didn’t have the money.  Or close to the money.  Or close to close to the money.

Mom cut me a deal.  She told me that she wanted me to practice math over the summer, and that if I did so many lessons in the math book, she would buy me that Super Nintendo.  I can’t remember how many lessons it was now, but it was a lot–either 50 and 100.

There was no reason I wanted to solve math problems over the summer, except one: to get that Super Nintendo.

I worked and worked on the math lessons.  I dreaded them, but I also looked forward to them so I could get them done.  Mom checked them for accuracy.  At last & finally, I completed the last dutiful problem and I turned my work in to Mom.

I got my Super Nintendo.

You know, I was thinking about this story this morning and how, for many of us, we still see grace a lot like how I saw that Super Nintendo System.

We know we can’t earn grace by paying for it.  We know we don’t have the “money”.

But we still try to pay for it with “math lessons”.

So many of us go to God with our “good works” and, almost under the table, we show Him what we’ve been doing like, God, I know you say grace is a free gift . . but look at this, would you?  This is good work 32 for the week. 

We try to buy insurance, if you will, in good works.  We try to convince God that, should He change His mind about His free gift, we have enough wonderful deeds saved up to sway His vote back towards us.

How this must grieve the heart of God.

First, when we try to do good works for our glory–which is really what we’re doing when we ‘save them up to our account’–we fail to present a picture of God’s grace to the world.  Our witness becomes how we try to “earn” favor with God–something the Gospel teaches us simply cannot be done.

Second, we quickly learn to either live in a state of denial or we realize how bad we are at good.  Only through God’s Spirit can bring us to good works.

Third, we burn out of wanting to try.  Bringing our own efforts to the table equals exhaustion.  We can’t, on our own, do anything right.  When we try, we wear down.  The more we wear down, the more bitter and frustrated we become.

But most important of all, we lose out of the Message of the Gospel: Jesus Christ paid it all.  We act as though there’s some kind of catch, as if there’s fine print at the bottom of the contract.  We forget that God, and God alone, made this agreement with us.  We didn’t help God tear the curtain in the temple from top to bottom.  God, and God alone, tore this curtain because the perfect sacrifice of Christ was complete.  For all who would believe.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23, NLT)

Published in: on June 12, 2014 at 10:17 am  Leave a Comment  
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Reflection on stuff

These things I think I must have . . They keep my heart from knowing you more and more.

Published in: on June 12, 2014 at 7:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Unraveled

Kite in the skyWe lived out in the country when I was an older kid, and we had a field that was ideal for flying kites.  I had a beautiful kite that hung in my bedroom for display.  But because this was a special occasion, I took it outside to fly.

The weather anchor could have announced, It’s a kite flying day because the wind was just right.  I let out more and more string as the wind carried my kite higher and higher.

When I was only a few rolls from the end of the string, I said something to my dad like, “Look, I’m almost at the end of my string.”

He said something like, “That’s great.”

So I unrolled the rest of the string.

I think he started to stop me, but it was too late.

The string flew up in the air, far too high to grab, and the kite flew away.

I had no idea the string wasn’t attached.

My dad took me out in the car to look for it, but we never found it.  My kite was gone.

It seems like there are a lot of things in life that, at one time or another, we thought were attached, that we find out can unravel at any moment.  Relationships.  Finances.  Health.  Careers.  Safety.

But there is something in this world that we are guaranteed won’t unravel and disappear from our grasp.  And that is the love of Christ we receive when we believe in Him.

I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love which Christ Jesus our Lord shows us. We can’t be separated by death or life, by angels or rulers, by anything in the present or anything in the future, by forces or powers in the world above or in the world below, or by anything else in creation. (Romans 8:38-39, GW)

 

 

Published in: on June 11, 2014 at 3:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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