Arrogance

Arrogance has no place in the sinner’s heart.

How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. (Luke 6:42, NLT)

 

Advertisements
Published in: on April 19, 2014 at 6:31 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Shame

Man Crouching With Hands Over Face

Shame can do one of two things in our lives:

  • Bring us to deny it as we try to get away from the shame that will eventually destroy us

or

  • Bring us to a growing regret and grief that will destroy us (sometimes sooner or more visibly)

Different people have a propensity toward one or the other.

For Pilate, it was denial: I’m not responsible.

For Judas, it was growing regret and grief: I’m not forgivable. 

For both, their response to shame destroyed them (Pilate’s conscience[1] and Judas’ life).

Jesus introduced a new way to deal with shame.  One of His most devoted followers showed just what this new way would look like.

The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9, HCSB)

The apostle who wrote this was one of the worst traitors in history.  After pledging to give his total allegiance to His closest friend, he lied about Him three times.

He lied because he didn’t want to die with Him–even though he’d been so sure just hours before that he could do just that.

He lied in front of a crowd, and he even lied in eye shot of the friend who had washed his feet and given him bread to eat just hours earlier.

Peter was a total coward.

He ran away in shame when he began to realize how horrific he had actually been.

And the friend he had denied was the Son of God.

If this man had betrayed you, you wouldn’t pick him to write on behalf of you, through your inspiration, but that is exactly God did.  God showed the exact purpose of shame we experience in this life through Peter’s letter:

. . not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9, HCSB)

Shame has purpose through Jesus Christ.  The purpose is to repent.

What is repentance?  Really, it’s giving your sorrows to God in exchange for His honor.

Like trading a dishonorable discharge for a purple heart.

Like exchanging a hangman’s noose for a royal crown.

Like trading the last-place loser’s shoes for the winner’s laurels.

Shame is the realization that we carry the hammer and nails for our own cross.

In Christ, repentance is the realization that we can give our hammer and nails to the One who already bore them.  In Him, we can walk out of our tomb with the stone rolled wide away.

Peter could especially write about God’s love for the shamed because Peter had lived God’s love for the shamed.  When he penned his words, he was writing them not just for others, but also for himself.

Peter, through God’s inspiration, gives us the realization that the clock is ticking.

God is holding back right now in patience.

He is giving us time to process our shame.

The question is, what will we do?  Will we deny our shame, spend our lives growing in regret and grief . . or will we repent, as God Himself is wanting?

The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9, HCSB)

Published in: on April 1, 2014 at 7:00 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , ,

Just

But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. (1 John 1:9, NLT)

In all my times of reading this verse, only tonight has the word just struck me.

. . he is faithful and just to forgive . .

Faithful–check.  I understand that about God, even take it for granted.

And just–check, too.  But, wait a minute.  Not in this context.

Gold scales of justice on brown background

I’ve heard most of my life about the justice of God to punish sin.  And that makes sense.  Sin is more serious than we can even imagine–and only Jesus can atone for it.

But God is just to forgive sin?

Wait a minute.  Why just?

Is He just because we confess our sin?  That doesn’t make sense to me.  If I commit a crime and tell a judge about it, I wouldn’t say the judge was just to forgive my crime.

Why just?

There can only be one reason.

Jesus.

Jesus paid the price for sin.  Fully.  So it would actually be unjust for God to withhold His forgiveness from you when you repent (turn to Him for a new start).

Wow.

It would actually be unjust for God to withhold His forgiveness from me when I repent.

Have you ever wondered if God would save you?  If you’ve sinned too much?  This Scripture is a passage to memorize.

God has given the ultimate “much”: Jesus Christ, His Son.  This ultimate much pays for every sin.  So when you ask to receive His forgiveness, His ultimate much wipes out your sin so dramatically and so perfectly that it would be unjust for God to act any other way than to forgive you.

Wow.

Isn’t God good?

Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. (James 1:17, NLT)

“But for the grace of God . . there go I.”

For some of us, it’s easy to say it . .

But do we believe it?

The more I know about who I am,

the more I do believe it.

I am tired of hashing up other people’s problems, gossiping about other people’s addictions, and slathering on judgment–even in the most evil cases.  The truth, the reality?

There but for the grace of God . . go I [1].

There is no one on earth who has committed a crime worse than I could commit by my fallen nature.

And, whether you realize it or not, there is no one on earth who has committed a crime worse than you could commit by your fallen nature, either.

This realization is not a celebration that we’re all alike, but a horror and grief that there is nothing that stands between my sin nature and acting like the Devil unless God Himself does.

What we haven’t done, and the things we’d never do even as non-Christian, is because of the restraining power of God in our lives.  There are non-Christians who, through the mercy of God’s hold on their consciences, try to be very moral.  They’d never have a criminal record in our courts.  (If we went inside their heads and saw their thoughts and motives, that would be a different story.)

And then there are lost people who, because of their rejection of God, their shoving away of His grace, He removes much or all of His restraining hand on their lives, and we see how evil sin can really be.

No longer is sin funny to us, but instead a terrible and frightening reminder of who fallen humanity–sinners who tasted the forbidden fruit–can be.

Our knee-jerk reaction is to condemn with an attitude of self-love.  We exalt ourselves subtly with the undertone of I would NEVER . . not realizing that

But for the grace of God, there go I.

But for the grace of God, there go I.

But for the grace of God, there go I.

The blockade between me and the most evil sins on earth is God’s Holy Spirit.  That’s all I need, and that’s all there is that can be my Guardian against myself.

I trust in His Word:

  1. That He has made me a new creation when I believed in Him . .
  2. That He is renewing my heart daily and sanctifying my life so that . .
  3. I cross the barrier less and less into sin and grieve the Holy Spirit less and less throughout my life.

From an earthly standpoint, I long to have something to stand in-between me and sin that I can do myself.  I long to have the self-will, the bragging rights, the righteous power to hold myself back.

But from a heavenly perspective, I see that the decision was already made in the Garden to shove God aside as our barrier.  All that stands in between us and the Devil now is when God graciously steps in once more.

We took away our own ability not to sin when we collectively chose to the path away from God.  Ever since then, we’ve been journeying into sin.

We’ve been justifying “small” sins, stumbling through “medium” sins, and hoping we never commit “big” sins.

When really, all the while, we’re all trapped on the same path that we ourselves chose: a path that winds beyond the barrier of God’s grace, a path that leads only to sin and sorrow.

Since we all started on this same path of living against God, we all should live like

There but for the grace of God go I

in humility and recognition of who we really are.

But the story doesn’t end just there.

Not for those who know Christ.

There but for the grace of God go I . . and I am safe in His Spirit.

Can a Christ-follower sin terribly?  Yes.

But only by fighting against God’s Spirit and ignoring numerous warnings, a war that will only end in grief, agony, and repentance for the believer.

The believer can never permanently go against the grace of God.  It would be like a straw man trying to walk through a cement wall.

Once we commit ourselves to Christ, the payment and righteousness of His atonement for us on the cross is like an infinite wall, too high and deep and wide for us to ever possibly find passage above or below or around, and too impossibly strong for us to ever find passage through.

That is why I choose my destiny with Christ Jesus.  I choose for the Holy Spirit to attest to righteousness within me and burn my conscience when I sin, that I may be protected and walk holier and holier before God.

I am aware that, all the while, the only barrier sustaining me from the life of the Devil is Jesus Christ Himself–and that this only barrier is more than sufficient.

There but for the grace of God go I.

But by the grace of God, I don’t have to.

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:11-14, NIV)

_________________________________________________

[1] Origin of the expression likely John Bradford, evangelist.

Published in: on March 3, 2014 at 8:31 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

broken.

We are so broken, God.  We are so broken, each one of us.  And You are the only One who can fix us.

Jesus said:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

because he has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to set the oppressed free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19, NIV)

Published in: on October 21, 2013 at 9:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

worshiping the gift instead of the Giver

The story of God’s people in the Old Testament unfolds in what, from an earthly standpoint, is a disaster.  No matter the miracles, graces, or new starts the people have, as a nation they do not ever choose to live a life faithful to God for longer than perhaps a generation.

But one of the most startling errors they make, something that almost defies description, is what happens between the enemy land and the Promised Land.

In Egypt, the enemy land, God’s people had been driven into demoralizing, back-breaking slavery.  Their young boys were slaughtered by a heartless ruler, in an attempt to decrease their population.  Long forgotten was Egypt’s indebtedness to this bondaged, nation-less people living withing their borders.  Segregated, violently misused, and driven to early deaths, God’s people were forced into the labor of brick-making and had no rights whatsoever.

But God had not forgotten them.  He saw their mistreatment and flipped the religious-political realm of power upside-down in Egypt.  He promised to delivered His people, with an incredulous bonus: the Egyptians would be so fearful of the God of their slaves that they would give them all kinds of parting gifts to send them on their way.

Imagine that you went to Bed, Bath, & Beyond to register for housewarming gifts.  Then you ask for printouts of your registry.  You program your GPS with the addresses of your worst enemies, and at each stop, you deliver them a copy of your registry.

And at each stop, your enemies immediately rush out to the store and return carrying neatly wrapped packages of housewarming gifts with the famous BB&B purple tissue paper.  Astonishing?

Now, the Egyptians didn’t have a Bed, Bath & Beyond store to visit to give gifts to their once-slaves, but they did have the motivation of the fear of GOD in them, and whatever the slaves asked for, they received immediately from the people who had once disregarded them, beaten them, and tried to smear them into the dust.

The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. “For otherwise,” they said, “we will all die!” So the people took their dough before the yeast was added, and carried it on their shoulders in kneading troughs wrapped in clothing. The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians. (Exodus 12:33-36, NIV)

All this sounds beyond marvelous.  But coming up is one of the most inexplicable, inexcusable betrays imaginable.

Soon after God’s people leave Egypt with all of their new goodies . . they intentionally forget about Him.  When He speaks directly to their leader on the mountain, they’re not sure if He’s coming back soon.  So what do they do?

They use the gold that they received from God’s work in their lives, and turn it into an unfathomably stupid idol.

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”

Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. (Exodus 32:1-6, NIV)

Who was supposed to be one of their godly leaders, Aaron, tried to ‘manage’ the situation by attributing the gold calf as someone being part of worship to GOD.  God was not impressed, and great judgement fell on His people because of their betrayal of His gift.  They used what He had given against Him.

We can look at that, and think, How could anybody be so stupid?

But is it really different today?

If you live in America, you live in the top bracket of the world’s wealth.  But that’s not the half of it.  Don’t forget the job opportunities & benefits, government assistance programs, minimum wage laws, education opportunities, housing, charitable & relief organizations, insurance opportunities, multiple-means access to food, many possessions (clothes, furniture, accessories, etc.), and freedoms you have in America.  Even if you feel like things aren’t going the way you’d like, you are still in the richest of the rich in all of these things compared to the majority of the world’s population.

And more than that, think of all the gifts God has given you in the last . . week.

The gift of time.  Did you breathe this week?  So did I.  Did your heart beat?  So did mine.

The gift of income.  For nearly all of us, the gift of a paycheck or another source of income like unemployment or welfare or social security.  Even if you think you’re not getting enough, you are getting far more than most of the world’s population.

And what about the far more important gift of relationships?  Not just the ones we usually think about, but what about the relationship opportunities you had this past week at the gas station, grocery store, baseball game, hospital waiting room, car line at your child’s school, sitting in the mechanic’s shop, and on and on . .

And how much more should we count the gifts of the many relationships we have been given for generous, long scoops of time?  Are we grateful for the day we’ve had with close friends and/or family?  The week?  The month?  The year?

What about the friendships and family ties God has gifted us with that have lasted half, most, or maybe even all of our lives?  Have you and I been treating these people as the gift of God that they are?  Have we brought these relationships before God for His glory . . or have we used the very relationships He gave us as idols (or as a means to fulfill idolatrous cravings)?

Answering these questions honestly, I see I am not so far removed from God’s Old Testament people as I would like.  The very graces He has given me can easily turn into sins to wield against Him.

The question isn’t whether or not we can relate to God’s people in the Old Testament.  The question is rather,

What is our golden calf?

What has God given us, as a gift, that we have used against Him?

We all sin in this way.  All of us have had blessing after blessing from God.  But it’s not hopeless.  Although we have all gravely sinned against Him by taking His gifts and betraying Him with them, we all also have hope through Jesus Christ . . because Jesus was betrayed by thirty pieces of His own silver, silver He had created in the ore He Himself designed, from deep in the earth that He Himself spoke into being.

Jesus paid for our betrayal of Him on the cross.  And now we who believe in Him and stake our lives and eternities on Him can start over with how we use His gifts.  We can unwrap them once more, with new eyes, and, this time, use them for Him.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:7, NIV)

The Littlebittiest (a confession)

I am a littlebittiest.

The newest evidence has been in my handling of wedding shopping.

How did I start my wedding shopping?  The dress?  The rings?  The cake?

The cake server.

Yup.  The cake server.

Well, it started as a search for a cake server and a knife set.  After only about 2+ hours of internet browsing on Etsy, Bed Bath & Beyond, Google search, Amazon and possibly other sites that I no longer remember, I found the serving set I wanted.

Only, it was extinct.

Not only was it extinct, but lots of brides wanted to find a set.

Not only was it extinct and lots of brides wanted to find a set, but, when one did come up for bids a few days later, the starting bid was a mere $300.

Okay.  Scratch that.

I did, however, find a cake server I liked.  Unfortunately, it was not a wedding cake server, and was not part of a set.  (Well, I found out later that I think it had been part of a set, or at least there was a similiar set, that is no longer in stock . .)

But I did get free shipping.

Now, proudly, I have a cake server with no knife to match and, yes, no cake yet, but a cake server.  A very nice cake server.  Maybe not quite as nice as the $300 cake server, but very nice nonetheless.  Very, very fortunately, though, I did not like the flower that was attached to the $300 cake server I was not getting.  Very, very unfortunately, because Ben is still new at knowing me, he commented that with the right tool we could cut the flower off.

Now we, of course, cannot afford a $300 cake server.  But the thought of being able to make it just right by clipping the flower off made the illogic of buying the $300 cake server seem a bit more logical for a moment.  Ben saw that look in my eye and perhaps slightly panicked.  I then had to think of another reason besides the flower for why I didn’t like the server as much as the far cheaper server I bought.  (No, cheapness did not count.)  So in my mind I quickly found another reason: it didn’t fit the theme as well and as such was a poor choice compared to the elegant, lovely, economical cake server I bought.

I am a littlebittiest.

When given a large task with lots of important things to accomplish, I pick often the tiniest thing to start.  Then I spend so much time on it that I don’t have time for the bigger, really important things, and I have to cram them in at the end.

Sadness.

I am a littlebittiest.

I know this about myself.  But it’s hard to change.  Big tasks seem so big.  My capabilities, I well know, are too little.  So I pick something I feel I can have success in–like choosing the right cake server.  One cake server has about a thousand possibilities.  “Wedding cake server and knife” right now has 1,073 hits on Etsy alone, and I am fairly sure I looked through all of them until somewhere around the time they hit the too-expensive-zone.  And that doesn’t count the other sites I visited.

It’s overwhelming.

Math is not my specialty, but 1,073 cake servers choices x 50,000 cake choices x 7,000,000 decoration choices x 1,000,000,000,000,000 bridal gowns x 4 tuxedo choices is AAAAAAAH!  Overwhelming!  And what about wedding rings?  Aisle runners?  Veil?  SHOES?  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Ben and I spent our first evening romantically searching for wedding ideas with me looking up cake servers.  (At least, this is the first evening I remember searching.  It’s been a bit of a blur.)

I spent nearly the whole time looking for wedding cake servers.  (I can’t remember what he was looking for.)  Anyway, I didn’t find anything.  When we got to the gas station that night as he drove himself home (and I drive the car back to where I’m staying), God in His grace gave me a new search idea and I found the cake server I wanted.

When I let Ben know, as he was standing outside in the now-night, pumping gas, his response was, in actuality, disappointing.  Not appropriate at all for the shocking delight of finding the cake server.  It was something like, “That’s great.”

THAT’S GREAT??

The work!  The hours!  The insanity!

I let Ben know that this was not a big enough response for hours of scouring the internet for cake servers (what would we have served the guests with if we didn’t find one–a *gasp* spatula?).

He responded by jumping up and down and cheering Woohoo!

–It was better.  I wasn’t unreasonable enough to tell him that he should continue reiterating what a wonderful cake server choice I’d made through emails, voice mails, texts, and compliments at the dinner table for the rest of our lives.  But I do feel a desire to report to you that he has not once brought up the beautiful cake server I chose in praise since then.

In fact, he has not brought up that momentous-to-me-anyway decision again except–and what I am about to tell you, however upsetting and shocking it will be to you to hear it, is the truth–today when we were at a store and I started browsing cake servers he said something like,

“We don’t need to look at those.  We already have a cake server.”

And then he stood in my way and I could not see past him to the cake servers.

I am a littlebittiest.

But even the littlebitty things I do, I rarely do well.  I often second-guess myself, often realize I’ve made a mistake, and often come to regret the decision I made to spend so much time on it and then execute it so poorly.

Now why am a littlebittiest?  Why do I clench down on the littlebitty and fail to leave time for the bigger picture?

I am a littlebittiest because I want to be perfect, even just once, even in something littlebitty.

I want to do something right, totally right.  And a wedding?  Not a chance.  But a cake server?  There’s that alluring lie that I might be able to.  I just might.  Might be able to do something totally right for once in my life.

But I only got half a set.  I have the server.  I don’t have the knife.  I have half.  2+ hours, and I got half of what I could have if I’d worked at it for 10 minutes.

I do love the cake server.  (I had better love the cake server!)  But I didn’t do a perfect job.  In fact, I never do a perfect job.  No matter how littlebitty the job, it never winds up being perfect.

I have to say, we littlebittiests are pretty wacky.  I’d even go so far as to say we can get delusional.  I mean, what do I really think?  Do I really think that God will see all the slime and half-built sand castles of my life and I’ll say,

“Yes, God.  There’s all that.  But look at this cake server I bought for my wedding.”

Not a chance.

I rely, I desperately rely, on God.

How comforting, how absolutely comforting, to know I have a God who does everything right.  The big things.  The littlebitty things.  Everything He does, He does perfectly.  Without sin.  Without mistake.

And I can rest.  Rest in the Savior’s perfection.  The Savior who did and always does the really big well.  The Savior who did and always does the littlebitty well.  The Savior who always sees the details, and the big picture.

The Savior who, despite seeing all the details of who I really am, and the big picture of my absolute, no-going-back, abysmal failure . . loves me anyway.  Loves me enough that He died in my place, in my place for all the details, and all the big picture, of my burden of sin.

Come to my wedding and you can see my cake server.  Come to God’s wedding feast of redeemed souls united with their Savior and you’ll see the real perfection, in Person.

He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is! (Deuteronomy 32:4, NLT)

Potholder works

Like many American children of the 80’s, I got a potholder kit, I believe one Christmas.

Ah, the potholder kit.  Tiny potholders so you can be sure to burn your hands on the hot pot or pan while using them . . or drop the baked or boiled goods on the floor and possibly all over you.  The material was something very cheap, maybe polyester, thin and silky and not seemingly very stain resistant or grip-helpful.

And how many potholders does a household need?  But I could probably make hundreds with my potholder kit, and an endless supply of the large bags of the ponytail-holder-like doohickeys that were available somewhere (my mom made the unfortunate mistake of buying one such bag for me).

I’m not too craftsy, but the potholders were a breeze.  Simply stretch the loops horizontally over the frame.  Then weave more loops vertically through the first loops and, walla!, a tiny potholder that nobody really wants except possibly your grandparents (if they haven’t gotten too many already).

There was basically no possibility for variety except in color.  I could make yellow-and-white potholders.  Rainbow potholders.  Blue potholders.  Red-and-blue potholders.  Green-and-yellow potholders.  Potholders, potholders, potholders.  Lots of tiny, useless potholders to clutter the house.

I decided in my megalomaniac young brain that I could probably have an empire of potholders.  I could use them to make a business for myself.  I could be a potholder tycoon, a Forbes 100 CEO (if I’d known what Forbes was when I was 8).

Eventually, though, I stopped making potholders.  Maybe even my grandparents stopped buying them.  Or my mom stopped allowing me to sell them so my grandparents’ house wouldn’t burst with potholders.  😉  I don’t know for sure, but I think the real reason I stopped was I simply got sick of making them.

The other day I was thinking about these potholders I used to make . . and legalism.  There’s a lot they have in common, actually.

“Works” that are done to try to impress God are as successful as my potholders.  They don’t serve their purpose, they are more dangerous than useful, they are not attractive, they are tacky, and they are usually heaped up with the idea that “more is more” and that they become more popular/valuable/collectible the more of them you have.

“Works” done in legalism are all pretty much identical.  Oh, they can be different colors.  But they all come out the same size, the same shape, with the same uselessness, and via the same tacky material.

But they’re so, so tempting.  They’re easy to make, they can be served-up fast like cheeseburgers to the drive-thru lane, and they all look reassuringly similar.  The more a pile of them is amassed, the more confident I become that I have an appropriate empire of good works to show God on the Day of Judgement.  Well, that is a relief.  Just in case He is not impressed with my salvation in Jesus He can always look to my works . .

Hold it.

That makes no sense.

If God were to require more than the gift of Christ–could I give it?  Could anyone give it?

Yet why is it, in insecurity and illogic and denial, I try to mass-market my potholder works?

I know in my head and my heart that there is nothing more to be added to the cross of Christ.  I know it well.  And yet, there is some peculiar, evil, bewildering tendency in me to try to appease God anyway.

Why is it so hard to accept the freedom in Jesus Christ?  Why is it so confusing to receive His infinite payment as sufficient?  Why is it I am so inclined to distrust that this is enough, and try to finagle up some ugly works to go with it?

It isn’t because I don’t believe the work of Christ is sufficient, but because I fear God is still not appeased.  How many times in life do we think we know something, and then get in deeper to find out it’s not what we thought?  Just the other day, I was trying to get an allergy shot injection at an urgent care clinic, and they told me it would be $18.50 over the phone and at the front desk.  But when I’d been waiting and they got me back in the patient room, they told me it’d be about another $90 for an office visit.

I am so used to “tack-ons”, aren’t you?  Aren’t you used to there being some other requirement, some other paperwork, some other red tape you haven’t met?  Aren’t you used to finding out that there’s one more step you have to do, one more price you have to pay?

We fear this very same thing about God.  And because we can’t find what the “one more thing” is He requires in Scripture, we pull out our dinky looms and try to weave enough good works as a back-up if we get to Heaven and find out there was more to the deal than we thought.  For some people, it’s holding onto the Ten Commandments (as if we can actually do that on our own).  For some people, it’s holding onto rituals or traditions.  For some people, it’s combing the Scriptures for checklists of requirements that must be met.  For some people, it’s withholding from joy.  And for some people, it’s dutiful service.

In the end, we have our pile of potholders that will go up in smoke on Judgment Day.  And then we will see clearly that only Christ matters.

Until then, we have a choice.  We can struggle time and time again with trusting that God means what He says, and that there’s no tricking going on . . or we can throw the potholder works away and take Him at His Word and His work on the cross.

I take Him at His Word and deed

Christ died to save me, this I read

And in my heart I find a need

Of Him to be my Savior

–Aaron Shust, My Savior My God

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9, NIV)

47 Word Testimony (from Ben)

“Once I was lost in darkness. My life was all about daydreams and fantasy, always looking for a better story than my own. But now I’m walking in light. My life is about what’s real: His story, and the tiny part of His story that I’m living.”

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6, NIV)

Autofill

Have you ever used the “autofill” feature on your computer to enter data?  Sometimes, my computer saves data for those internet forms I fill out.  There are even programs that can “hold” your information for you, so instead of saving the information on the internet or your hard drive?. . they save it . . in an encrypted site, maybe?  To be honest, I don’t totally get how it works, so I can’t sound totally intelligent about it, but I think I’m on the right track.  😉

You can direct your questions about the process to Ben.  He’s my IT person, except that he tells me when I need help with something on my computer that that’s not what he does.  I would tell you what he does, but then I’d have to tell you about the whole conversation where he spent many long minutes trying to explain, and we talked about how electricity gets to computers from the sun, and how a machine can follow instructions when it isn’t actually thinking about what it’s doing, and how Ben kept getting this certain tone in his voice when he is heavy with laughter but holding back.

Anyway, here is something valuable I know about autofill without consulting Ben.  That is, if you type in something wrong, and the autofill form picks it up, it keeps remembering it wrong.  Whenever you start typing in the first letter or so of the entry, it will offer to fill in the wrong information.

For example, suppose that I forget my name is Teej (well, my nickname I go by) and I accidentally type in Tarantula instead.  If the autofill picks it up, then the next time I go to the site to type in my name, as soon as I hit the T it will offer Tarantula.

Fortunately, I have never had that problem, but I have accidentally mistyped a credit card number or password.  Then the site remembers the wrong information, and every time you go back, it tries to “help” with incorrect stuff.

Today, I was dealing with this very issue.  And, actually, that incorrect autofill is a lot like what goes on inside our heads every day, and we don’t usually even know it!

The Bible teaches that, because of sin, we all have wrong ideas in our head.  Our autofill is incorrect.  Every time we try to think about any given topic, the wrong things we think we know keep popping up.  It is so prevalent that, if we’re on “autopilot”, the wrong information will steer all of our thoughts, words, and behaviors.

Only God has the power and clarity to change the incorrect “autofills” in our heads.

When we read God’s Word with a willing heart and submission to His ideas, the incorrect notions we have come to light.  Sometimes, though, we bring incorrect autofills with us to God’s Word and we don’t even know it.  That’s why it’s important to be a part of a community of believers, to discuss God’s Word with them or read or listen to what they have to say.

Listening to older, wiser believers, discussing ideas in small groups, and paying attention to pastors and church teachers are all ways God erases our wrong autofills and gives us the wisdom we need to live alive and experience Life (Jesus Christ).

It’s critical to know, though, that the Bible is the ultimate test of authority.  Anyone who tries to teach something that is against what the Bible teaches should not be trusted or listened to, no matter who they are.

Have you ever noticed that you can’t get very far on bad information?

Today, when I was trying to use my debit card, the form wouldn’t accept my payment because the autofill remembered the wrong number.

No matter how many times I tried that number, or how persuasively I talked to my computer, or how much money I offered my HP Pavilion to let the transaction go through, it just wouldn’t have done it.  The number was incorrect information, and the computer has been programmed (by smart people like Ben) not to accept information that doesn’t check out with the banks.

In a bit of the same way, we can’t get very far in this life with bad information.  Without God, everything inside us will fail to work.  The phrase inside us is very important.

On the outside, we can be so rich we carry a little dog around in our purse and stores don’t say anything about our pet when we come in to shop.  We can be so famous we have look-alikes impersonating (and making fun of) us on late night TV shows.  We can be so successful we win Olympic medals and Emmys and Oscars and NFL rings and most handsome/beautiful/interesting/nicest-tie/cutest-hair-bow person-of-the-year awards.

But on the inside, nothing will have taken place but failed and frustrating transactions.  Everything becomes as “meaningless” as Ecclesiastes talks about.  Only God can give us the information we need to change our in-the-rut no-purpose lives set on death and destruction.  That’s why Solomon talks about “everything done under the sun” as being worthless–only God from above in the Heavens can give us the information we need that will bring purpose to our lives[1].

So I came to hate life because everything done under the sun seemed wrong to me. Everything was pointless. [It was like] trying to catch the wind. (Ecclesiastes 2:17, GW)

It is impossible for us to override incorrect autofill forms by using the same incorrect information (our sin nature) over and over.  We need the new information that only Jesus can give us.

Jesus, who is God-in-human-body, died to pay for every failure of holiness we’ve ever had–every time we submitted a thought, word, or action with incorrect information (and, without God, that’s every time–so Jesus forgives us of everything we’ve ever done before we knew Him).  But His death is only good for those who receive it.

Look at it this way.  If I keep typing in the wrong information over and over, I’m never going to get the result I want.  But suppose I know the correct information, but I don’t change what I’m typing.  It didn’t help me any, did it?

Of infinitely greater importance, Jesus’ death only helps someone who admits their sin to Him and accepts His payment for all the damage their lack of holiness (the correct way to live) has caused.

If we do admit our lives have been all wrong without God and that we need Jesus to forgive us, we can begin again as though we’d never committed a single sin!  And because Jesus teaches us how to correct the bad autofills in our lives through His Word, His people, and His Spirit in our lives, we can experience a new life altogether–a life where the inside of us begins to work!

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. (Ephesians 3:16-20, NLT)

It’s important to realize the phrase inside us is still very important.  God teaching us how to rewrite our old, sinful ways of death for new, holy ways of life doesn’t mean things on the outside of us will start going well.

It doesn’t mean our spouses, children, in-laws, friends, bosses, and so on will change.  They have to call on God to correct their autofills, too.

And it also doesn’t mean that our bank account will be full or our shell (body) will be well.  But it does mean that the inside of you will begin to work right.  You will begin to understand love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control.  (See Galatians 5:22-23)

As God rewrites the autofills in your life, you can expect everything bad about who you are to change (but you will not reach perfection until He gives you a new body free of the sin nature and you are face to face with Him at last).

Now you will begin to experience the joy of success of the inner self, success made possible through Jesus Christ.

Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. Above all, put on love — the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful. Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.(Colossians 3:12-17, HCSB)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:22-26, HCSB)

______________________________________

[1] Idea from Ravi Zacharias