A Clogged Conduit

25 11 2013

(Note: This is a two-part post. If the first bit doesn’t pertain to you, the second half will…don’t miss it.)

When it comes to intimacy with God, it must be made clear that first we must have a relationship with Him.

Being merely “religious” doesn’t count: faithful church attendance…charitable acts…being nice.

These are all good things, but without ever coming face to face with our need for a Savior, they profit us nothing.

Sin – our inability to be perfect – is a very big problem when it comes to having a relationship with God. It was one we couldn’t fix. It took Jesus, who came to earth as a baby, lived a perfect life, and was put to death on the cross to bring reconciliation.

While on the cross He stated, “It is finished.”

Nothing more is needed on God’s part in order for us to commune with Him.

It didn’t end there, though. He rose from the grave, having overcome death. A few weeks later, He lifted off the planet and returned to heaven where He lives today.

The Bible calls Him the “prototokis” among many brethren…the “prototype,” or model of what is available to all who choose to follow Him. It is His life after death that gives us hope. He is, for those who have accepted His pardon, the true “Fountain of Youth.”

If there was another way for mankind to be reunited with God, then Jesus’ death was for nothing.

To those who have not made this important first step, very little that is written about “life with Christ” will makes sense. It sounds like a fairy tale, and those who “buy into it” will seem deluded to the extreme!

The Bible is like a true hologram. It was created by a unique Light. To the naked eye, it appears to be nothing more than a bit of gray film. Illuminated by any other light, it remains a bit of plastic – and nothing of the image can be seen.

However, when it is illuminated by the Light that created it, the Book comes to visible and understandable.

If the Bible is nothing but a dusty old book, full of ancient history, then ask God to shed His Light on it…to reveal what can’t be understood apart from His illumination.

Go ahead, take a risk and ask God to reveal Himself. If He truly does not exist, then nothing will come of it; Christians can be written off as a bunch of nuts, and time (of which there is a limited quantity if there really is no God) can be spent doing happier things than having frustrating arguments with the “deluded” about their beliefs!

*****

For the child of God, sin is not an obstacle to our walk with the Lord, but…

unconfessed sin is a major barrier. 

When Jesus called out, “It is finished,” He used an accounting term. You’ve probably heard this before, but it bears repeating. Translated to English, His words were:

“Paid In Full!”

It is this statement that makes all our efforts to “earn” the right to come close to God ludicrous. Jesus bought an “All Access Pass” for those who will accept it. We are free to come boldly to His throne for grace and mercy…and a whole lot more!

The purpose of the cross is to provide intimacy with God.

However, when we regard iniquity in our heart, the Lord will not hear us (Psalm 66:18). Think of it this way:

Good parents love their children. Affection flows freely, and there is peace between parent and child…

Until the the child disobeys or rebels.

This causes a rift in their relationship that remains so long as little Johnny refuses to “come clean.” He still wants the cuddles, the laughter, the uninhibited communion with his parents, but instead hides in his room.

Love does not cease, but closeness is affected.

Until he is willing to admit his fault, this break in their relationship will continue.

In the same way, we – God’s children – do the same thing. We judge (with an intent to condemn), we lie, cheat, steal, hate, or gossip.

Then we sense distance between our Father and us. We may have chosen to distance ourselves so He can’t “see” what we’re doing. (Really??!)

When we finally “come clean” – by which I mean agree with God that what we did was wrong – we are instantly forgiven, and the relationship is restored.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)

Note that great acts of charitable deeds are NOT demanded for penance. A simple, “I’m sorry I did ___________ (fill in the blank)” is sufficient. There is no punishment to endure…Jesus was punished on our behalf.

There may be consequences of the choice we made to sin…and we may have to live with those consequences for many years. The principle of “sowing and reaping” is not always suspended. I’ve lived with the unpleasant results of choices I made thirty years ago…and so have my (now) grown children. 😦

In some cases, like divorce and remarriage, God could not remove the consequences of our actions without wiping out our ex’s entire family, for they didn’t cease to exist the day the divorce was final (no matter how much we wish they had).

It wasn’t just the former spouse and our children that were affected, but another entire family as well. Divorce may be the end of one set of problems, but it’s the beginning of a whole new set!

There is no “undo” for this choice. This is discipline enough. (Note that this is training – not a beating!)

Simple confession is enough to clear the air between God and us.

Father, is there anything I need to confess in order for our relationship to grow?

Search me, O God, and know my heart

Try me and know my thoughts

See if there be any hurtful way in me

And lead me in the everlasting way.

Psalm 139:23-24

*****

We’re discussing obstacles to intimacy with God. It begins with: C’mon In…

Week two begins with: Where Image Is Everything

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No Blood, Guts, or Gore Required

9 08 2013

A study of the tabernacle is very fascinating. Every detail speaks volumes concerning spiritual truths.

We spent several months going over the various elements in our home group. My husband purchased a model of the tabernacle so we would have it as a visual aid while we studied. It was a fun study, and we spent the first two nights painting and erecting our set. It also came with figurines of priests, cows, and sheep.

At the same time, he and I were reading Experiencing the Cross by Henry Blackaby. One of the topics in this book is the cost of sin. This, we realized, was clearly demonstrated day after day in the tabernacle – then later the temple as countless animals were slain.

Why all the blood, guts, and gore?

Sin is a gory, bloody mess to God. Through animal sacrifices, God gave us a clear visual of the seriousness of sin…it brings death. At the same time, He used the daily sacrifices to help us understand that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.

Once our model was completed, we set the furniture in place, as well as the priests and animals. We set some of the sheep and bulls on the little tables, and set the bent-over priests next to them as if they were inspecting them.

As Wendel read out of Blackaby’s book, I saw what was being displayed in a very different way. Along with the mental image came the verse: Present yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable act of worship.

Suddenly I understood what He’d been teaching me:

I am the lamb on that table.

I need to be examined for spots and blemishes…

…not so I can be rejected as unworthy,

nor so I can be killed to pay for my sins.

Instead,

I am there as a living sacrifice.

The Holy Spirit is the One examining me,

bringing to light anything for which I need to repent.

When the inspection is done, I am released!

Jesus already paid the price for my sin; but I am to be holy and acceptable. When I submit to this inspection and correction, it is an act of worship unto the Lord.

Furthermore, I saw that while man (the priest) looks at the outward appearance, God (through His Spirit) looks at the heart.

God used the combination of the model of the tabernacle and the Scripture to give us a better understanding of His truth.

I’m so thankful that, unlike the lambs, goats, and cows, I will arise from

the inspection table

alive

– and hopefully –

“altared”

(okay, changed! :))

With a heart that has been cleansed, I am less conformed to the world – and more transformed by the renewing of my mind so that I can prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Father, thank You for loving us and sending Jesus to die in our place. I am so grateful that You are faithful to complete the work You’ve begun in us. Help us to present softened hearts that can be quickly cleansed. Renew our minds, lead us into a better understanding of Your Word. May all we do, say, and even think bring glory and honor to Your great name this day.

In Jesus’ name, 

Amen

\o/





Peter’s Boxers

8 08 2013

Peter stood on the deck of the fishing boat, feet spread to give him balance. His wind-tossed hair matched his tumbling thoughts. He was confused, not sure what he should do next.

On top of that, he was feeling awkward. Just days before He’d betrayed his dearest Friend. This hung between them like a heavy veil. Jesus, having been resurrected, had returned to their lives, but not in the same way as before. His disciples were no longer part of His entourage.

Feeling like an outcast, his most-prized relationship strained, he had returned to his occupation before Jesus – fishing. The rest of the disciples joined him, for they were also floundering.

After a worthless night (they’d caught nothing), Someone called to them from the shore, asking if they had any fish. They had to admit that the night was a total bust.

The Man told them to cast their net on the other side of the boat. When they did, they caught more than they could haul into the boat.

John suddenly recognized Him, and exclaimed, “It is the Lord.”

At this point, Peter did something very odd. He put on his outer garment, jumped into the water, and swam to shore!

Picture this: he’s standing on the boat, presumably in his boxers (or whatever they wore under their outer garment). Whatever his attire, he’s visible from the shore. His decision to grab his clothes can’t be a modesty issue.

It would have made more sense for him to jump in the water in whatever he was wearing, and then dress when the boat and the rest of the fellows arrived.

That’s what I would have done…

…or would I?

Consider the situation. As Jesus foretold, Peter denied the Lord before His crucifixion. Peter had been in His presence since Jesus’ resurrection, but this issue was unresolved. While Peter was comfortable being nearly naked with his friends, he was not about to be in the Lord’s presence in that state.

Isn’t this a lot like us? We can be with our friends and “let it all hang out,” but the minute we sense the Lord, we quickly cover up. It’s as if we don’t believe that He is omniscient – He knows everything. Everything!

In Peter’s story, I see my own. Many times I’ve “hidden” from God. I blew it, and was afraid of what He would do to me.

I hid because I didn’t really believe what the Bible says about God; that He is merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin (Exodus 34:6-7). In fact, God was the One who described Himself this way.

Thus I chose to be covered and ashamed when I could have bared my soul before Him…and let Him bear my shame.

For Peter, the story has a happy ending. Jesus got to the point of tension quickly with a single question: “Peter, do you love Me?” Through the dialog that followed, their relationship was restored.

He does the same for us.

With Jesus, restoration is a quick process. He has no desire to drag it out, punish us for our actions, or let us suffer a while before He forgives us. He is so eager to be in fellowship with us that He seeks us out. We don’t get chewed out or ridiculed. He cuts to the chase, and addresses the issue; and then the matter is settled – thrown into the Sea of Forgetfulness, where He remembers it no more.

This process amazes me every time I experience it.

Lord, I am so quick to hide from You – despite what You’ve told me to expect. Help me to really know and believe the truth about who You are and what You are like. Give me the  courage to face You when I’ve made a mess of things again. Thank You for Your mercy and grace.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.





Two Balloons – Forgive and be Forgiven

15 04 2013

I’d known this time was coming, and yet had refused to face the reality that my mother was going to die. There were so many things left unsaid because I was in denial and believed that she would be home again soon; but her memorial came and went. Now what was I going to do about unresolved issues?

There would be no do-over, no “next time” in which to seek – or extend – forgiveness. These matters definitely fell into the category of “things I cannot change.” It felt so hopeless.

I knew too many people whose lives were a shambles for just such a reason. I’d seen the consequences of their bitterness or guilt. I was unwilling to live the rest of my life with the baggage I still carried, but had no idea how to settle the matter.

Through one of the books I read on grief, I got a great idea. It worked so well that I want to share it with you.

Here’s what I did:

My husband graciously sent me away for a weekend to work through the stuff that was still bothering me. On my way to the hotel, I purchased two helium balloons – one for me and one for her.

Once I was settled into my room, I began to ask God to show me all the issues that were going to weigh me down. I made two lists; one was of the things for which I needed to be forgiven, the other was of the things for which I needed to forgive her. Once my lists were made, I got a Sharpie and transfered the lists to the balloons.

Having done that, I asked Jesus to forgive me for the wrongs I had committed against my mom, and spoke forgiveness for the things that I was harboring. There were a lot of tears – I won’t lie about that.

The last thing I did was go out to an isolated place where I could be alone. I didn’t want any interruptions or distractions. Holding both balloons by their strings, I said, “Well, Lord. I can’t do anything about these anymore. You’re the only One I know who can; so I release them into Your care. I thank You for the healing You will bring me concerning these matters.”

I let them go, and stood to watch until they couldn’t be seen anymore. In the months that followed, whenever one of those issues came to mind, I would recall watching those balloons lifting out of my hands – and into the hands of Jesus, who had paid the price for every wrong listed on each one. Healing came quickly and completely.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

He sure did!

Thank You, Jesus, for bearing these burdens for me. May others likewise find healing and wholeness.