Perfection!

I am the middle child. Actually, I share that spot with my next younger sister, because out of 6 kids (poor Mom!) I am third and she is fourth – 2 ahead of me, and 2 after her. I am the baby of the first 3, and she is the eldest of the last 3. We have also concluded that most (all!) of us are ADD, and some are ADHD as well, starting with my parents- and it really goes back further than them. My life is an oxymoron 😎 …. I’m sure a psychologist would have a field day with us!

Whatever spot I choose for the moment, baby or middle-child, I must admit that I have been guilty of pride and perfection much of my life. Is that an affliction? Perfectionism stems from many things, both internal and external. I think that on a subconscious level, we make the choice to be prideful and conceited. I chose both, to hide the damaged, broken parts that I am comprised of. Whatever I did, I did with the attitude that if I did it, it was the right thing to do. Whatever I decided was the right decision, the only logical conclusion in my mind; therefore, anyone else was obviously wrong. I had the attitude that I was invincible, hard and sharp-edged – and I was hard and cut people like a knife with my words and actions. I sound like a bad person! If I was told I had a heart of ice, or that I was hurtful or mean, well, guilty as charged. I was full of pride and could do no wrong because I was perfect. Seems like we all have the tendency to judge others based on our own perceived perfection. For years, I was really good at being perfect, at least on the outside. My ‘inside’ was pretty messed up!

Even now I will find those feelings of pride and perfection, perfectionism and judgementalism, stealing back into my life. I cry out “GET BEHIND ME, SATAN, in the Name of JESUS!!”

When I came to be under the Shining Bright Light of my LORD JESUS through His saving Grace, all of my cracks and brokenness were illuminated. His illumination shows everyone who looks what a messed up person I am, but the LIGHT also shows how He has put me back together. My prayer for us today:

LORD, show us our brokenness. Shine Your Great Light on us and let the world see YOU in that Light. Use my brokenness to illustrate how beautifully You can put us back together, if we just ask You. No matter how shattered we are or how much ugliness we contain, help us to see the beauty of Your Handiwork in ourselves. You alone can take all of our messes and all of the junk we accumulate in our hearts, and create something beautiful.

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the LORD JESUS, to testify to the Gospel of the Grace of GOD.” – Acts 20:24 ESV Amen.

And the ONE who was seated on the throne said, “See, I Am making all things new.” – Revelation 21:5 NRSV

Standing in His Love

“No, I won’t be shaken, my fear doesn’t stand a chance, when I stand in Your Love…”

What a beautiful reminder to wake up to! “Stand In Your Love” is a new song by Josh Baldwin, and he sings about the power and strength of GOD’s absolute Love for us, and how His Love breaks anything that binds us to sin. JESUS spoke to His disciples after choosing them and told them this – and I believe He intended this for everyone, throughout the ages, who accepts Him as SAVIOUR.

“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the SON of Man. ….But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. ….If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. ….But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the MOST HIGH; for He is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your FATHER is Merciful.” – Luke 6:22‭, ‬27‭-‬28‭, ‬32‭, ‬35‭-‬36 NRSV

“My fear doesn’t stand a chance when I stand in Your Love….”

When we attempt to follow our LORD JESUS, but we are afraid to step out of our comfort zone, our fears tend to take over and rule our lives. I know this, because I often struggle to love my enemies – instead of standing in GOD’s Love, I keep trying to do it on my own. I don’t have it in me to forgive my enemies. If it were up to me, they would pay for their transgressions in a long and painful way. My judging would have no mercy – and I thank GOD it isn’t left up to me! I have been given freedom from the chains and baggage of sin, and that forgiveness came completely and undeservedly from JESUS. Shouldn’t I then forgive and love on those who really don’t deserve my forgiveness?

I can’t forgive if I am standing frozen in my fear. If I forgive them, aren’t I somehow condoning* their abuse? (*Empathetic NO, it is not.) When we stand in GOD’s Love, HE forgives for us – and He will judge them according to their deeds. The only way to shed fear, to lock the enemy out, is to turn to JESUS and allow His Love to hold us up to bask in His Light. Fear is a liar; it is a jail of our own creation, and it all comes straight from the enemy.

“No, I won’t be shaken, my fear doesn’t stand a chance, when I stand in Your Love…”

Can you claim the Promise of Salvation today and let our LORD throw the fears out of your life? “Likewise the SPIRIT helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very SPIRIT intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And GOD, Who searches the heart, knows what is the Mind of the SPIRIT, because the SPIRIT intercedes for the saints according to the Will of GOD.” – Romans 8:26‭-‬27 NRSV

The LORD Is RIGHTEOUS

A Psalm (poem) of King David of Israel and Judah:

“For Your Kingdom is an EVERLASTING Kingdom. You rule throughout all generations.

The LORD always keeps His promises; He is Gracious in all He does. The LORD helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads.

The eyes of all look to You in Hope; You give them their food as they need it.

When You open Your Hand, You satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing.

The LORD is Righteous in everything He does; He is filled with Kindness.

The LORD is close to all who call on Him, yes, to all who call on Him in Truth.

I will praise the LORD, and may everyone on earth bless His Holy Name Forever and EVER.” – Psalms 145:13-18, 21 NLT

Of course David, the king of Israel, who owned a staggering amount of wealth and who had a multitude of beautiful wives would write this! But was David always so blessed? I don’t think so…

You can (should) read David’s story, starting with I Samuel 16:1 and ending in I Kings 2. David was the youngest of seven brothers, and spent his formative years as a shepherd, protecting his flocks from dangerous predators with only a slingshot as a weapon. He was beloved by King Saul for killing the mighty Philistine warrior and champion, Goliath, effectively and singlehandedly ending the war with the Philistines. David loved Saul’s daughter Michal, who was given to him to be his wife. His best friend was Jonathan, who was Saul’s son. David became despised by Saul because of David’s popularity with the people, to the point where Saul and his army came after David to kill him. David became king after King Saul died, and he spent much of his life in battle. He had eight documented wives, plus concubines, and he had 19 sons and one daughter (documented). After he had an adulterous night with Bathsheba and she became pregnant, David had Uriah the Hittite murdered so that he could marry Bathsheba. Their first child, a son, died as GOD’s punishment for their sin. David’s only daughter, Tamar, was raped by her brother Amnon, and later, David’s son Absalom rebelled against him, instigating a bloody, violent civil war. Yes, David was a man with much to be thankful for – talented, handsome, popular, a great warrior – but he was also a sinful man who made many bad choices in his life, causing disastrous consequences, both for himself and for his family.

Lust, adultery, murder, violence. He sinned, grievous sins. When we are honest with ourselves (and others), we admit our sinfulness. David was forgiven by the LORD because of his remorse and confession, and perhaps the greatest reward he received from GOD was that he would become part of the lineage leading to JESUS, our LORD – GOD become man, transcending time and space to live in our world for a time. David loved GOD beyond measure, but he still sinned against Him. David knew when he did wrong and repented, even though he continued in his sins. We are so much like David in this! Whether you have ( or are currently ) coveted, lusted, were disrespectful of your parents ( and haven’t we ALL been, at one time or another? ) lied, or put other people, places, or things in front of the LORD ( this includes OU, OSU, and professional football and sports! ) – whatever commandment(s) you have broken, you/we have sinned against God.

Okay, now the GOOD NEWS: When we love GOD, and we accept that JESUS, His Son, is our LORD and SAVIOUR; when we show remorse and ask for forgiveness, He will forgive us! Hallelujah; David’s words become ours:

“The LORD is my Shepherd; I have all that I need. Surely Your Goodness and UNFAILING LOVE [Mercy and Grace] will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the House of the LORD FOREVER.” – Psalms 23:1‭, ‬6 NLT

AMEN!

Photo credit: “King David playing the Harp” by Gerard von Honthorst (Google art project)

#TheLORDalwayskeepsHispromises,#TheLORDisRighteousineverythingHedoes,#PraisetheLORDForeverandEver,#MercyandGrace

To The Unknown GOD

“For as I was passing through and observing the objects of your worship, I even found an altar on which was inscribed: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. The GOD who made the world and everything in it — He is LORD of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things. From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. He did this so they might seek GOD, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Being GOD’s offspring then, we shouldn’t think that the divine nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image fashioned by human art and imagination. Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, GOD now commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has set a day when He is going to judge the world in righteousness by the MAN He has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead.” – Acts 17:23‭-‬31 HCSB

I found this on eBible.com, written by S. Michael Houdmann (http://www.gotquestions.org/normative-ethics.html).

CHRISTIAN ETHICS

Unlike the other normative ethical schools, Christian ethics answers the questions. It identifies truth (God), outlines the basis of ethics (principles found in the Bible), and even lists some universal laws that apply directly to the unchanging truth.The problem with manmade ethics is that they start with a false assumption of truth and try to build from there. Deontology says ethics are based on obligation, without basing that obligation on God’s truth. Consequentialism says that “good” is truth, but then can’t define what “good” is. Relativism says we cannot know the truth. And virtue ethics claims that we can work to embody truth ourselves. Only Christian ethics says that truth exists (Psalm 51:6), truth is knowable (Proverbs 3:3), and we will need help from the Creator of truth to find it (John 14:16-17). It is foolish to base a standard of behavior on our feeble notions of the truth of the cosmos when the Truth Himself is willing to guide us (John 14:6).

I love research!

Our LORD GOD is Absolute, the Alpha and the Omega, and He will sit as the Final Judgement on all of His creation. Are you prepared to stand before Him? I know I have been forgiven and redeemed by the MAN our GOD has appointed, and I know that this MAN, JESUS CHRIST, will be my Advocate and show me as Righteous in front of the ALMIGHTY at the Great White Throne Judgement. NO ONE is Righteous without the Covering of the Blood of JESUS, and the Saving Grace and Mercy this MAN JESUS CHRIST has provided us. I ask again, are you ready? Remember, only HIS Judgement matters!

Jesus Christ, My Living Hope

Sung by Phil Wickham, this song is a beautiful anthem, a praise hymn, and a glorious tribute to the HOPE that is only found in JESUS CHRIST.

Who could imagine so great a mercy?
What heart could fathom such boundless grace?
The God of ages stepped down from glory
To wear my sin and bear my shame
The cross has spoken, I am forgiven
The King of kings calls me His own
Beautiful Savior, I’m Yours forever
Jesus Christ, my Living Hope

“Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest? ” {JESUS} said to {the Pharisee}, “Love the LORD your GOD with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the Greatest and most important Command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” – Matthew 22:36‭-‬40 HCSB

How can we not love and worship the LORD? He left heaven and His Throne to live a life of hardships here on earth; to be tortured for nothing more than being Himself, and to die a horrific death on the cross for each and every human who will ever live. He came as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins; to give us unlimited Love and Forgiveness and Mercy and Grace. There is the beauty of it all! Would you be willing; would you volunteer, to be tortured, mocked and spit on, and then nailed to a cross until you died, in physical agony the whole time, for the neighbor you barely know? The coworkers who gossip behind your back? JESUS did that and more, and He did it willingly, even knowing that He would be rejected by millions. I don’t have that kind of mercy or grace! I have a difficult time just being civil to some people, and to die for them? I don’t think so.

What tender Mercies our LORD pours over us! Jesus Christ, my Living Hope, Sustainer of my life, SAVIOUR and Redeemer. Amen!

Yes, I know it’s a shameless plug for Phil Wickham! But….. just listen to that song!!!

Everything Lost???

Paul is such an eloquent writer. He has the ability to lift us up and then put us firmly in our place, all while praising the LORD. He has a firm grasp on humility, too. Consider these verses:

“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the LORD. To write to you again about this is no trouble for me and is a protection for you. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing CHRIST JESUS my LORD. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain CHRIST and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in CHRIST — the righteousness from GOD based on faith. I pursue as my goal the prize promised by GOD’S heavenly call in CHRIST JESUS.” – Philippians 3:1‭, ‬8‭-‬9‭, ‬14 HCSB

(*the term ‘brothers’, in this context, is usd to encompass the entire congregation at Philippi, including both the men and the women.)

In spite of many hardships and difficult circumstances, and even through imprisonment, Paul’s faith in the LORD was never shaken. He held tight to the promise of spending eternity with JESUS. Can we say the same? As hard as I try, I struggle to achieve that peace. In my losses, anger and bitterness were (are) much easier to focus on than forgiveness and joy. Looking out at all the ugliness that appears to be consuming our world, there isn’t much to see that shows the way of peace, so I know I’m not alone in my discomfort/pain. I think it’s that sinful human nature that pushes the negative to the front of our thoughts, because the last thing that Satan wants to see is content, peaceful Christians in the middle of his chaotic world.

The verses mesh right into today’s verse from the YouVersion Bible app (https://bible.com/bible)

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline.” – Proverbs 1:7 HCSB

Without the reverence (the ‘fear’) we need to have for the LORD, even the fear of His Judgement, we can never find true peace in this world. What do you have? A healthy reverence, fear, peace with the LORD, or are you stuck in the bitterness and chaos of the world? It’s a choice we face constantly….

What Is LOVE?

Seems like “love” to the world means sex, money, position, and prestige. We are constantly on the prowl for this elusive feeling. Once you have experienced even a tiny taste, it is something that is an instant, instantaneous, addiction. Love is more addictive than heroin or cigarettes or alcohol, and it is so much more than just a feeling. We spend our lives chasing “love” and in most cases, missing it entirely. A mother’s love is both fierce and protective, and it is gentle and nurturing ….. at least, it should be. Satan has screwed it up, just as he has perverted every single thing, every single place, every single molecule on this earth.

Should I find out that anybody is messing with any of my kids*, I transform into a mama grizzly! (*My kids consist of any person who is vulnerable or fragile, my nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters, even my Mom. It also applies to my 4-legged buddies.) I’ll never know just how fathers love (since I’m not one 😁 ), but the men whom I admire most are providers and protectors, and they will go to almost any length to care for their loved ones.

The Bible, the Words of our Creator, speak on love in a number of verses and contexts. The Songs of Solomon are beautifully written, telling about the sweet love between two people. (Men, pay attention to those verses! They are dynamite for the love of your life. You can melt her heart, using it as an example.) Paul wrote to the followers of CHRIST in Corinth and Colossae about love.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4‭-‬8a NIV

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” – Colossians 3:13 NIV

That last sentence of verse 13 is such a critical part of true love. Without forgiveness, how we possibly be patient or kind to that person? Being unforgiving is so harsh. It ruins relationships at work, between friends, within families, with our children and parents, and our spouses. Whatever was done to you (real or perceived) is nothing to what we have done to JESUS – and yet, He FORGIVES us, 100%, no grudges or plots for revenge. I would lay down my life in a heartbeat, putting myself in harms way to protect my loved ones. The BIG question is this: would I lay down my life for my enemies, for the men who have hurt me? JESUS did.

“This is how we know what LOVE is: JESUS CHRIST laid down His LIFE for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” – 1 John 3:16 NIV

No Matter What (sung by Ryan Stevenson and Bart Miller)

No matter what the end is
My life began with you
I can’t deny what I believe
I can’t be what I’m not
I know, I know
I know this love’s forever
That’s all that matters now
No matter what

(Photo credit Love Dare – WordPress.com )