Okay?

“Maybe it’s okay if I’m not okay….”

‘We Are Messengers’ sing this fantastic song, and it is so relevant! How can we know how good we have it, if we haven’t had it bad? If I haven’t hurt, what do I have to compare to?

Do you remember the story of Lazarus? Beloved friend of Jesus, brother to Mary and Martha, they lived in Bethany, about 2 miles from Jerusalem. I imagine Jesus stopped at their house whenever He was near. We (hopefully) all have a friend like that, a person who is family – even better than blood family. (Mary is the woman who annointed Jesus with a costly perfume while He was at their table, when Judas complained at the waste of such an expensive item.* – JOHN 12:3) She, her sister Martha, and her brother Lazarus made Jesus welcome. It happened that Lazarus became seriously ill, “So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.” – JOHN 11:3‭, ‬5‭-‬6 NASB

What?

He hears that His beloved friend is sick, maybe dying, and He hangs out for two days before He goes to see him? Who does that? I’m sure that Mary and Martha were not okay during this time! Torn up knowing that their brother is dying – who in fact dies after the message is sent – and wondering why their best friend delays coming. Not until the fourth day after Lazarus’ death does Jesus show up. The body is in the grave, beginning to deteriorate and decompose, and the mourning is at it’s peak. Martha met Jesus on the road, and said this:

“Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” – JOHN 11:22 NASB

She knows that Jesus could have prevented his death, and she believes – she knows – that He can bring her brother back! What faith!

“Jesus said to her, “I Am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” – JOHN 11:25‭-‬27 NASB

Martha wasn’t “okay” with her brother’s physical death, but she was confident in her Lord’s ability to take care of the situation. How many of us can confidently believe as Martha did? She had no doubt that Jesus would receive whatever He asked of God His Father. Do I believe that Jesus is taking care of my situation? I’m not okay with my financial situation. Frankly, it stinks. (That’s my opinion.) But I know that it’s okay if I’m not okay, because I know that my life – such as it is – is in my GOD’s control, not mine. I have hurt and been hurt; I have reached out and been reached out to in good and in bad. Whatever comes, LORD, may I learn to be content. Amen.

[*This perfume is estimated to be worth 11 months wages. According to CNBC.com, the median U.S, household wage for 11 months would be over $40,000.]

Undeserved Grace

Celebrating still!

Looking back at hymns and songs, it strikes me at how many songs we have that celebrate the Victory of Jesus over death and the grave.

UP FROM THE GRAVE HE AROSE!

VICTORY IN JESUS

DEATH WHERE IS YOUR STING

CHRIST IS RISEN

MIGHTY CROSS

OVERCOME

GLORIOUS DAY

WE ARE THE FREE

I WILL RISE

The list goes on and on – I’ve left many off. I am so grateful for the poets and lyricists and songwriters and composers for these beautiful expressions of our awe and gratefulness. Sometimes, all I can do is mouth the words, I’m so overcome by the emotion of realizing anew the sacrifice Jesus, Lord of everything, made for me. As if I were the only human ever to live, He made that sacrifice. As if you were the only one. That’s how much He loves us.

Pretty sobering thought.

Jesus bore my sins – every thought and every action – to the cross, and He left them there. They are gone, covered, literally, in His Blood. The Blood of The LAMB was shed for me, and I am free. Completely undeserved Grace. You can claim it anf receive it, too! All you need to do is open your heart to Jesus ❤ .

“Jesus has overcome! And the grave is overwhelmed! The victory is won! He is risen from the dead!”

“Jesus has overcome! And the grave is overwhelmed! The victory is won! He is risen from the dead!”

Betrayed

Who betrayed Jesus the most, Judas or Peter?

Both men loved and were loved by Jesus. We despise Judas for what he did, and we call anyone who betrays us a “Judas”. Does taking money for his betrayal make him worse than the one who swears allegiance and then denies Him? I’m not convinced that there is a “worse” between the two. We like to vilify Judas, and we praise Peter because of his missionary work after Jesus ascended. We know that Judas hung himself in remorse, and Peter went on to become a champion for Jesus. Does that make up for Peter’s betrayal?

Judas –

“When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.” …… “That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.” So when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.” – JOHN 13:21,26‭ (“Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He said to them, “I am He. ” And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them.” – JOHN 18:3‭-‬5)

Peter –

“Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times.” – JOHN 13:26‭, ‬38 (Then the slave-girl who kept the door said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” ….. Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You are not also one of His disciples, are you?” He denied it, and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off, said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” Peter then denied it again, and immediately a rooster crowed.” – JOHN 18:17‭, ‬25‭-‬27)

Judas felt deep remorse, so much that he couldn’t live with his conscience, and so he ended his life by hanging himself. Did he, in his guilt and shame, receive forgiveness? I hope he did. As heinous as his action in betraying his Lord, Judas did what was required of him to bring Jesus to the place of His sacrifice for our sins. He did as God ordained. Who am I to judge?

“Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself.” – MATTHEW 27:3‭-‬5

Both men were separated from God by their actions. We can see from the scriptures that Peter received Mercy. Did Judas? Sometimes I feel like a Judas, knowing that things I have said and done in my life were motivated by money, and other times, like a Peter, denying knowledge of my Lord either by words or by omission. Do you ever feel like either of these men?

All scriptures are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

Stuck In The Muck and Mire

“But behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table. For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!” When He arrived at the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” – LUKE 22:21‭-‬22‭, ‬40 NASB

When I turned on the radio this morning, and a new song by Matthew West was playing. It’s called “Unplanned.” I was unplanned. My 2 younger sisters and my younger brother were unplanned. Should we then not be allowed to live? How many of you, my wonderful readers, were unplanned by your birth parents? I can’t hear the song without being brought to tears. What a slap in the face of the Creator it is each time an unwanted, unplanned baby is destroyed! We betray our Lord with each abortion that is performed. I supported the abortion industry for years until I realized exactly what I was supporting. I wasn’t supporting women’s rights, I was supporting a massive industry that was all about money. As a society, we are stuck in the muck and the mire of political correctness, in which there is very little that is correct.

“…. behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table…..”

That hand was my hand. Betraying the God of the Universe; betraying His Son, and putting His life on the line, just as we put the life of every single innocent baby on the line with each abortion performed. Jesus had to bear that sin on the cross!

Charles Spurgeon, one the greatest evangelists to ever live, said this, “for those claiming to be Christians, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper will also deceive you, if you rest your salvation on them; when you are near death you will find them too frail to be supports to bear the weight of an immortal soul’s eternal interests. It will be worthless when you lie dying, if your conscience prompts you to say, “I went to church or to prayer meetings so many times a week.” You will find it a poor dressing to your soul’s wounds to be able to say, “I made a profession of godliness.” Oh, your facade will all be torn away from you by the rough hand of the skeleton called “Death”; you will need a real Savior, vital godliness, true regeneration, not baptismal regeneration; you will need Christ, not sacraments; and nothing short of this will do “at the end.”

Are we merely claiming to be Christians, the Christians Charles Spurgeon talks about, resting our ‘Christianity’ on an outward show of rituals and attendance, or have we put Jesus in our hearts and our consciousness? Are we listening to our Lord apeak in our lives? I am a massive failure at hearing God in my life. Many times, I hear Him and then I do what I decide to do. I know one thing: I do not want to continue to be that hand on the table betraying my Lord! Abortion – or rather, the opposition of it – may not be your ‘sword’, but I believe it should be in every Christian’s arsenal.

Please hear this: There is forgiveness for having an abortion, or for having facilitated one (or hundreds). That doesn’t mean it’s okay to sweep our participation under the rug, so to speak. I am grateful I didn’t have an abortion, even though I was not prepared in any way to raise a baby*. I was blessed beyond measure that a family member was there to step in and adopt my child, and I know that there are hundreds of Christ-followers who would give almost anything to be able to have those unplanned, unwanted, babies. (*I wanted my baby, but was emotionally, physically, and financially unable to care for the child…. and the father was even more ill-equiped than I.)

“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.” – PSALMS 139:13‭-‬16 NASB

“Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.” – ISAIAH 53:4‭-‬7 NASB

Jesus bore the weight of every single child lost through abortion. Like Him, they are lambs, and we are the sheep that are silent. We will do well to immitate Him. As Peter tells us,

“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, And His ears attend to their prayer, But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit ….. ” – 1 PETER 3:8‭-‬9‭, 12,18 NASB

Matthew West announced this song on Twitter with the following message, “As long as my God holds the world in His hands, I know there’s no such thing as Unplanned. Watch the music video for Unplanned from the @UnplannedMovie at the link below. https://t.co/hsd7HT0ruT pic.twitter.com/yg1bU2L3WN

Oh I don’t believe in accidents
Miracles, they don’t just happen by chance
As long as my God holds the world in his hands
I know that there’s no such thing as unplanned

Approaching the Resurrection

“For the Word of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the Power of GOD.”

“For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but GOD has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and GOD has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised GOD has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before GOD. But by HIS doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us Wisdom from GOD, and Righteousness and Sanctification, and Redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the LORD.” ” – 1 CORINTHIANS 1:18,26‭-‬31 NASB

The only thing in my life I dare boast about is my salvation through Jesus Christ. Nothing I have done or will ever do compares to that one thing! My GOD, the world’s despised GOD, chose me to be His child. Pretty amazing, awesome, breathtaking….. unbelievable and indescribable! He chooses you. He doesn’t force Himself on anyone, because He is the consummate gentleman – perfect and complete.

Where do you stand? Do you love Easter for what it represents, the triumph of our LORD over Satan and Death, or is it just a day to eat play and candy, and decorate with baby chickens and bunnies?

Image from Pintrest

Aliens on Earth

There are people who claim that Jesus was an alien being from another planet. You might be surprised to hear me say that they are at least partially correct. Jesus was – and is – an alien in this world, and on top of that, as Christ-followers, we are – we should be – as well. When we follow Him, our lives are supposed to be a reflection of Him so that non-believers can see how beautiful it can be to have that Love and Mercy and Grace. Many times, we really are the only Bible that person might ever see!

Too much pressure for you? As Americans living in the U.S., we aren’t recipients of the physical persecution (although we seem to be headed there) endured by Christians in many countries. In fact, especially in the middle of the so-called “Bible Belt”, many Christians have a hard time imagining physical persecution ever happening here. Friends, we are much closer to it becoming a reality than we want to accept. I believe that Peter was addressing us, Christian Americans in 2019, as much as he was when writing to Christians living outside of Rome in the first century after Christ.

“Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles [non-Christians], so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” – 1 PETER 2:11‭-‬12 NASB

In the above letter, Peter refers to the “earthly lusts” we are to avoid, and Paul expounds on them in this letter to the Galations:

“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” – GALATIANS 5:19‭-‬21 NASB

These are the things, the attitudes and actions, we need to avoid as followers of Christ Jesus. What kind of testimony is it when a professed Christian business acts in a dishonest manner? When a prominent Christian is caught cheating on their spouse, or lying, or drunk? And all those other things like these? Oh, we are fallible, and we are sinners, and we are held to a higher standard because of our profession of faith. I am chief among the sinners and the hypocrites! All I can do is publicly confess* and ask GOD for forgiveness, which I have done – and will continue to do. (*The exception is when your confession will cause harm to another. Then you should confess privately to another Christian whom you trust.) When we choose Jesus, we choose a higher moral ground. That means we have further to fall when we sin, and we make a bigger mess when we fall. I know. I’ve made some big messes!

Thank You, JESUS, for Your Saving Grace, Your Forgiveness and Mercy! Bless us as we make our poor attempts at following You. Amen.

Child of GOD – 1 John 3

“We must not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing what was evil, and his brother had been doing what was righteous.” – 1 John 3:12 NLT [Genesis 4:1-16]

Am I like Cain or Able, shepherd and caretaker or tiller of the ground? “Why are you so angry?” the LORD asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” – Genesis 4:6‭-‬7 NLT

I’ve heard many questions about this passage – what was Cain doing that was so wrong, that GOD refused his gift but accepted his brother’s? I don’t know exactly what Cain did to anger GOD, but I think it is a warning to us to be careful about the how and the why when we do a thing. Being a gardener or a farmer, or a rancher or hunter – these are all noble occupations. GOD gave us the earth to be caretakers of it all. After all, they both feed us and clothe us; farmers with all the various plants, and hunters and ranchers with meat and hides. GOD wasn’t angry because Cain was a farmer. Was it pride that triggered Cain’s anger? In verse 7, it is very plainly said: “Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you.”

As we grow in our lives as Children of the LORD, we offer different gifts to Him depending on how we have been gifted. I would not offer to lead a choir (it would be disastrous!), but I could happily wrangle the animals for the Christmas pageant! If I insisted that I be the one to lead the choir and direct the pageant, would it be sinning? I expect so, because it would be pride alone speaking, not ability, because that is not where my talents lie. Was that where Cain got his anger? Was he jealous of his brother? It seems to me that much of our stumbling can be laid at these feelings of pride and jealousy. Stubbornness, too. I have kept on a path, knowing it was wrong, just to prove I could still reach the desired end – only it never works out well, because it is that sin crouching at the door that trips me up. Every time.

“But when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the SON of GOD came to destroy the works of the devil. Those who have been born into GOD’s Family do not make a practice of sinning, because GOD’s Life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are Children of GOD. So now we can tell who are Children of GOD and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God.” – 1 John 3:8‭-‬10‭ NLT

As Children of GOD, we want to break the cycle of sin. How do we do that, when it has such a strangle hold on us? Certainly not on our own power! When we accept JESUS as LORD of our life, the desire to do good and to follow in His example should – will – begin to grow, especially as we begin to study and learn His Word. Will we ever get it right? No. Sorry to disappoint, but no, not as long as we live in this sin-filled, imperfect world, with sin ready to waylay us at every corner. Don’t let that stop you! Every slip, every stumble, is an opportunity to grasp the Hand our LORD has extended to us and take another step up and forward. Remember, even though we may let go of Him, He never lets go of us! Now that’s a PROMISE.

“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before GOD. Even if we feel guilty, GOD is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.” – 1 John 3:18‭-‬20 NLT

Again: Even if we feel guilty, GOD is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.”

Guilt zaps confidence. GOD already knows our feelings, and He is greater than our feelings. He knows our heart. Guilt is not what He wants for us. He has taken away our sin, so why do we feel guilty? What do we have to feel guilty about? That feeling of guilt is not placed there by the LORD. It comes from the devil, the Enemy, and from the depths of hell. Guilt is not from GOD.

“Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to GOD with bold confidence. And we will receive from Him whatever we ask because we obey Him and do the things that please Him. And this is His Commandment: We must believe in the Name of His SON, JESUS CHRIST, and love one another, just as He commanded us. Those who obey GOD’s commandments remain in fellowship with Him, and He with them. And we know He lives in us because the SPIRIT He gave us Lives in us.” – 1 John 3:23‭-‬24 NLT

HALLELUJAH!

The Offering of Cain and Able, 12th Century mosaic, Palatine Chapel, Palermo