Posts tagged ‘sin’

Hello. I am a Christian, and I am a Hypocrite.

If you are reading this, there is a good chance you are either a Christian, or you are not a Christian.  If you are a Christian, chances are you read the title and thought, “Oh great.  Another wacko spouting off and making the rest of us look bad.”  If on the other hand, you are not a Christian, you probably saw this title and thought, “Finally a ‘Christian’ who will admit the truth.”

Since you are both here, allow me to explain myself.  Then you can make up your own mind about me.  Here’s the deal.  I am a Christian.  I take the liberty of claiming that because I am a follower of Christ Jesus.  Not only do I follow His teachings, but I have dedicated my life to living in complete service to Him.  I even go so far as to say that I asked Him to be my Lord, the one who has complete say over my life, and my Savior.  He is my Savior because He took the punishment God had reserved for me because of my wrong-doings (known in our circles as sin)…let me emphasize that.  Jesus took my punishment.  What I deserved, He took upon Himself.  He saved me from it.  Thus He is my Savior.

Here’s the other part of this.  I am a hypocrite.  But I’m probably not the kind of hypocrite you are expecting me to confess to.  I think we can all generally agree that a hypocrite is someone who says one thing, but does another, right?  I would add, though, that typically a hypocrite would be considered someone who says something and then intentionally, knowingly, does the opposite.  Wouldn’t you agree? With that definition in mind, I guess I would have to say that

                                                 I AM AN ACCIDENTAL HYPOCRITE.

I’m not really a boldfaced hypocrite as you, the non-Christian, would claim.  I don’t say that I follow Jesus and obey His commands, and then intentionally break them.  You may not believe me, but I really do try to obey His commands.  The thing is that I’m not perfect.  I mess up…all the time…every single day.  I admit it.  I’m a Christian, but I’m still a sinner…at the same time.  Yes.  That is possible.  In fact, that is the reality of every single person who is a Christian.  As much as we would love to be perfect, we aren’t, and we never will be as long as we are living.

There was only one person who was perfect in the history of the world, and that was JESUS.  Jesus was perfect because He was, is, the Son of God.  He is man in the flesh, but also completely God in the Spirit, with all the power that goes with being God.  That was how He was able to take my punishment, and the punishment of every single person who ever had and whoever will live.  He deserved no punishment of His own, SO HE TOOK MINE…and yours.  Oh, I know.  You are pretty certain that because I am such a hypocrite, whether accidental or not, you are much better than me.  Here’s where I leave the political correctness stuff behind.  You aren’t any better than me.  Hold on now.  Before you flip your wig, I’m not better than you either.  I never said that I was.  When it comes to being human, we are all on the same equal playing field.  The Bible says that ALL men have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  In other words, everyone, ev-er-y single one, does wrong.  It doesn’t matter how much wrong.  One wrong is the same as a thousand wrongs when it causes us to not measure up to God’s standard of perfection.  You are guilty of it, and so am I.  Flat out.  No ifs, ands, or buts.  It is what it is.  You can argue it until you are blue in the face, but deep down inside there is a part of you that you are desperately trying to squash.  That part that says, “You know she is right.”  You know how I know that?  Because God built everyone of us with this thing called a conscience.  More than that, He put in each of us the innate desire to search for Him.

So if I’m a sinner, and you are a sinner, what is the difference between you and me?  I mean really.  I have already admitted to being an accidental hypocrite.  I have admitted to being no better than you or anyone else.  I admitted to doing wrong every single day.  So what is the difference?  Are you ready for it?  Here it is.  I have been forgiven.  Yep.  That is it.  I have not been forgiven because I’m so special either.  I’ve been forgiven for one simple reason:  I asked.  Oh sure, first I had to admit that I am a sinner.  If I didn’t do that, there was no point in asking for forgiveness in the first place.  After all, if I don’t think I have ever done anything wrong, then what do I need forgiveness for?  But nagging deep down inside of me is the knowledge that I have lied (even little white lies).  I never made a habit of it, but I’ve done it.  I have stolen…a piece of candy when I was a child, and time from my employer when I should have been working.  I’ve been angry and bitter.  I’ve said words I shouldn’t have said.  I have been mean to people.  I’ve been jealous.  I have been ungrateful, rude, disrespectful.  I have gossiped, put my needs before the needs of others, been self-righteous.  The list goes on and on, and is as fresh as yesterday.  I cannot deny that I have done wrong things.  It’s as plain as the nose on my face.  And so is my need for forgiveness.

Every sin is like a brick in a wall that separates us from God.  It is a wall that is built by me, but with eternal bricks that cannot be torn down by human hands or effort.  It is a wall that prevents me from having a relationship with God, and from ever getting to Heaven to live with Him.  The only one who has the power to tear that wall of eternal sin bricks down is Jesus, and He will only do it if we ask Him to.  That means getting to Heaven is our choice…we ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins, and save us from staying on this side of the wall, staying in sin.  He then becomes our Savior.

All sin must be punished.  Jesus took our punishment when He died on the cross over 2,000 years ago.  The punishment for sin is death, eternal death.  That means our bodies die, but our spirits either live for eternity in Heaven with God, or they live an eternal death in Hell separated from God and all His goodness.  When Jesus died, He took our punishment of eternity in Hell.  When He came back to life after 3 days, He demonstrated that the power over life and death are both in His hands, and He cannot be controlled by either.  We Christians say that He conquered death and Hell.  Even though we will all still die a physical death (that is a consequence of sin, as opposed to punishment for it), our spirits don’t die.  And if we ask Jesus to be our Savior, He will break down that ugly (because sin is ugly if we are honest) wall of sin, and welcome us into the presence of God.  If we die with that wall still standing between us and God, then all hope is lost.  The wall remains in the spirit world, just as it was here in the physical world, and there is no way past it to get near to God.  The difference is that in the physical world, God’s Spirit is present in every Christian, and all around us.  Every person experiences the goodness of God as He provides rain for crops to grow, sunshine, love, peace…all the good things we have just a glimpse of here.  In Hell, on the other side of that wall, ALL of His goodness is gone.  None of it remains.  There is only the antithesis of everything good.  No love at all, only hatred.  No peace, only torment.  No laughter, only tears.  All the time, eternally.  And in that spirit world of life after physical death, the wall of sin has also become eternal.  There is no hope of every breaking it down.

Conversely, for those people who asked Jesus for His salvation, and allowed Him to tear that wall down, their spirits get to live surrounded by all of God’s goodness, in purest form, no longer distorted by sin and its effects, for all of eternity.  Completely pure love.  Completely whole peace.  Completely full joy.  All the time, eternally.

My ugly sin was has been torn down.  Jesus is my Savior.  I still sin, because I will never be perfect until my spirit is living in Heaven with God.  But when Jesus tore down my sin wall, He also made it impossible for it to be rebuilt.  He took my punishment once and for all.  When I sin now, I ask for forgiveness and it is given.  There are still earthly consequences for sin.  If I lie to someone, I have still hurt them and damaged our trust.  But I have confidence that Jesus will forgive me, because He promised to, and I know that lie is not going to keep me from living in Heaven.

Now, there is a burning issue that needs to be addressed.  I may be a Christian who is an accidental hypocrite, but there are definitely people who claim to be Christians and are blatant hypocrites.  What about them?  First of all, I don’t know their hearts.  I cannot make the judgement as to whether or not they actually are Christians.  Only God knows that.  What I do know is that God calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves.  When people are standing on the side of a gay pride parade holding hateful placards, for example, that is not showing the love of God…and it is flaming hypocrisy.  It does not show love, it shows hatred.   The Bible says the world will know Christians by their love.  Hatred is a sin.  And I have just admitted that Christians still sin.  So how do we know what the truth is?  Are they actually Christians who are sinning and giving the rest of us a bad name?  If so, we must remember that we will never be perfect, and that God works in the heart of every Christian to make them more and more like Him.  Hopefully they will eventually recognize their sin, confess it and seek forgiveness.  However, it must also be recognized that these people may not really be Christians at all, but only think they are.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in the world who think they are Christians just because they go to church, or try to be a good person.  Jesus said that He is the only way to be saved.  Going to church won’t save, and no one can be good enough to save themselves.  If those people are relying on something other than Jesus, they are not truly Christians, and do not have the love of God in them.

In the end, it really doesn’t matter.  You will think what you will about me and all Christians.  You will either judge us on a case-by-case basis, or you will judge us as all the same whether you know us or not.  And I will continue to be a Christian, even with my imperfections.  But I am, and always will be, a Christian who knows without a doubt that when I die, my spirit will live with God forever, with a pile of bricks from a torn down wall far behind me.  What about you?  Will you ask Jesus to tear down your wall and be your Savior?  Or will you live eternally on the side of a wall that you can never tear down?  It’s up to you.

 

Satan’s Bag of Tricks

When Satan approached Eve in the Garden of Eden, he deployed his full bag of tricks.  And aren’t we glad that we have written record of it?!  It’s like being given the secret attack plans, in writing, of our greatest enemy while on the field of battle.  Wait, it is exactly that.  Since we know all of Satan’s moves, we can watch for them and have our guard up.  Can you see him pacing the floor every time someone reads Genesis 3?  “Drat!  Foiled again!”  (Yah, right!  I’m sure he is that tame!  Not!!)

Well, let’s take a look at what is in Satan’s bag of tricks, shall we?  Let’s start with chapter 3,verse 1.  “Now the serpent….”  Satan has power to be reckoned with.  He changed his form into something that was non-threatening.  Just as the beautiful Autumn Crocus flower causes cardiac arrest, Satan can appear beautiful, but his poison is deadly.

Number 2 in the bag of tricks is also in verse 1.  Satan asks Eve, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree in the garden?'”  Did you see that?  He said “every.”  Just like my 8 year old insinuates that I don’t love him because I make him eat the healthy supper I have made for him, and don’t let him eat the junk food he would prefer.  Satan insinuates that God does not love Eve.  If He truly loved her, then He would let her eat from whatever tree she wanted to.  Tricky, tricky!  And how easily we tend to fall for that one!  The minute something goes wrong, or doesn’t go like we planned, what do we do?  We doubt the love of God.  And what is more true than His love?  Not a blessed thing!  Anyone who would sacrifice the life of His only Son for you, loves you.  That is pretty hard to overlook.

Trick number 3 – Genesis 3:4.  Satan flat out lies.  He denies the truth of God’s word when he says, “You will not surely die.”  Just a case in point…where is Eve now?  Dead.  Satan does not always twist to deceive.  He does not always manipulate the truth so that it is still partially true.  Often he just plain old, flat out lies.  He is, after all, the father of lies (John 8:44).  Be on your guard.  Know God’s word so that you know His truth, and will see a lie from Satan from miles away.

Remember the poisonous apple from The Sleeping Beauty?  Oh I remember it!  The apple the witch offered to the princess was beautiful!  It was red and shiny, perfectly formed.  It easily must have been the most desirable apple from all the trees…but it was laced with poison!  As the wicked witch (disguised as a sweet old lady…sound familiar?) held it out before her, the princess could not resist.  Perhaps she wasn’t even hungry before that.  But when she say that gorgeous apple, she wanted it.  She took it, and ate it.  Satan’s 4th trick is just that.  Chapter 3:5 – “…in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…”  A fruit that would make Eve like God.  “Oooo, pretty!  I must have it!!”  Satan causes sin to appear beautiful, fun, desirable, then dangles it in front of our faces.  We begin to believe that it is exactly what we have always wanted to do, so we do it.  We say it, we take it, we whatever.  Know what God says is sin.  Stay in constant contact with the Holy Spirit through prayer, so that you will hear Him when He warns you that the shiny, red apple is poisoned!

Here’s a sneaky one.  Watch carefully for trick number 5, because Satan very craftily uses it to malign the character, and holiness of God…thereby removing His godliness!  Genesis 3:5 – “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  Key words?  “For God knows.”  Can you hear the snide snake hiss those words out?  His implication?   “God knows if you eat this, you will be just like Him, and He can’t have that.  He wants all the knowledge to be His.  He wants all the power for Himself.  He is selfish and jealous, and won’t share.”  Satan led Eve to question the goodness, the holiness, of God.  In a world filled with tragedy and strife, how easy is it for Satan today to plant these same seeds of doubt!  See Leviticus 19:2, Isaiah 6:3, 1 Peter 1:5, Revelation 3:7, and Revelation 15:4 for verification of God’s holiness.

When in a battle, know your enemy.  But also know your ally.  Remember that you are on the side of right, and God fights for you against an enemy who’s defeat is imminent.  Don’t let Satan’s wiles trick you into crossing enemy lines.  Be on guard!  Wear your armor!  Ephesians 6:11 – Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

So What is God’s Story, Really? Pt. 1

A while back we were talking about creation and the fall into sin in our adult Sunday School class.  During the discussion, one woman spoke up and said something that stuck with me…”God set us up.”  Heh?  Come again?  Oh, she wasn’t saying it with any kind of malicious attitude or anything.  She was just saying that, by putting the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden, it appeared that God was setting mankind up for a fall.  He put the tree there, knowing it would be a temptation to eat from it.

Did God really set us up for a fall?  Did He put that tree there as a test to see if we could pass it up?  How fair is that?  That just goes against the unspoken rules of decency.  Everyone knows it just isn’t right to set someone up just so that they will fail.  It’s plain old cruel.

So does that make God cruel?  Can’t be.  He is love.  He is just.  And He is truth.  Those things alone do not add up to cruel.  Since God is not cruel, then we must ask the question:  Did God really set us up for a fall?  The answer is yes and no.

We know from the Bible that God is all-knowing.  Romans 11:33-36 (ESV) – Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Since God is all-knowing, then, yes, He knew when He put that tree in the garden that Adam and Eve would eat from it.  But we need to back up further.  God knew before He created the world and everything in it that when He created the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and put it in the Garden of Eden, and made Adam and Eve, and told them not to eat of it, that Satan would tempt Eve, she would eat, and give to Adam, who would also eat.  God knew before He created any of it, that man would need a savior, that He would have to provide that sacrificial Lamb, in the form of His own Son, and that, even after sending Jesus to die in place of the sinful humans He created, that many, many would reject Him, hate Him, and chose to live as His enemies.  Why in the world did God bother??

In the words of my 10-year-old son, “Why didn’t God just click something and make everyone love Him?”  I believe that in that question lies the answer.  Why in the world did God bother with creating a world that would reject Him?  Why didn’t He just make us follow Him and love Him?  Because that is not what He wanted, or wants!  Even from the very beginning…before the beginning of the world, God wanted to have a relationship with us, His creation.  But He didn’t want a forced relationship.  God knew that forcing people to love Him would only lead to a false love.  It wouldn’t be real.  Even if it prevented sin from entering the world, and the forced love did not lead to bitterness and resentment.  It would still be a hollow love.  Love without meaning.  That is not what God wants.  He wants a love that brings with it deep devotion, abiding love that lasts for eternity, and is willing to give to Him everything that we have, because He has given to us everything we have.

This kind of love cannot be created or forced.  The love that God wants from you and me is a love that chooses Him.  When we give Him that kind of love, when we make a conscious decision to love God, He, in turn, promises us the reward of living in eternity with Him.

Now I want to put this in a very large nutshell for you.  Picture this:  God’s real story, a book from beginning to end.  God wanted a people with whom He could have a true relationship, based on a love that was chosen, not forced.  Knowing this, He set about creating a world for people to live in.  He placed a temptation before the people, knowing that they would choose to take it, and separate themselves from Him.  He already had a plan to restore that relationship once the ball was rolling.  It was a plan that was going to take a lot of time, and cost Him a lot of pain in a very personal way.  But He knew that, along the way, there would be those who would choose to love Him.  He planned to let the whole scenario play out as long as possible.  He loved each person that He created and put into the story of the world, even before they were created, and He desired to give each and every one of them the opportunity to love Him.  Eventually, He will close the book on this world, this place that He has built to cultivate people who will love Him and live with Him for eternity.  This earth was never intended to be a forever place.  It was always a time and a place on the way to eternity.  The middle step in God’s plan to create a family who could be with Him, and love Him, and talk with Him, and whom He could love and care for for all of eternity.

For those of us who are Christians, followers of Jesus, people who have chosen to love God, this is cause to praise and rejoice.  If you are reading this, and you have not made that conscious decision to love God, you still can.  God is going to close the back cover to this book very soon.  Most of the story has been written.  The final chapters are being playing out in our lifetimes.  Won’t you chose the God who went through all this trouble, sacrificed His only Son, and has waited so patiently for thousands of years so that you can share in His glory?  He loves you so much.  Chose to love Him.

“God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life.”  John 3:16.

 

The Naked Truth: Why Did Adam Really Hide From God?

“Then they heard the Lord God walking in the garden during the cool part of the day, and the man and his wife hid from the Lord God among the trees in the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said, ‘Where are you?’

“The man answered, ‘I heard you walking in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.'” (Genesis 3:8-10 NCV).

This was part of the passage we discussed in Sunday School today. And the question was, “Why did Adam and Eve hide from God?” Was it guilt and shame? Embarrassment? After all, they looked down for the first time and realized “Whoops! Yikes! We are naked as jay-birds! We can’t show up before God like this!”

Was nakedness really the reason that they hid, or was there something else? Of course there was. The very moment Eve, and then Adam, ate of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil they not only understood the difference between right and wrong, but they had a full understanding of the gravity of what they had done. They heard God walking in the garden and knew that they had disobeyed the God of the universe. They felt guilt, and shame. But they also felt fear for the first time. God said that if they ate from that tree, they would die. Now God was looking for them. Did He know already? Was their any way they could hide this truth from Him? Would He kill them on the spot? Adam and Eve hid because more than their bodies were naked. Their souls were laid bare, and they were now vulnerable. They were afraid. Before they ate, they lived in the comfort and safety of God Almighty. Now, God was their enemy. I’d hide, too!

They had to wonder, who was this God? Was He a God of anger and revenge? Would He be filled with hatred, and regret over creating them? Adam and Eve suddenly realized that they no longer knew God. The One with whom they had spent countless hours strolling through the garden had become a stranger to them. Something had come between them and Him, and fear gripped their hearts like it was a physical vise. It was this fear that drove them to cower behind the bushes when God called for them. They did not dare to face Him.

Don’t we find ourselves in the same situation when we sin against God? The God we enjoyed communion with in prayer just hours before becomes a stranger. We feel separated from Him. Vulnerable. Afraid to show ourselves to Him. What will He do? How will He react? We doubt His goodness, and wonder if this is the time that God says, “Enough. This is the last time you will blow it. I am finished with you.” Satan feeds us one lie after another. He overruns our mind with doubts. And in so doing, strips us naked, leaving us vulnerable and afraid to turn our face toward God.

What was God’s response to Adam and Eve? Punishment? Perhaps. To be sure there were consequences for what they had done. But God didn’t fry them. He didn’t strike them with lightening. He didn’t vaporize them. And He didn’t hate them. God’s response was to care for them. He met their needs. They were naked and vulnerable. He covered them (vs. 21). He loved them.

What is God’s response to you when you sin? He does not condemn you (There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit – Romans 8:1 NKJV). Yes, there are natural consequences for our sins. But God loves us, and He covers our nakedness. He covered our nakedness once and for all when Jesus died on the cross. We sin and build a separation between us and God, but He comes calling for us. He wants us to return to Him. He wants us to trust in His love.

So God loves us. He does not condemn us when we disobey Him. He even comes looking for us to bring us back to Him. Why then would we fear Him? Because Satan wants us to, just as he wanted Adam and Eve to. As long as Satan can keep us away from God, filled with the fear of a response from God that he has contrived, he can keep us from being used by God. Our relationship with God is put on hold, and our service to God is paralyzed. Satan becomes the victor in our lives.

We will sin. No matter how hard we try not to. But we cannot allow Satan full victory in our lives! Our time here is short. God has a purpose for our lives, and when we allow Satan to make us ineffective by not returning to the God who offers us His own righteousness, we lose. We lose out on precious time in prayer and worship with God. We lose opportunities to reach others in His service. And we lose the blessing of being used by the God of all gods. God is not the God of fear. He is the God of love, and He wants you to return to Him the moment you realize your sin. Do not delay. Defeat the fear of the Devil. Instead, seek victory in Jesus!

Do I Disappoint God?

I’m not often disappointed by people. Well, not to the point of frustration anyway. I have learned over the years that just as I need the grace and understanding of others, they need it from me as well. Once in a while, though, I have higher expectations for someone than I should. And when that happens, so does disappointment. Then when disappointment happens, frustration, anger, bitterness, resentment also tend to rear their ugly heads. This is exactly what happened to me this week…and on more than one occasion, with more than one person! I was setting myself up for a fall, and worse, I set them up for a fall!

When it was all said and done, I had some confessing to do. And it took me a bit to figure out how to talk to God about it all. I was hurt because of the actions of the people who disappointed me, so there was that to deal with. But I knew that I didn’t handle it as well as I should have either. So here I was with a wall between me and God. I hate that feeling! There can’t possibly be anything worse than feeling that distance between you and God, and not knowing how, or where, to begin getting back to Him. It took a lot of work, but eventually I was able to start praying about everything. As I prayed about the disappointment that I felt, I thought, “I must disappoint You all the time.” But how can God be disappointed?

Where does disappointment come from? High hopes. We expect more of people than it is fair to expect. We expect perfection from imperfect people, and then don’t offer grace and understanding when they don’t live up to our expectations. We expect them to be something they are not…infallible.

When I thought of how often God must be disappointed in me, He corrected me. God is never disappointed in me! He doesn’t set up high hopes and delude Himself into believing that I am more than I am. He knows exactly who I am, what I am capable of, and what I am not capable of. He knows I am not perfect. Not only is He not taken aback, surprised, or disappointed when I fail Him, He knew it was going to happen before I did it. God knew what He was getting when He called me to Him in the first place. So it is impossible for me to disappoint God! But there is more.

God knew exactly how I was going to react to those who disappointed me this week. He wasn’t disappointed in me. That doesn’t mean He liked it. But He loves me. He offered me grace and understanding…and forgiveness. But the thing is, the forgiveness was mine before I sinned! Hebrews 10:10 (NCV) – “And because of this, we are made holy through the sacrifice Christ made in his body once and for all time.” Once and for all time. Long ago I accepted the free gift of salvation through Christ. When that happened, my sins were forgiven…past, present, and yes, future! God is not disappointed in me because He knows me; because He understands me; and because, through the blood of Jesus, He has already forgiven me for what I will do! This is not an excuse to go do as I please. Instead it is a blessed reassurance of His unconditional love for me. And my praise and thanksgiving seem so inadequate in comparison. What do I have to give in return but myself. It is all I have to give, and I give it freely to my God who loves me.

Blessed Assurance by Frances J. Crosby, 1873

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

Refrain:
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels, descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

I Don’t Get It! How Can God Use ME??

The Israelites never cease to amaze me.  They were the chosen people of God Almighty.  He spoke directly to them, and performed one incredible miracle after another to, through, for them.  He demonstrated His power time and again, and showered them with blessings.  God Himself gave them the best land, a land filled with milk and honey.  He defeated their enemies on countless occasions.  He was actually present with them in a tangible form (in a pillar of cloud, a pillar of fire, and on the seat of the ark of the covenant).  Yet, over and over and over again, they rejected Him.  They refused to obey God’s commands.  They worshiped false gods.  How in the world could they turn from the presence of the God who communicated directly to them, whom they could see was alive and well and all-powerful, to worshiping a chunk of metal or rock?  I don’t get it!

Still God used them to bless the entire earth!  He used this group of ungrateful, back-stabbing, faithless people to send the Messiah, the Savior for all, to this sinful world.

While I ponder this miracle, I see a reflection…an image that looks all too much like the Israelites…me.  My life is a mess.  Oh, I don’t mean that my marriage is on the rocks and my children are all out carousing and getting in trouble.  I mean I’m a sinner!  I am selfish.  I have a quick temper.  I am impatient.  I can be judgmental.  I falsely accuse.  I fight my attitude all the time.  The list goes on.  Yet somehow, in an amazing miraculous way, God has chosen me as a vessel.  He shares His messages through me, the pen in His hand.  I don’t get it!

I am so grateful that “God does not see the same way people see.  People look at the outside of a person, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b).  Thank God He knows my heart!  Thank God he knows the depth of my desire to serve Him!  Thank God He understands that I am a sinner, saved by His grace!

Unfortunately, people don’t know my heart.  They see the outside.  They see the mistakes I make.  They see the sinful me.  And I am certain that it is far too easy to believe that I cannot possible be used by God, after all, look how frustrated and impatient she is with her children when they are goofing off in church, or messing around in the store.  Look at how she lost her temper with that teacher when something happened to her child at school.  They can’t imagine how God can use me.  They don’t get it.

But God is using me.  I don’t deserve to be used of God!  I know that all too well.  But I want to obey Him, more than anything.  And so I keep struggling through everyday life, making mistakes, committing sins and seeking forgiveness…and remaining open to the leading of the Holy Spirit in my life.

I know that I need to look different.  My witness, and God’s message, are tarnished by my sinfulness.  I must seek to serve Him, and obey Him in every area of my life, not just my calling.  Titus 3:1-2 (NCV) – “Remind the believers to yield to the authority of rulers and government leaders, to obey them, to be ready to do good, to speak no evil about anyone, to live in peace, and to be gentle and polite to all people.”

I am so thankful that God knows my imperfections, and that His work is not complete in me…it won’t be until the day Christ returns.  I can’t expect perfection from myself, or anyone else, for that reason alone.

If you believe God can’t use you because of your sin, you are wrong.  Remember that all things are possible with God.  Just ask Him to use you, be open to His leading, and be obedient to His call.  Being used by God is not up to you, or your abilities.  It is up to God and His abilities.  You, my friend, are an open slate!  Rejoice in that!!!

If you are obeying God’s call, as I am, and think your sins shout “hypocrisy” from the highest mountain, don’t quit.  Don’t give up.  Do work on it!  The Bible tells us in many places the kind of behavior we should exhibit as followers of Christ.  We must work to look and behave differently.  We will fail.  Get used to it.  But, by the grace of God, our failures will be less and less.  Do not lose hope because the Spirit will help us…we just need to listen, and obey.

If you are a person standing at the foot of the mountain and hearing the cry of “hypocrisy,” be discerning.  Remember how God used the Israelites (and so many other flawed and sinful people in the Bible).  Listen to the message.  Weigh it against the Word of God and pray for God to reveal His truths to you.  Remember that the message, the lesson, whatever it is that is coming to you through another person, perfect and holy or not, comes from the Holy Spirit, not the person.  Look past their failures, and look to what God wants you to know.

“I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, and wonder how He could love me, a sinner, condemned, unclean.  How marvelous!  How wonderful!  And my song shall ever be:  How marvelous!  How wonderful is my Savior’s love for me!”

HEAVEN

A couple days ago I took a look at what Hell is. Bottom line? Without the presence of God, and all the goodness that He is and brings, it is not a place I want to be…ever, and certainly not for eternity. All people are spiritual beings, and will live eternally somewhere (even though our physical bodies die). The question, then, is where? Is Hell the only option? When we die, are we all just doomed to eternal life in Hell? If that is the case, it is no wonder people flee death with fear and trembling!

I have good news, though. The best possible news ever. Hell has a counterpart! It is called Heaven. Just as Hell is pure darkness, evil, and everlasting torment; Heaven is pure light, goodness, and everlasting joy and contentment. It is the complete opposite.

The book of Revelations, in the Bible, tells us a little about what is in Heaven. Chapters 21 and 22 talk about a new Heaven and a new earth, the new holy city of Jerusalem. There will be no darkness, so no night, no fear of the bad things that can happen in cover of darkness. There will be no sun or moon, because God will be present right there, and the light that comes from Him will light the entire city. Hey, guess what? No sunburn!!!!

Revelation 21 & 22 also talk about the city being made of gold so pure it looks like glass. Streets of gold. The walls of the city decorated with any number of precious jewels (you think they are pretty in this world, imagine them in Heaven with absolutely no impurities!). The River of Life that shines like crystal. Trees that produce fruit every month, 12 times a year. And the gates to the city will never be closed because nothing evil will be allowed to enter in.

Since God will be physically present in this new earth, what will come with that? We know that no sin or evil can be in His presence. That is why Jesus died for us, to redeem us from the sin that permeates our lives now. When God looks at us now, He looks through Jesus’ sacrifice to see a righteous you and me (provided you have accepted Jesus as Savior). So what does no evil or sin in the new world look like? We already talked about no darkness. There will be no pain, no sorrow, no sickness, no fear, no death. Angels and people will sing continuous praise to God, beautiful music filling the air.

I think of Heaven in terms of the Garden of Eden. There was no death before sin entered the world. That means animals did not eat each other, or people. Which also means there was no need to fear them. I can’t imagine not being afraid of spiders and snakes, but I won’t be. The earth was new and wasn’t going to get old. There would have been no earthquakes, volcanoes, deadly storms. No hail to ruin crops, no bugs that destroy them. And no weeds!!!! Work was fulfilling and enjoyable, not a thing to be dreaded. Because there was no sickness, and work was not laborious, Eve didn’t worry about Adam having a heart attack while he was slaving away. Trees and plants didn’t die. Mosquitoes didn’t bite. Skunks didn’t sting, and porcupines didn’t shoot quills. The color of everything was vibrant and pure beyond what any of us can imagine today. All of the Garden of Eden and more, so much more, beyond what our feeble minds can embrace, will be in Heaven.

To me, the very best thing will be the presence of God Himself. God walked in the Garden of Eden. I don’t know if He did it every day, or only once, when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the Tree of Good and Evil. But He did it. Adam and Eve hid because they knew they had disobeyed God. But He spoke to them face to face…for the last time. Remember when Moses asked to see God’s glory (Exodus 33:18-23)? God told Him he could not see His face because He would die. The full glory of God would be so great that Moses, in his sinful humanity, would not be able to tolerate it. So God covered his eyes, and passed before him. Moses was then allowed to see the back of God and His glory. And even then Moses glowed like a lightbulb for days afterward! In Heaven, we will see God face to face, in all His glory. We will not only be able to live through it, we will rejoice in it. We will glory in it. We will bathe in it. And we will live in the presence of it for all eternity!!

The question is, which do you choose? You have to make a choice. There is Heaven or Hell. By choosing not to choose, you simply choose Hell by default. If you are going to go to Heaven, then you must choose Heaven. You must choose Jesus. How do you do that? Believe that He is the only way. He is the only Son of God. His death on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins, and His resurrection back to life after 3 days, made the way for you to go to Heaven. But you have to believe it. When Jesus hung dying on the cross, 2 thieves hung on crosses on each side of Him. Luke 23: 39-43 tells how one of them recognized Jesus as God. He asked Jesus to remember him when He entered His kingdom. That is all he did. And Jesus’ answer? Verse 43: Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

What do you choose today? Paradise with Jesus, or Hell? There is no other option.

walking on the narrow path.

walking on the narrow path with Jesus

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