forgiveness

All posts tagged forgiveness

Yes, You Can Know God

Published October 11, 2017 by Dawn

It is amazing that across the eons of time, God has remained enshrouded in mystery and so incalculable to the human race. We dare not attempt to explain or define Him, because our finite understanding can never do justice to the God of the universe. There is so much about Him that doesn’t make sense in our limited understanding and so many facets of His nature and personality that we have yet to see even a glimpse of. The only thing we can say with absolute surety is that we will never understand God in all of His fullness, and even the things we do know about Him, we know pensively without absolution. God is so much more than we can ever imagine.

I found myself in speechless awe the other day as I was reading the book of John because a scripture I have read so many times finally came to light upon me with a clarity that stunned and enraptured me. Jesus said in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” I read it and went on to the next verse and the next until I read again in John 12:45, “The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me.” Jesus continued further on, “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well” (John 14:7) … anyone who has seen me has seen the Father … The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father living in me, who is doing his work” (John 14:9-10).

Suddenly, I realized what it was Christ was getting at: we can begin to understand the nature of God by knowing the nature of Christ.

Y’all!

There are many religions that acquiesce to believe that Jesus was a great man, a prophet and a prolific teacher. But not Christianity. As a Christian, I believe that Jesus is the son of God, the incarnation of God in the flesh. I have professed this faith so many times, but it JUST NOW dawned on me: God is not unlike Christ. He is no better or worse than Christ. He is Christ. All the attributes that humanity witnessed in Christ belong to God, our Heavenly Father. He came to us to show us something of Himself, and although we know we do not comprehend even the smallest smidge of who God is in His fullness, we can know what He chose to reveal to us through our fellowship with the Word of God made flesh among us.

I know … you’re probably wondering how I could have read the Bible so many times and missed this truth. I have no idea. I just know that for the first time in my life, I finally see how God can be merciful and just, brutally honest but still loving, forgiving but confrontational too. Jesus was all of these things, and he told us, “For I do not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say” (John 12:49-50).

When Jesus drove money-changers out of the temple, we see that within God’s character is an element of righteous indignation. His house was being used flippantly for petty, worldly things. He had a standard for His temple and guarded it jealously. Scripture calls it “zeal.” God is full of zeal for His righteous standards, then.

When Jesus showed kindness to a woman caught in adultery, we can clearly see that God is kind toward the humiliated, weary soul. Christ did not affirm her in her sin, but He did not condemn and chastise either. His holiness alone was enough to convince her of her wickedness. Likewise, we know that God will defend the weak and miserable against the proud outrage of merciless humanity, but He will never stand in defense of sin, even when he stands in defense of a sinner. “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

When we read of Jesus waiting after knowing Lazarus was sick, we find that God is patient when proving something of Himself to stubborn unbelievers. We also see a brokenness in Christ over having to use such a drastic tragedy to illuminate people’s minds and hearts with truth. Jesus did not enjoy waiting and did not rejoice in the pain it brought to Lazarus’ family and friends. On the contrary, he cried with them. God loves us through the trying times, and even empathizes with us when His purposes momentarily cause us grief and pain.

When Jesus slept soundly in the bottom of a boat while men and women around him gawked in fear at the raging sea, we find our God is never troubled by the storms of life, no matter how fierce they seem. He does not stir in anticipation, but responds only to the heart-cry of His fearful sheep. Peter yelled, “Master, carest not thou that we perish?” Jesus immediately woke and calmed the storm. He didn’t pay attention to the wind and waves, but he couldn’t ignore the turbulence in Peter’s chilling cries. Our God also does not waver when chaos comes. He remains steadfast and immovable. He is only ever moved by one thing: the cries of His children. When we scream out in agony, fear or disbelief, God immediately responds because we have touched His heartstrings with the faith of a child. We don’t know what we expect of Him, we just know that He is where our hope lies.

I could go on, friend, talking about all the miracles and acts of love wherein Jesus showed us the Great Liberator, Provider, Healer, and Friend, but you can read for yourself and find more about the character of God. One event urges me forward to the most pivotal moment in all humanity: Christ died for us.

Can you even imagine the love of God? Can you imagine the seriousness of sin? Can you imagine the desperation of our Creator to be with us? Christ died for us.

Our God, full of repugnance at the thought of sin destroying His Beloved, came down and lived this life. Can you imagine? Who doesn’t, at some point, feel the anguish of living? The destitution, suffering, pain and rejection? God faced it all because in His wisdom, He knew we wouldn’t bring ourselves to His feet if we thought He couldn’t relate. He faced it because He wanted to fully understand our humanity under the spell of Satan. He faced it because He wanted the devil to know defeat at every angle. God, full of love and compassion for our fallen state, determined to have us again for all time and began just where we begin: born into a broken world. He came with no majesty, no physical appeal. He was cloaked in the most ordinary and unattractive way. He was true to Himself and therefore despised and rejected. And then, He did it. He allowed Himself, the Creator of all things, to be spit upon, beaten, shattered and torn – nailed to a cross in the utmost of human agony – God created the plan and submitted to all that Hell’s fury could aim at Him. All because He loved us.

His friends, tormented for days, felt the anguish of loss and were not comforted. Three days. Then, in unknown limitless power, Jesus rose. God Incarnate rose up from under the crushing weight of death that no man can defeat. God prevailed! For us!

Do you see it? How much God hates sin? How much He adores us? Oh, what Love! While there are many facets of God – many attributes of His character and nature – we finally must admit, Beloved, that in all that God is, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). In His justice, He is love. In His discipline, He is love. In His mercy, Love. In His grace, Love. In His righteousness, Love. In His fullness, God is love. In every way that God operates, He continually shows us the many ways He loves us. Too much to give up on us, too much to leave us in our sin, too much to abandon us. Everything He says and everything He does communicates His love for us. Sometimes, it’s tough love and sometimes, it’s a sweet, sweet salve. Always, it’s God’s love.

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Trusting God on a Fearsome Wave

Published September 27, 2017 by Dawn

I gently laid my phone down on the counter after a major act of obedience and thought to myself, “Well … that was weird.”

I had just sent a text to my ex – the man who had, until recently, been on the far periphery of our lives while I raise two kids solo – telling him I was praying for him. I also thanked him for “stepping up.” Do bitter moms even do that, like, ever?

It was a response to prayer. I had just had a major freak-out session with God about my son because – let’s just say he hasn’t made the wisest choices this week. I immediately reacted (or overreacted), and my son decided he wanted to go to his dad’s for the week.

My son.

This man … he’s struggled to be reliable in the past and I don’t necessarily approve of his decisions and the person he has chosen to become. I certainly have not envisioned the path he took in life as the path I want my kids to walk. I have prayed very fervently over the years that God would send someone to help me in raising these kids because I have never wanted to do this alone. I’m fifteen years in and I have only remained single as an act of obedience. It was not my will. I have crumbled many times over the years. My prayers have run the gamut:

God, please. Send someone to help me in raising these kids. I can’t do this alone.

Lord, if it’s your will for me to remain single, be my Husband. Help me. They are your children and you care about them. Do your thing.

Husband, I need your help in raising these kids.

When their dad decided very recently to begin to pull his life together and step up, my prayer changed. I became insolent and bitter. God, I asked you to send me someone. I’ve been begging for years. I have allowed you to do your thing in my life and when you finally send someone it’s him. You have nothing better than this?

I’m a little embarrassed at my attitude but there’s no point in denying it. The truth sets us free, right? I began to pray for his salvation, and that God would separate him from things that are no good for him. I prayed he would hear God and respond to him. I also prayed fervently that he would move as far away as possible so my kids wouldn’t wander into foreign lifestyles that he might introduce them to.

After a disturbing day yesterday, when my son left to go to his dad’s house, I broke down. I kind of threw a panicked fit. None of this was in my plans. I had just spoken to a few people this past weekend about Job and how Satan was really aiming at God’s goodness. He wanted Job to denounce God and admit God wasn’t good. I quoted the scripture, “Shall we accept good from God and not bad also?” And another, “His ways are higher.” These verses nagged at me while I questioned God.

I am so glad God is patient with us. He listened without speaking for a long time and when I was finally done ranting, I heard Him speak in my spirit: What if, through this need, I can work in both of them? Is it impossible that I can call him up higher by presenting a need you can’t meet? Isn’t his salvation and deliverance what you are praying for? Do you trust me?

Let’s just say I hesitated. Then I acquiesce. Hadn’t God delivered me through my children? I prayed a new prayer then. Please be with him and teach him. Give him wisdom. He might not know how to handle this but you do. Open his ears and his heart to hear and obey you, Lord. I leave my son in your hands.

Proverbs tells us that “as a man thinks in his heart, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7). I can’t keep holding the old man over my ex’s head and expecting him to become someone new. I also know that if this man is the man God intends to raise my son, while also redeeming him, who am I to question? Who am I to remain bitter? I have to stand in God’s decision and be a help and not a hindrance. I can’t let my pride, or any roots of bitterness, endanger the man my son will become. I have to allow God to use this man I had previously had no respect for – I have to respect him as the instrument God intends to use to make my boy a man. I have to pray for him. I have to encourage him. I have to forgive him and allow him to step up. I don’t have to trust this man; I only need to trust God. So I sent the text. I reflected on how strange it felt, but let it be. I freaked out again today, because I am still struggling with memories that haunt me. I have plans for my son. But so does God, and he has two sons to train here. In my son’s life, his dad will become the greater influence while I become the lesser.

God can do anything, friend. Don’t we say that all the time? We sing the songs, we quote the scriptures, but at some point, we have to walk the talk and only then will we know whether or not we really believe God is who He says He is, and is capable of all He claims to be capable of. In what ways is God stretching your faith? Let Him. Don’t argue or fight it. Just let Him.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:3-9).

 

 

Because He First Loved Me

Published June 18, 2017 by Dawn

I had a very humbling experience the other day. I was lying in bed the other morning It was really early … like, the birds weren’t even up yet. I laid there hoping for the best in terms of falling back to sleep and eventually slipped into a nap. I had this dream that the Lord was looking for me, searching deeper and deeper into the depths of this really dark pit. He finally made it to the bottom, still faithfully calling out my name. There at the bottom, he lifted up this thick covering and there I was, hiding underneath it. I looked up at him with fire in my eyes and venom on my tongue as I hissed, “I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.”

I was a little kid who had lost a game of hide and seek. The Lord searched until he found me, and to my shame, when he finally found me, I was insolent and hateful. I had the sensation that this dream was a picture of Jesus. He was searching out the deepness of my heart, looking for me. I was humbled to hear myself whisper such a horrendous thing to my Lord. His gentle love in that moment humbled me greatly as I heard the Spirit whisper, “…because he first loved me.”

Being transparent seems easy for me, but I have to admit that this one was hard to even delve into for myself, much less admit it out loud for the world to know. I’ve prided myself for years … Is it okay if I get really transparent here? I might not have admitted this out loud to anyone before, but the truth is that me not being who I once was is a huge deal (to me). I took pride in it for years. Being redeemed, being transformed … I took pride in that. You will say to me, “That’s not Christ-like.” I know, friend. I know. I couldn’t help myself. I know that person, and I know myself now. I know the pit I came out of and I felt the weight of escaping it (though now I know I didn’t feel hardly anything compared to what Christ carried for me), but I felt it and the memories made me very proud to be where I am now. Are you hearing the echoes of pride as you read this? Is it turning you off? I am so sorry. I just want you to know what happened to me the other morning and to understand, you have to understand where I was at. I was proud. Of myself.

I have spent the last 8 years of my life in the arms of Christ. I have patiently bore the suffering for His name and His purpose in my life. I have not created my own way and called it good. I have remained as faithful as I can to His Will. Don’t abandon reading now … I know what this sounds like, but bear with me. I have, through all of this, nurtured this pride that somehow, I have attained “good enough” because I have strived for holiness, wrestled with flesh and maintained a firm hold on my own righteousness.

Yes, I credited God with my mouth. I thanked Jesus from my heart. What he did for me on that cross was amazing: buying me from the clutches of sin so I could pursue holiness. And each step forward, I patted myself on the back. That’s why Christ uncovered me. Because all this time, I have given credit to myself for something I could never have done on my own. There, in the secret place of my heart, I watched in horror as my child-like self hissed “I hate you” to the one who sought me, found me and pulled me out. What is there to be proud of when you know yourself like this?

That wasn’t the worst part, though. That wasn’t what did me in. Here’s what did it: He looked at me tenderly in that moment and I could see it on His face. He loved me in that moment.

Something happened. I broke. Jesus, hearing my rebellious heart hate Him, looked me in the eye with such compassion and reached for me anyway.

I don’t think I’ve ever fully understood the cross until this moment. I have spent endless hours reading the Word of God, drinking in the love story of He and Us, but the truth of it never hit me as powerfully until this moment, when His compassion destroyed my pride. I can’t even love Him without Him first loving me.  To me, that would be the easy part compared to some of the things I have been through. If I can’t even do that one thing without His help, how can I claim credit for anything?

I can’t.

Not only do I know now who I am without Him, I know fully what I am capable of. Without Him, I can do nothing. Without Him, I have done nothing. Without Him, I’m full of wickedness and a lover of darkness. I only have light because of Christ. I only walk in light and share light because of Jesus. Paul bids me to “take care lest ye fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12) and now I know just how far I am capable of falling. I am also humbly aware of just how much Jesus has done for me, in spite of myself. Not only am I ashamed of my pride, I am ashamed of my propensities outside of Christ. I thought I had a hold of righteousness, but it turns out I am fully capable of making the devil blush.

I’m in awe of Him. I am in awe of a God who can know this about me and still love me fiercely. He is all-knowing, all-powerful and I am so unworthy. Who could blame God for dealing harshly with someone like me? But that’s the incredible thing: He doesn’t.

He loves me.

Not just me, though. You too, friend. You too.

 

Dear Lord,

Your love is so incomprehensible. I can’t fathom the depths of your mercy. I am so humbled and grateful. Please continue to heal me and lighten what’s dark and forgive me. Thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you for your compassions that don’t fail. I love you … now, even from the depths of my heart, I can honestly say I love you. Thank you for your patience on my behalf. You are so good.

 

My Abortion Story

Published November 3, 2016 by Dawn

It was cold outside. I don’t remember what day or month, just that it was cold. I called my dad from school to ask him to come get me because I had been sick all day and it hadn’t let up. Nauseous. On the edge of vomit all day long. I just wanted to get home before it erupted. He took me home and I slept until the next morning. I awoke as nauseous as the day before. My sister and I talked about it in whispers while we got dressed … Could I be pregnant? Was this morning sickness? By the time we were ready to go, I was green. My mom agreed to let me stay home and my sister agreed to come get me later to go to the health department.

Our plans exploded around lunchtime and I found myself waiting on my mom instead. She drove me to the Health Department in silence. I was dying inside. When the test confirmed it, we were both pretty devastated. I didn’t see my life flash before my eyes. I watched it slowly go down the drain as this new reality set in.

My dad called me a whore when I told him.

I was devastated. I felt ruined. I felt the shame of every grown-up in my life. I felt the daggers of embarrassment cutting me to pieces through the eyes of everyone around me. Someone told me to face the facts, and then, in case I wasn’t aware of all of them, told me all the statistics about teen pregnancies and teenage mothers so I would know what was coming.

Hardship. Hardship was coming.

My mom said to me one day, “Why don’t you take some time and really think about your options. You can put this baby up for adoption. Or you can abort it.”

I know she was holding her breath in that moment. I squeaked in a panic, “Mom, please tell me that’s not an option. That can’t be an option.” She exhaled. “Well, I was hoping it’s not, but I wanted you to know you had options.”

But she hadn’t named them all. See, suicide is also an option. I didn’t want to kill an unborn baby, but myself? I could do that.

My life was an endless agony for the next few months. I was sick all the time, getting fatter, hating everyone, enduring their judgment and my own condemnation. Left alone to deal with it by the guy who fathered the child. It was hell.

I was going to end it. After having the baby, I was going to kill myself. I had a plan and a note. I had the resolve. I had an end in sight. The last month of pregnancy was the most hopeful month. I was ready to end it all.

I almost didn’t make it through delivery. It didn’t matter. I remember lying in the hospital room looking around while people talked and laughed, euphoric about the baby we were about to have. I was hurting so bad. Physically, but more so emotionally. My heart was breaking. Someone save me!

Someone did. It was the sweetest voice I had ever heard. Her tiny cry as they lifted her out through the incision reached into the depths of my broken soul and called forth a will I didn’t know was there. In one instant, I wanted to live for no other reason but to know and hear that voice.

And I did live on; so did my baby. But nine months later, the cycle started again. Another pregnancy he didn’t want. Another baby I wasn’t sure if I could deal with. More shame. More embarrassment. More statistical bullets shooting through any hope for my future.

I had him too. I endured it. I said this was about my abortion … I didn’t have one. I had a baby. I had two … before my high school graduation. I have lived on HUD, welfare, TANF, and I have raised two babies on my own for thirteen years. I know it’s hard. I know the shame is damning and I know about the nights you cry yourself to sleep because you are alone with thoughts nobody should be thinking. I know about the stigma and rejection. I know about the battles. I have lived them; so have my babies. We’ve all three survived.

I’m telling you this through tears. I understand not all pregnancies are planned. Some are even tragically the fault of another. But understand this: on the other side of that pain is a beautiful child who has the chance to live if only you will give it. She may grow up to love cheer and hate waking up in the morning. He may grow up with a weird obsession for cleanliness that makes housekeeping bearable. They may grow up to be the best thing that ever happened to you if you just get through this. The shame will subside. The pain will subside. The hardships make you stronger until you bust through those stereotypes and statistics and make something of yourself. Getting out from under the pressure and chaos and rejection are possible. The situations that grow you aren’t always preferable, maybe, but victory is possible. Your unwanted pregnancy is possible.

Just wanted you to know that. I love you, sister, and I pray for you and your baby every day. The world will tell you otherwise but most of them have never lived it. I have. You can do this. You’re strong enough. It doesn’t matter who fathered your baby or even if they help you raise the child. God gave that precious child to you. That baby may end up being the best gift you’ve ever received and God himself can and will help. Trust me. Trust yourself. Trust God.

 

Discipline

Published August 10, 2016 by Dawn

I had to will myself to write this afternoon. I didn’t want to. Because I am writing on my daughter’s computer because I no longer have one. I am trying not to allow this great disappointment to crush me. I am doing my best to forgive and move on, doing what I know I need to do and feel compelled to do in any way possible after my computer was murdered in Florida by my own son.

 

My son had a meltdown in Florida. Several hours worth of one. This time, I did not give in. I am beginning to see how manipulated I can be by his emotional storms, and this time, I wasn’t having any of it. So when he picked up my computer and acted like he was going to throw it on the ground, I didn’t even flinch. I told him I didn’t care if he threw it on the ground, I still wasn’t caving.

 

Unfortunately, my son doesn’t have a bluff. He gets that from me. He unrepentedly slammed my computer on the ground. In that moment, I lost so much more than a piece of technological convenience. I lost weeks worth of writing I hadn’t uploaded to my onedrive. It hurt so bad. On the inside. My outward demeanor was placid. Hours later, after the tantrum was over and he was lying in bed sick to his stomach because of his behavior, he asked me to forgive him. In my house, it’s what you do. Not just saying “I’m sorry,” but seeking forgiveness. And the only proper response to someone seeking forgiveness is to do exactly what Jesus would do. Forgive immediately. I did that. The consequences of his actions are still hurting me, even though he’s moved on. And I love that he’s not carrying a burden over it. I love that my son is free, even if his actions have caused a wide ripple I have to deal with.

 

But of course, there are consequences. He is forgiven, but he will be working to pay off a new computer. I will not hold this sin over his head, but I will require him to work off the cost of a new computer, and when he asks for something, I will remind him that my number one financial need after we pay our bills and eat is a new computer. Not because I don’t like my son, but because I want him to understand the far-reaching impact his decisions have before more meaningful decisions arise in his life.

 

I’m beginning to understand discipline in the context of a loving relationship. The world would have us believe that discipline is bad. That it’s damaging. I have to disagree.

 

I’ve never been a strong disciplinarian. I’m a single mom and I live by the motto, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” I have always struggled to care enough, after work and all the chores afterward at home, to address my kids’ need for discipline. I waited for things to blow over and went on with life. That’s how I ended up where I am now. My daughter governs herself well, due to her strong relationship with her daddy God. My son, on the other hand, has seen my lack of authority and has become a master at manipulating me. It took years for me to recognize how played I am.

 

This whole issue of discipline was something of a summer learning experience between the Lord and I. Because “the Lord disciplines those he loves.” I love my son. He’s one of the greatest treasures I’ve ever received. As I began to recognize the paths he seems drawn to, and petitioning God daily, “Please, Lord, don’t let my son turn out a fool!” God drew my attention back to myself in relation to who my son is becoming. “What are you doing to draw him back to safety? What needs to change and what can you do to affect that change?”

 

Shortly after this prayer, I found myself outside cleaning up the yard to mow. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice a black and brown bullet zoom past my house and realized my dog had gotten out. I have spent so many hours and tears trying to keep this dog in the yard and right when I have things figured out, someone leaves the gate open! I had to stop what I was doing, grab his leash and go get him. So afterward, I found the kid responsible for this diversion and told him he’d be finishing up the yard cleaning while I started mowing. Expecting him to do what I said quickly because his dad was on the way, I was surprised to get mostly done with the yard before I realized he cleaned up only until I couldn’t see him anymore then he hightailed it inside and grabbed his things. He was long gone before I got to his unfinished mess.

 

Exasperated, I looked up to God and whispered through clenched teeth, “How do I discipline effectively?”

 

Are you prepared for this? I mean, really? Because what I felt led to do was so opposed to how I imagine someone might have handled this. You see, I called my son and asked him why he didn’t finish. He told me he didn’t see anything else. There was an entire tree branch in the yard!

 

I put it in his bed.

 

I knew he’d see it there, and I knew he’d have to move it. Most importantly, I wanted him to understand how inconvenient that tree branch was to me after he left. I wanted him to feel that inconvenience and begin to think about how his actions effected me. So I picked up the tree branch, and all the other little chitlin lying around and deposited it all on his silky brown sheet.

 

While picking up all the stuff he “didn’t see,” I gathered some rather messy, dry, leafy twigs to go with it all but the Lord stopped me. He asked, “Do you want to discipline or destroy him?” And I knew exactly what He meant. The mess that would have made in my son’s bed would have broken him. I didn’t want to do that.

 

The point of all of this is that God often disciplines us in order to steer us in positive directions. He doesn’t shield us from adversity or the consequences of our actions, even if we desperately wish He would. He’s a good father. He wants us to be happy, but he also wants us to mature. To think about others. To think about how our actions shape our lives and the lives of those around us. He does this because He loves us. He loves us enough to let us be uncomfortable sometimes, and enough to let us face the life we are creating in hopes that we will make a change. He uses this discipline to teach us self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit. A fruit, you see, grows from the seed that is planted. So the Spirit, planted in us is capable of bearing this fruit, but we have to allow God to water and prune it. Both of those things can be momentarily uncomfortable for a seed.

 

But know this: God does not want to destroy us by His discipline. He wants to teach us. And when we ask for forgiveness for our moments of rashness, His response is immediate forgiveness. He loves us. He doesn’t want to burden us. He simply wants to train us to be wise, not foolish. Discipline is a beautiful thing. After three months of faithfully disciplining my son, I am beginning to see a wiser young man in the place of that foolish child.

Grace

Published July 16, 2016 by Dawn

I’ve been wrestling again with the message of righteousness. I see mine. It’s filthy rags. And I feel so unworthy. So incapable. So unholy. I’ve struggled to approach God lately. I know I’m a beggar in the court of the King. Completely out of place. I have nothing to offer him, but I need something from him so desperately. I need cleansed. I need healed. But I’ve been cowering because I’m afraid He’ll be disgusted by me.

Then … He notices me and begins to coax me out of hiding. He woos me with love and gentleness, and I’m so eager for it, I run to Him, forgetting my rags and filth. I wrap my arms around Him and cry into His neck, forgetting for a moment that I’m unworthy. But then it hits me. I don’t belong here.

I start to stutter my apologies. I push away from His embrace. He holds me even still and looks into my eyes. “But God, can’t you see me? I am so unholy. I am so utterly sinful and vile. I don’t deserve to be here.”

Then Jesus, who’s been sitting there at the right hand of God this whole time, comes over and lays a gentle hand on my trembling shoulder. He hands me a robe that’s shimmering and bright. Wear this, he says. I bought it for you.

I’m trembling more as I step out of my filth and put on this beautiful robe. “It’s too much!” I say, unable to take my eyes from it. With tears streaming down my face, I hastily work to take it off. “Don’t you know what I’ve done?”

Jesus looks at me tenderly as I tug at my rags trying to cover myself with them again. Finally, I give up and stand there, sobbing in my nakedness. He hands me the robe again. Don’t you know what I’ve done?

 

*****

 

I’m often guilty of vascillating between self-righteousness and self-loathing. Neither are healthy, but it’s the pendulum I find myself on quite a bit. I either compare myself to others and build a pedestal, or compare myself to God and dig a hole to hide in. Neither are His perfect and pleasing will.

Lately, I’ve been comparing myself to God’s standards of righteousness, and getting stuck on how short I’ve fallen of what I believe God wants from me. I’ve been desperate for Him, but unable to come into His presence because I can see myself, and I don’t like what I see.

Little did I know that this is what the Bible says happens. Romans 3:20 tells us that through the law, we become conscious of our sins. We read the law and realize how desperately far we are from being able to please God. We become aware of our sins. We see our filthy rags. This makes the law good. Because what happens after we become conscious of our sin? Repentance.

God woos us out of our groveling pit and we come before Him knowing how unworthy we are. We repent of our sin and receive grace. We find that instead of being condemned, we are forgiven. Jesus hands us that robe and we put on his righteousness. He bought it for us. It cost him so much, but He made that purchase because he’s crazy about us.

This is the full Gospel, and it’s good. We’re not, but He is. Grace is not a card. It’s a robe. A robe of righteousness we can’t attain on our own.

Dear Shepherd, Go and Feed My Sheep

Published July 7, 2016 by Dawn

“When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.’

“Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.’

“The people remained at a distance while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was” (Exodus 20:18-21).

I live in the heart of America. Or maybe it’s America’s waistline. I don’t know … it’s called the Bible Belt. Waistline it is …

There’s a church on every corner where I come from. Many towns around here have more churches than bars, banks or schools. I even been to several places that I thought might have had more churches than homesteads. We have definitely given the Lord a place to stay in the waistline of America.

Do you want to know what else we have here in abundance? Rehab clinics. Because I happen to come from a place that also has an overabundance of drug addicts. The county I live in is #2 in the state for heroin usage, and by the looks of things, the margin separating us from #1 is getting smaller and smaller by the day.

I was out running the other day and passed three churches on one street. A building in between them, with an inscription above the door that said, “Erected in 1952 Educational Building for  —–“ It was the church’s Sunday school building. It was two or three stories tall, a real monument to the wealth of the church, and the youth that must have inhabited their great sanctuaries. That church is still as big as it used to be, but sadly, it’s congregation has dwindled to a faithful few.

I’ve been running past these churches for days, listening to the Lord speak a message to me that frankly, is kind of hard to share. It’s not popular. But He’s given me such a burden about it, I am sitting here trying to figure out how to be tactful so you’ll keep reading …

America is filled with churches that are filled with dry bones. Bones that once had the breath of life in them, but now they’re just embers of a dying fire. The message of Christ – the message that is so powerfully capable of saving the multitudes and changing the hearts of millions – has become meaningless drivel. The church has capitulated to a crowd of self-seekers who Jesus said, “Honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Matthew 15:8). How long have we watered down the Gospel so that people can be comfortable in our pews? How long have we given them a powerless motivational speech so they don’t have to deal with the Holy Spirit’s conviction? They come into church with itching ears and instead of giving them a truth that requires them to be real with God, we give them a lie so they feel good about themselves. We’ve turned the Gospel into a lie to shield them from the truth of repentance. Listen to me! There is no forgiveness without repentance. Therefore, there is no grace without confronting the sin inside. The law was given so that our sins would be known to us so that we can receive grace (Romans 5:10). But “where there is no law, there is no trespass” (Romans 4:15). Paul is telling us that because we hear the law, we are conscious of our sin. That knowledge leads us to Christ because we are separated from God while living in sin. Jesus died so we can have access to forgiveness and freedom from the chains of sin. We are no longer bound to it, we are free!

This is such a powerful, liberating message. But it’s also foolishness and unacceptable. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Sadly, we’ve catered to the people who see it as foolishness instead of letting God’s word be true and every man a liar. We’ve created a parallel Gospel with all the “good” parts that everyone wants to hear. You know, the parts that tell us how awesome God thinks we are, and how much He loves us and wants to do amazing things in our lives. And so as not to offend anyone, we’ve taken out all the parts we don’t want to deal with.

  • Be holy as I am holy. (1 Peter 1:16; Leviticus 11:44,20:26)
  • The one who does what is sinful is of the devil (1 John 3:8)
  • No one who is born of God keeps on sinning (1 John 3:9)
  • “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11)
  • “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sin is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God” *Hebrews 10:26-27)

The GOOD NEWS is that Jesus died so that we can be free from the grip of sin. Humanity was given a free will that was subject to the law of sin for thousands of years until Christ came and, by his death, liberated our wills, giving us control again so that we can live in Him, not in sin.

Just like the Israelites in the desert, so many people come in to church and become terrified by God’s righteousness. They don’t like hearing that they are wrong, because they are just living out the New Age gospel that tells them that their happiness is god. They don’t realize that either way, there’s a fire they’re going to face. It will either be the purifying fire of God that consumes them and burns up everything in their lives that is not in line with His Spirit, or it will be the eternal fire that consumes forever the enemies of God. And we aren’t comfortable with this part of the Gospel to their detriment, and ours. Dear preachers, haven’t you read James 3:1? “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” Your motivational speeches that lack power and truth are killing people all around you and God is saying to us, just as he said to Ezekiel, “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people … so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. If I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin and I will hold you accountable for their blood” (Ezekiel 3:17-18). That’s a high calling, brothers and sisters. Is there no fear and trembling when God speaks this word to you? Perhaps that is the place to start.

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:19-23).

This is a good word! A liberating word. Remember the day God reached down into the muck and mire of your life and pulled you out? You heard the full Gospel. You wrestled with it. You were broken by it, and then mended by Jesus. Remember that day? It was a good one! That message that rescued you was meant to rescue others. It’s powerful. It will bring people back into the churches. Give them Jesus! When Paul began his missionary journey, he began his ministry debating the Old Testament in the temple. By the time he made it around to the Corinthians, his method – his message – had changed drastically. He said to them, “When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:2-5).

The message of the cross is powerful. It’s also offensive to the flesh, and our churches are full of people who have been encouraged to live in the flesh for so long, we are afraid to give them the simple truth. We tickle their ears to keep them happy, but it’s all smoke and mirrors. By hook or by crook, Satan vows to have us and he is having his way in our churches and our communities because we don’t want to come before the congregation in fear and trembling. We want them to be comfortable and we want to be comfortable.

Let me challenge you, pastor friend. Get back to the basics. Trade in your crafty message of half-truths for the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If you want power back in your church and you want to fill the pews again and see people saved, get back to the unadulterated Word of God. Put down the books written by men you admire and aspire to be and consult with God over your message. See if He doesn’t lead you back to Jesus. Then Jesus will say to you, I am sure, “Go and feed my sheep” (John 21:17).