I write with a heavy heart. God has laid the story of Achan on my heart. You can read more fully about him in Joshua 7. Short story is that God gave the city of Jericho into the hands of the Israelites, only they must not take any plunder for themselves. Every living man and animals was to die, and the city and its contents were to be destroyed.
One of the Israelites, a man named Achan, decided to keep a small amount of plunder for himself. It was not much, only a robe, some silver and some gold. Yet because of his sin, when the Israelites went to take a small town next to Jericho, they were soundly defeated and several were killed. When God revealed that Israel had sinned against Him, Joshua called the people out. It was revealed that it was Achan, and he confessed his sin. He, his family, his cattle, his property and the stolen plunder were destroyed.
To us, that seems extreme, yet God was teaching a serious lesson to the people, and this really hit home with me. Your sin, even what appears to be a small and hidden sin, can have serious consequences beyond just yourself. Because of Achan, the Israelites did not have God's favor in the next battle and they were defeated. Because of Achan, his whole family lost their lives.
I was speaking with a friend on the phone today. Because of complacency in dealing with sin in my own life, I brought pain into her life. I can not change the past. It is done. But with God's grace, I can know forgiveness, and I can move forward in the direction that God desires to lead me.
I can also remember this lesson, that there really are no little sins. All sin causes seperation in our relationship with God. It can hurt others directly. It can hurt others indirectly, even if only by not allowing ourself to be used as a conduit of God's strength, grace or mercy to them in a situation. No man is an island. No man lives unto themself. As a community, we are called to be agents of God's grace to a hurting world around us. Our sin prevents us from being used by God.
Let us not follow in Achan's footsteps of disobedience. Instead, let us look to Jesus as our model, who was willing to give all in obedience to God the Father.
My Savior, My God is one of my favorite worship songs by Aaron Shust. The lead in to the chorus is: That he would leave his place on high And come for sinful man to die You called it strange so once did I Before I knew my Savior
To be honest, I still count it strange. I still am filled with wonder that the all-powerful creator of the universe would love me. Even more, that He would exchange the glory of being constantly worshiped in heaven for trudging down here for thirty some years as a flesh-and-blood human being. And if that was not enough, He loved me so much that He allowed His own creation to torture and murder Him. Yes, He allowed. He could have stopped it all with one word. Remember, He is the same one who SPOKE all creation into existence (John 1:3). And don't forget when He was arrested in the garden. Jesus asks the soldiers who they are seeking. They reply "Jesus of Nazareth." All He says is "I AM he". I emphasize this (I AM) only because John's gospel does. I AM is the name that God gives himself in the Old Testament to Moses, and John never wants us to lose sight of who this man, Jesus, really is. The soldiers' response, by the way, is to draw back and fall to the ground (John 18:6). In other words, they were literally tripping over themselves to get away from one that they recognized was more powerful than they were. And Jesus loved me so much that He chose to experience this in my place. The Father's wrath was poured down on Jesus for me. Imperfect me. I have sinned plenty. Not just the "oops, I can't believe I did that (again)" stuff. I mean the "I want what I want and I don't care what it costs me" stuff. Actually, it cost Him, not me. My life was stained blood red with that kind of sin, and more than deserved the wrath of God. And yet, like the song, Jesus came for sinful man to die. I still count it strange. It silences me. It fills me with tears at times - tears of humility, tears of regret at times, but also tears of joy. I am filled with joy because, although I am still amazed, I now need never doubt the depth of His love. I need never fear that He will walk away from me. No one would ever go through that kind suffering, only to walk away when I fail; especially since He knew all the failings of my life even before He paid for them. Now, here's the catch (isn't there always a catch). He asks me to take up my cross and follow Him. It's not really a catch though. If He asks me to follow, it must mean that He has already gone before me to make a way. He also promises to walk with me and give me the strength to do all that He asks me to do (Philippians 4:13). And when I fall short of what He asks, He does not give up on me (Philippians 1:6) or walk away. Instead, He promises : "The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally. Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:17-20 The Message) This happens when Jesus appears to His disciples right before He returns to heaven. Notice it says "Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally." He commissioned all who stood there and promised to be with them always. He understands my struggles and even my doubts. That is precisely the reason for the promise. I am not going on my own and He won't ditch me when I screw up. He is with me till the wheels fall off.
THAT is why I still wonder in amazement, but also with joy. THAT is the kind of God I want to follow. Don't you?
To view My Savior, My God (Aaron Shust) video, click the link below:
Scriptures listed: John 1:3 "All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. " (Holman Christian Standard Bible) John 18:6 "When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground." (English Standard Version) Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (King James 2000 Bible) Philippians 1:6 "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." (New American Standard Bible )
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, 5 does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs. 6 Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. .7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.
To many, this is that sappy scripture read at weddings. To others, it is a goal to strive for. And to some, it is just another check list of where we fall short yet again. I was struck this morning with the truth that this is how God is towards me. How often He is patient and kind. When I trip up, fall short or even when I dive head first into foolishness, He loves me. He isn't waiting to wag a condemning finger at me. He has faith in me. Often He has faith for me when I can muster none. Try seeing yourself today as God sees you. Maybe that will help you more to be the person He is making you to be.
[ The Letter to Laodicea ] “Write to the angel of the church in Laodicea: “The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Originator of God’s creation says: Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me. Revelation 3:14,20 HCSB
The web page had barely appeared on my screen when I saw the words "The Letter to Laodicea." The message to that church was that since they were neither hot nor cold, they were being spit our of God's mouth. It is an important and necessary warning of the danger for the church about not ministering to the hurting world around you or your brothers and sisters within you. However, it is not His only word to them, as today's verse testifies. And yet sometimes we still choose to see God's condemning stare instead of His loving gaze. Why? We do still need to hear truth from God when we stray. Conviction of the Holy Spirit and discipline from God are actually a gift of love. Without them, we drift farther away from Him. Also, it is harder to hope than to wallow. To hope for change, we have to believe in His promise that He is working in us. Phillipians 1:6 says we have to believed that He gives us strength to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling." Not produce our own salvation, but to work it out, like kneading dough to work the ingredients through out it. Finally, we have an enemy that wants to keep us chained to our failures. Again, though, God's word provides us with necessary truth and strength. Romans 8:1 reminds us (and oh, we need much reminding in this life) that " Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus," No condemnation. We can rest in God's word, whether convicting or encouraging, knowing that He will always love us and never cast us aside. Can I get an Amen?
"An unshared life is not living. He who shares does not lessen, but greatens, his life."
Stephen S. Wise - Reform Rabbi, Zionist Leader
It is a mistaken belief, especially with men, that to need others is a weakness. To give of myself to others, and to receive help from them, is to slowly lose little pieces of myself till eventually nothing is left. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I believe that God uses that giving and receiving as a tool to chip away the parts of me that don't belong, much the way a sculptor uses a chisel on marble. Slowly, God is revealing HIS masterpiece, the me that I truly am meant to be.
I recently started a new blog page titled "My Stained Glass Window Life." Why "My Stained Glass Window Life"?
I have always loved stained glass windows. Whenever I looked at a them, I figured that the pieces of glass where just broken cast off pieces of that that were collected and made to fit a picture. Recently, I was reading about how it is made.
It is an art form. The glass is crafted to fit where it is designed to fit.
God is an artist. Sometimes I feel like what I always imagines the glass was, broken and cast off pieces. But what if my jagged and rough edges are not an accident or mistake? What if they were designed that way? Maybe I was made the way I am so that God's grace may shine through me, creating a beautiful picture only visible when His light shines through me.
John 9:1-25 tells the story of a man born blind:
Jesus heals a man born blind
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’
‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’
After saying this, he spat on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (this word means ‘Sent’). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, ‘Isn't this the same man who used to sit and beg?’ Some claimed that he was.
Others said, ‘No, he only looks like him.’
But he himself insisted, ‘I am the man.’
‘How then were your eyes opened?’ they asked.
He replied, ‘The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.’
‘Where is this man?’ they asked him.
‘I don’t know,’ he said.
The Pharisees investigate the healing
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. ‘He put mud on my eyes,’ the man replied, ‘and I washed, and now I see.’
Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.’
But others asked, ‘How can a sinner perform such signs?’ So they were divided.
Then they turned again to the blind man, ‘What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.’
The man replied, ‘He is a prophet.’
They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. ‘Is this your son?’ they asked. ‘Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?’
‘We know he is our son,’ the parents answered, ‘and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.’ His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. That was why his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.’
A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. ‘Give glory to God by telling the truth,’ they said. ‘We know this man is a sinner.’
He replied, ‘Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!’
The man's blindness was not about sin. Whether a sin is our's, another's or simply the result of living in a fallen world, it is an opportunity for God's grace to shine and for Him to be glorified. When we sin, repent. We must trust God and allow Him to use our failures and struggles to fashion a beautiful stained glass window from them.
I Hate My Flaws I hate my flaws. They are ugly, a sign of weakness and of failure. Sin. Pain. Accusations That I do not measure up in this world, that I will never be enough. My enemy loves to point them out and use them as a weapon to isolate me. Sometimes, I allow him to do it. That is not God's desire. Although Satan (literally "adversary/accuser") seeks to accuse me even before God, God's word speaks a more powerful truth to me. 1 John 2:1 says that when I sin, I "have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One." Jesus is my defender, and by His blood shed in my place, I can stand innocent before God. Then what do I do with my flaws? How can I look at them without constantly being filled with shame and regret? The answer (please do not laugh) might just be found in natural wood furniture. I love furniture and wood work that displays the natural grain in the wood. The swirls, the knots, the cracks. All this may make some throw the wood away as unusable, undesirable. Ever feel that way, like you have been discarded as "undesirable? Woodworking, however, is art. In the hands of an artist, the "ugly" can become beautiful. This is true not because the artist is talented, but because the artist loves to create. The Artist loves his creation.
Nowhere is this truer than with God. Unless you are Adam or Eve, you were created after the fall. You still contain a reflection of the divine, as you were created in God's image. Yet you are also flawed and fallen. More importantly than that, you are dearly loved by your Creator. Psalm 139:13 declares that God "knit us together in our mother's womb." Did you get that? Even though we are a product of our mother and father, God was also intimately involved in our creation. God also foreknew all the sins and mistakes of our life before we were even born. Could it be somehow that His sovereignty even worked through our disobedient free-willed choices, with the plan to create something beautiful out of them? Can He take my sin, my pain and even my brokenness, and somehow still be glorified by it? Do not misunderstand. I do not suggest this as a licence to sin. Romans 6:1-2 clearly states "What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?"
"The Broken Beautiful" - Ellie Holcomb
Romans 8:28 reminds us that "we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose." This is only true for those who have accepted His free gift of salvation. And for those that are in relationship with Him, and desire to be used for His kingdom, He will bring beauty from our deepest pain.
"Nothing Is Wasted" - Jason Gray
He can use our "shameful" past to allow us to feel empathy for others that struggle and give them more grace than we thought we could. Our own forgiveness from God can allow us to forgive others and show them undeserved mercy. Our deepest wounds, when placed in the loving and healing hands of God, can become "sacred wounds." These wounds can become avenues of ministry to bring healing to others. Or as Paul put it in 2 Corinthians 1:4, "comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." For those who are know God, may this be a source of joy and strength to persevere. For those who are "religious," this may seem like we must do something more on our part. God did not come so that we could do religious things. He came to restore a relationship. To those who have no idea what any of this means, but you are weary and hope beyond hope that there could be something more, God says this: "At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, because this was Your good pleasure. All things have been entrusted to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son desires to reveal Him. Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:25-30) If you finally recognize that you are not simply at the end of the rope, but that you are free-falling without a hope, know that God desires to give you hope. He loved you enough to take on flesh and blood, live a perfect life (Yep. NO mistakes. Not even looking down on those who did.), and then payed the full weight of every sin ever committed by every person in the ENTIRE human race. He allowed His own creation to murder Him, so great was His love for you. Better still, His love for you was so powerful, that He even defeated death, so that when this life is done, you can spend all eternity with the one who loves you more than you could ever imagine. Accept God's free gift. Thank Him for His gift. Go out and ask His help as you seek to join a church, His family here on Earth. Like any family, it may be a bit dysfunctional, but we exist in community to strengthen and love each other.
For those who have been hurt by the church or other Christians and have walked away:
God never wants to marginalize your pain as unimportant, but He does call us to live a life of forgiveness and community. We will not always agree, and we are like a dysfunctional family at times, but we ARE family. If you can't return to the group you were once part of, pray for God's healing in the situation and find another church. You need the help and support of other Christians. And guess what. They really need you as well. No man is an island.
Intimacy is to let another fully know you. That is a very fearful thing. There are no half measures and there can be no going back once we have committed. If rejected, we will be crushed.
1 Corinthians 13:12 says "For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."
Jesus knows your every flaw and failure, both the ones you have hidden and the ones you have not yet committed. He also loves you fully and completely, so much so that He clothed Himself in flesh. He lived a life like ours, yet not like ours. He felt the struggle and pain, but remained true to His Father's will.
And though He remained true, he took all our failures into Himself and took our place. He took our penalty. He traded places with us so that we need never be separated again from Him.
Accept the one who knows you fully and loves you anyway.
Below is a link to a modern adaptation of "The Hound of Heaven" by Francis Thompson. You can read more about him at:
How's Your Speed? I love to drive, but it can get a bit crazy on the road. Some are real sticklers, driving only the speed limit. Some are overly cautious and drive a fair bit under. I, like many, follow the 5 mph rule. You can always get away with up five over the limit, well, almost always. Careful in school zones though. Others figure if you can get away with five, why not ten. Still others believe themselves to be above the law and drive as fast as they can, zipping in and out of traffic at will. All those different drivers do not mix well together. Everyone wants to live by their own rules. The problem is, we all want to follow our own opinion of what the correct limit should be. Fortunately, there is a group that we are accountable to called the police. They enforce the only valid speed limit set by a higher authority, the government. A lot like life, isn't it. Some live by the rules. Some avoid doing anything remotely close to breaking a rule. Some bend the rules to the point of breaking. Still others follow no rules but their own passions. We all tend to want to decide for ourselves what the rules of right and wrong are. Again, we are fortunate in that we are accountable to a higher authority. He set the rules long ago. They do not bend and sway based on our whims or desires. And in the end, He will enforce them. That may not be good news. We have no capacity to perfectly follow them, and if we fail in the least point, we fail in all points. (James 2:10). The penalty for failure is death, separation from God. (Romans 6:23) And that isn't just a here and now thing, that separation from God is forever. (2 Thessalonians 1:9) For a people who like to live by their own set of rules, that can not end well. There is good news though (Gospel literally means "good news"). God's love for us is as infinite as his hate for sin. He came as one of us and lived a perfect life. In spite of this, and the many miracles he performed and all those he healed, he was falsely accused of a capital crime, tortured by those in charge, and the full force of all God's hatred for sin (the sin of every single human that will ever have existed) was poured out on him. Because he willingly chose to pay our price when he himself was innocent, we now can stand before God. One small catch. We must realize our need for him, and we have to believe that he loved us enough to actually do what he promised he did. This leads to the "Crown Jewel" of all scripture, the most recognized verse in the whole bible. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16 So how's your speed? Are you still trying to set your own rules? Or have you realized you can't follow the rules on your own power and need help?