Monday, February 29, 2016

Becoming

By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:14) For me this is a statement of hope and assurance. It reminds me that the perfection, the holiness, I seek in Christ is already mine even though it isn’t clearly evident in my words and actions 100% of the time. It is a guarantee that the righteousness required to be in his presence was, is, and always will be dependent on an act of God that has already occurred. Like rolling a snowball downhill, it will only pick up momentum and grow as it rolls and cannot be stopped or reversed.

By his sacrifice, you and I have been made perfect forever in his eyes even as we are being made holy on a day to day basis. We are being made holy… What a relief it is to know that it’s not up to me to make myself holy. You and I are being made holy by God himself. My job isn’t to make myself into something I’m not but to wait on the Lord as he creates me into who I am becoming—the person he created me to be.


Be confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it onto completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6) This becoming that I am in the midst of isn’t finished yet. Yes, I am a sinful human being with faults and imperfections today, but the Lord is diligently working in and through me to finish what he began on that cross—my redemption, my recreation as his beloved, a child of God, a princess of the kingdom of God. As outlandish as it may sound, right now this moment, though I am a sinner, I am holy in the eyes of my Lord solely because of his compassion and act of grace. What an awesome God is he!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Resurrection - It's Who We Are!

In a few weeks Christians all over the world will celebrate the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus—the very essence of our faith and hope. Christ stepped into humanity and introduced us to the nature of God in human terms we could grasp. In word and deed, he showed us how to love as he loves—fully and without reservation. He gave himself over to death on a cross to atone for our sins and then conquered death by stepping out of his grave resurrected. By his own power, not just being alive again, but alive forever, never again to taste death. First Jesus and then, upon his return, his people—those who have died and those who are still alive will be swept up together with the Lord into a new resurrected life. This is the hope we have as Christians and the hope we celebrate every Sunday, most of all Easter morning.

But like the Jews of the Old Testament, we are now living with a promise that is thousands of years old and the zeal we once felt is long gone. We’re not as expectant as we once were that tomorrow may be the day Jesus returns. I imagine if we’re totally honest with one another, most of us would have to admit that we believe we won’t see the Second Coming of Christ in our lifetime. As his people who once believed to their core that his return was imminent, now our default understanding is that his return is years, maybe centuries away. We’ve lost the urgency and anticipation of the coming of our Savior.

Yet for me this year is different. An excitement has been building in me these last few weeks as each day we get closer to the celebration of Christ’s atoning death and glorious resurrection. Why is this year different, you may ask? Because this particular Easter morning (2016), is the anniversary of my son’s death. On March 27, 1998 my son left behind this life and entered into the Lord’s glorious embrace.  Because of this primal connection, a mother’s love for her child, I’ve been experiencing a tangible awareness that someday my son and I, in our resurrected bodies, will be able to enjoy the very presence of God unfettered by this life and the sin of this world. Together we will gaze upon the face of our Savior, maybe hand in hand. We will sing once again sweet harmonies in praise to our King. Maybe it will be tomorrow, next week, next month, fifty years from now or so far in the future, we have no word for it. But it will happen because the Lord has already made it possible. He has already set it into motion and the momentum of his power and grace can never be stopped or undone. This joy I am anticipating won’t be for just a moment in time that disappears too soon, but for an eternity.


God’s promises aren’t just generic platitudes or slogans we find comforting from time to time. His promises are personal, for you and me, right now, this moment and forever. They bring us hope, joy, strength and grace right now. Jesus is alive and he is with us right now loving us, leading us, protecting us and forgiving us. He isn’t holding back anything. Let’s not hold anything back either. Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Is "Lenten Celebration" Really an Oxymoron?

Lent is here. What exactly is Lent anyway? Some will tell you that it’s the time of year before Easter that you give up meat on Fridays. Others give up chocolate or bad habits and still others intentionally try to do good deeds for their fellow man. Some people try to pray more often or read their Bible every day. This sounds like New Year’s resolutions to me, not at all the spiritual introspection I thought Lent was supposed to be. For many, religious tradition portrays Ash Wednesday as a day of guilt and ashes and the weeks that follow are more of the same. We are to search our hearts and minds to find every way we’ve fallen short of the glory of God and pray that his forgiveness will cover all our sins. Too many Christians worry all of their lives that they haven’t done enough to make up for their sins and that even though they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior, they still may not be good enough when they die to be with him in heaven. Too often, I find myself slipping into a similar frantic frenzy of self-condemnation. 

It’s so easy to forget the Good News that Jesus brings. I don’t need to worry if I am good enough for God because I’m not. Never have been. Never will be. I don’t need to strive to do more good than evil because no matter how much selfless good I do, I can never make up for the sins I’ve committed and will continue to commit on a daily basis. I don’t have the ability to be righteous enough to enter God’s presence. This may sound depressing, but it is very good news. It is good news because God created me and he knows my limitations. He knows I’m not capable of the perfection his glory demands so he sent his perfect Son to take my place so that I might stand in his in God’s glory. I am helpless to save myself, but I am not hopeless because my hope lies in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His love and his sacrifice have created and continue to refine in me a new and holy heart – one that longs for God alone. Under my own power, I am inadequate, but I rejoice because through God’s power, I am made perfect in his sight. He gives me the courage, the ability, the love, and the dedication my humanness lacks.

For me, Lent is about recognizing how blessed I am that God loves me, that Jesus died and rose for me, and that the Spirit fills my heart and my life with his presence. Lent is a joyous time to remember the hope that Jesus brings and a celebration that my salvation does not depend at all on my ability, my life, or my actions, but solely on the love and redemptive work of God. For me, Lent is a time of profound gratitude.

Reprinted from February 2010

Monday, February 8, 2016

Fear Not

“The only thing we have to fear is...fear itself.” (Franklin D Roosevelt)

All of my life I have struggled with a spirit of fear. Every decision I made and everything I did was controlled and directed by fear. It didn’t matter of what—what would or wouldn’t happen, where I was or wasn’t, what was known or unknown—I simply was afraid. Fear controlled how I felt about myself and how I interacted with the world around me. But fear is not a bad thing. Fear is the emotional fuel of self-preservation. God gave us fear to alert us to danger and react accordingly. But somewhere early in my life, the enemy perverted this wonderful gift of healthy fear into a tyrant that imprisoned me. Because of fear I was paralyzed even when it came to the smallest of things like asking a store clerk where an item was in the store. If I couldn’t find it, even if I desperately needed it, I would go home without it because fear would not allow me to ask a person where something was!! Fear is why I did or didn’t do everything and anything. This debilitating fear permeated my life and stole my self-worth and confidence. Fear stole my dreams in sleep and for life.

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear." (Ambrose Redmoon)

I couldn’t overcome my fear and so I let it build a wall around me to keep everything and everyone away from me. I’d look for the danger and find it and fear it every waking moment. And then I became a mother and I didn’t have the luxury of letting my fear hold me back when my son needed me to chase away the monsters in his closet and under his bed. When he needed medicine or food I couldn’t find in the store, I found the courage to ask. Some of my biggest triumphs over my fear occurred because my son needed me to be strong for him. I had found courage, but still could not escape the life-crushing fear that had become a part of me.

Ten years ago, a friend gave me the greatest gift ever!!! He gave me God’s Word. Specifically, he gave me Isaiah 43:1-5a.
But now, GOD’s Message,
    the God who made you in the first place, Jacob,
    the One who got you started, Israel:
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
    I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
    When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
    it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am GOD, your personal God,
    The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you:
    all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in!
That’s how much you mean to me!
    That’s how much I love you!
I’d sell off the whole world to get you back,
    trade the creation just for you.
 “So don’t be afraid: I’m with you.

Over the last ten years, I’ve turned often to this passage when I felt fear grabbing hold. And in that time God has proven he is faithful to a point that the enemy can no longer convince me that God doesn’t care about me or that God will not act to save me. I still hesitate from time to time with fear, but then I look to the God who loves me and has called me and walk on toward the next adventure. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Unity Over Conformity

You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.
But that doesn’t mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift. Ephesians 4:4-7 (MSG)

I have two brothers, one 4½ years older and one 5 years younger. They look like our father and I look like our mother. The three of us as children were so completely different—our parents were the only thing we has in common. My older brother was studious, logical and intelligent. My younger brother was athletic, charismatic, and full of energy. I was the shy, emotional, creative one. I used to tell people that if you put us together, you’d have one very well-rounded person. Despite our differences, we were (and are) family.

That’s the picture of unity that God gave me this past week—three distinct individuals whose only commonality is the same father and mother.  Too often in the world and in the church today, we make the mistake of confusing the idea of conformity with that of unity. But God never intended conformity—which cannot exist within diversity—for us. If he had, he wouldn’t have created us with free will to choose as we like. He wouldn’t have made us singularly unique. Unity is not everyone thinking, acting, believing the same but the coming together of diverse individuals bound together by a single core aspect. Our shared commonality is our Creator and Lord. Everywhere I look, I see conformity—cliques—being mistaken for unity. There can be no unity without diversity.

Unity is a strange mix of strength and fragility. Strength in numbers and a pool of ability from which the Lord works miracles within and among us. Fragile in that a single moment of human discord can shatter it. Jesus understood this and prayed for you and me that our unity would be stronger in the Triune God than our sinful pride would be to tear it apart.

I’m praying not only for them
But also for those who will believe in me
Because of them and their witness about me.
The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they’ll be as unified and together as we are—
I in them and you in me.
Then they’ll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you’ve sent me and loved them
In the same way you’ve loved me.
John 17:20-23 (MSG)


And he is at the Father’s right hand this moment still interceding on our behalf to achieve the kind of unity he desires for us. He sent his Holy Spirit to be in and among us to achieve the unity he had in mind for us from the beginning.


I don’t know how he is going to accomplish this. But I do know that I am a part of the problem and the solution. It’s my narrow view, my pride, and my selfishness that contributes to the hindering or breaking of the unity we are privileged to have in the Lord Jesus Christ. In every act of acceptance of others just as they are, in every act of love to those I know and those I don’t, and in every act of understanding, whether or not I agree, that he strengthens the unity among us within him.