I believe what I believe…….

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I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

According to Wikipedia, the purpose of a creed is to provide a doctrinal statement of correct belief, or Orthodoxy.  The creeds of Christianity have been drawn up at times of conflict about doctrine: acceptance or rejection of a creed served to distinguish believers and deniers of a particular doctrine or set of doctrines. For that reason a creed was called in Greek a σύμβολον (Eng. symbolon), a word that meant half of a broken object which, when placed together with the other half, verified the bearer’s identity. The Greek word passed through Latin “symbolum” into English “symbol”, which only later took on the meaning of an outward sign of something.

In the year 325 AD a controversy arose whereby Arius, a Libyan presbyter in Alexandria, had declared that “although the Son was divine, he was a created being and therefore not co-essential with the Father, and “there was when he was not,” This made Jesus less than the Father, which posed soteriological challenges for the nascent doctrine of the Trinity. Arius’s teaching provoked a serious crisis.”

The Nicene Creed of 325 explicitly affirms the co-essential divinity of the Son, applying to him the term “consubstantial”. The 381 version speaks of the Holy Spirit as worshipped and glorified with the Father and the Son. The Athanasian Creed (not used in Eastern Christianity) describes in much greater detail the relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Apostles’ Creed makes no explicit statements about the divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit, but, in the view of many who use it, the doctrine is implicit in it.

On its own, this statement of belief would be only a collection of words, however, since it is rooted and grounded in the Holy Word of God it stands forever as a unifying standard that applies to all Christian Churches. I never recited this growing up as a Baptist but when I visited other churches and they would recite it, I always loved it though inwardly I cringed a bit with the “Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” because I thought I was being hypocritical saying that part when I wasn’t Catholic. But in this case, the word “catholic” is derived from the Greek adjective καθολικός (katholikos), meaning “general”, “universal. (Although some Catholics might disagree on that point)

This morning, millions of churches will gather together and break bread over these words. In this instance, we are totally unified despite our different denominations. I found myself saying these words this morning as a awoke, well really singing them. In the 1970s Rich Mullins wrote a tune to these very words and I played it on the way to work yesterday. Of these words he says:

And I believe what I believe
Is what makes me what I am
I did not make it, no it is making me
I did not make it, no it is making me
I said, “I did not make it, no it is making me”
It is the very truth of God
And not the invention of any man…….

Amen, dear Rich, you have been living that out with Jesus for years already. I can’t wait to meet you……..

My prayer for today:

“Oh Father, though the streams of culture and the world flow swiftly and changeably around us, Your words are like a mighty rock it swirls around. The world has its eyes turned elsewhere, but ours are forever turned to you. You are the first and the last, and your words were formed long before this world existed and they will stand for all eternity. We thank you that though everything else changes, you never do. In an unsettled world, we draw tremendous comfort from that. I pray that the church will continue be an open door for people coming in from the world battered and bruised and that we in the church might be a conduit for the great love and mercy you have shown to us. You are light in our darkness, without you, we have nothing.” Amen

Why traditional marriage doesn’t need defending

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I was going to stay silent. I thought maybe my two cents really didn’t matter. But then, I kept getting these thoughts and they weren’t going away. Usually the ones that don’t go away turn into blog posts because I feel it’s the Holy Spirit nudging me to speak. I will start with these thoughts:

Marriage is a perfect institution, made up of imperfect people.

Marriage will never go away on this earth because it was instituted by God in the garden of Eden.

Marriage is Holy.

Marriage is a physical depiction of a deeper spiritual illustration of Christ (the Groom) and the Church (the Bride)

These aren’t my ideas, they come from the Bible. That’s why marriage (and when I say that, I mean the traditional kind) can stand on its on. God started it and God will end it as well.

Jesus answered this question when He was on earth.

That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”

Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you,  ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.

So, marriage was started by God and it will be ended by God in eternity. End of story.

Marriage has really taken a beating in our modern society. I have heard it mocked, seen it twisted into all sorts of shapes and sizes and kinds. I have heard cynics blast holes in it, and I have seen people ignore it completely. I have heard the argument that it ruins a good relationship. I have seen people scoff at it and roll their eyes over it. I have seen people marry over and over again until it’s just about stripped of any meaning.  

But none of that taints the perfection or the Holiness of the institution itself.

The thing that concerns me the most about this whole debate is what it means for the future of our nation. For I still believe that a nation that supports a healthy view of the traditional family will remain strong, while a nation that loses its moral fiber will perish. (Think of Rome, for instance)

Those of us who don’t recognize the validity or right of two people of the same-sex to marry will be called all sorts of ugly things. I have already seen it. We will be labeled as hateful, bigoted, homophobic, unkind, and intolerant. Not to mention ignorant.

While those who do support it will be painted as loving, tolerant, compassionate, kind and wise.

Both sides will forget to love.

Both sides will forget that we are all in this together.

And with all this talk of love and rainbows floating across the news feeds of America and the world right now, there is really only One great love worth celebrating.

His name is Jesus, and He came to this world to defeat sin and save sinners (of whom I am chief, right along with the Apostle Paul) He was and is love personified. Love with a capital “L.”

He came down here to defeat sin and death forever, and He had to die a terrible and tortuous death meant for you and me in order to do that.

He even went to hell so we would never have to go there because He doesn’t want us to be separated from Him ever again.

That is the Love I am celebrating today and everyday. And everyday, I am grateful and in awe of His great Grace that continues to cover my great sin.

 That’s a Love worth celebrating.

Celebrating our Differences

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Yesterday on Facebook I made a statement and it was something to the effect of, “I am so glad Jesus didn’t try to put us in boxes and say, this is how you need to look to fit into my group.” Instead, He invites us to come just as we are and trust Him enough to let Him reassemble us from the inside out. We, on the other hand, like to section people off. Especially in church. Single people here, Marrieds here, 50 plus over here. It makes us feel safer I think. Maybe it’s easier than trying to figure out where they belong.

But why do we insist on “pigeon-holing” people if Jesus didn’t? When we try to put people in categories we’re comfortable with it only serves to make them feel bad when they don’t fit into the box we try to force them into. Certain men don’t know one tool from another but are made to feel like they have to volunteer for the “Habitat for Humanity” project. Certain women are great architects and designers but are made to feel like their only usefulness is baking cookies or working with children.

Jesus however, accepted people at face value, He approached people of all ages and walks of life; all different talents and abilities.  He was never put off by people’s differences, but rather met them where they were in every instance. The reason He was so effective was because when they looked into His eyes they immediately saw the depth of His compassion, His holiness, His goodness. And by contrast they saw their own sinfulness and inability to save themselves.

He gave them an immediate solution to their “sin problem.” He offered forgiveness, wholeness, reconciliation with a God they had fallen out of love with.

Last weekend I was playing my Brooklyn Tabernacle DVD…….it’s what I always reach for when I want to get a glimpse of what Heaven will be like. I see all those colors, all those ages, all those ethnicities, all those pasts. I see people, men and women in beautiful suits and dresses, all lifting their hands to the Lord because they remember what He brought them out of. Many have been homeless and addicted to drugs and alcohol. Some have been very successful in their careers and made a lot of money.

Some have the tattoos they got before they were saved, some have the tattoos they got after they were.

But the thing we all have in common is that each of us have a unique and beautiful redemption story.

It’s the life story that God records in each of our books. You know those baby books parents make when their kids are born? Well, God has one for you and me. He has kept record of our progress all through the years. And I think maybe He opens it and leafs through it because I know He makes the additions. And I think He smiles.

And when we get to Heaven, folks? I don’t think we will be prepared for what we are going to see. God is going to restore all things. That means every single animal that was part of His original design will be there. Colors we never even thought of and  beauty this world has never seen.

And every time I watch the news and catch myself saying, “Even so come, Lord Jesus?” I breathe a prayer and say, not just yet. There are still people who haven’t heard. Still more souls that need saving.

New Every Morning

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How many times in life have you said to yourself or someone else, “Man, I should have known better!” We make mistakes, we are human after all and not machines. Sometimes though, the world expects the precision of a machine. And the world is merciless…….it doesn’t care what the reason was but only that it doesn’t happen again. With the world, you may not get a second chance. But with God, each day, each moment it’s possible to get another chance. God is a God of do-overs. His mercies are new every morning. Listen to what His word says about Him:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him……Lamentations 3:22-24

My friends……this is the Good News. God will never hold a mistake over your head the way the world does. He doesn’t keep a rolling report of all the times you’ve messed up. With Him, you don’t have a rap sheet. All you have to do is come clean, admit your mistake, your sin, your failure. And not only will He purge it from your record, He actually forgets what you did. (Unless you have the habit of reminding Him over and over like I tend to do.)

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Psalm 103:8-12

I don’t know about you, but this is quite possibly the most hopeful verse in the entire Bible. I have heard it said by others that “they never make the same mistake twice.” I am not such a fast learner. Yesterday I made a mistake at work. It was one of those, “I should have known better” moments. When I got back from break there were three people huddled around my station. That is hardly ever a good thing. By the end of the day, I was almost shaking there was so much I had to do between 5:00 and 5:40, when the oncoming Shift came in. Add to that the damage control I had to do to ensure all the powers that be that “it would never happen again.”

Today, right now, this morning I am reveling in the fact that I have a merciful God.

And after all, He’s the only One I really need to worry about.

How much forgiveness is enough?

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This is something I have been struggling with ever since I saw those 21 orange clad men marched out on the beach to their deaths. When you’re confronted with a purely evil act you wonder if you could forgive. I have been asking myself over and over again, could I forgive if those men had been my friends, my family? It has been a stumbling block to my writing I have not been able to get over.

Forgiveness is central to the core belief system of Christianity, one of the cornerstones on which our faith is built. And it’s easy to say, easy to believe. It feels right deep down in your soul. That is, until someone does something to one of your own.

I remember when the Amish school girls were killed and how the world watched in amazement when even in the midst of their grief and loss, they didn’t cast blame or point fingers. They didn’t hold a press conferences and surround themselves with lawyers. They simply forgave. Even more astounding is that they reached out in love to the killer’s family and even went to his funeral. There were more Amish there than non-Amish.

They acted in pure grace, the grace that they learned from their open Bibles; the kind Jesus taught and the kind He displayed, even while dying an excruciating death by praying for those who were still mocking even as He gasped His last breath.

What I didn’t remember about the Amish case was that the killer, Charles Roberts, was tormented for nine years by the premature death of his young daughter and never forgave God for her death. It’s easy to love your enemies if you have none. And it’s easy to forgive if there is nothing to forgive. It’s easy to embrace the philosophy of forgiveness but when it comes down to it, could I really forgive the unforgivable? I struggle with even the small stuff.

I had problems with the scooter in front of me this morning on the way to work. There he was buzzing along fully 10 miles under the speed limit. It was the fastest he could go. He was doing the best he could, poor guy. But I was as irate as I sensed everyone else was. Then I thought, maybe that’s his only mode of transportation right now. I was heaping all this silly rage on his poor unsuspecting head. I prayed for forgiveness. Again. I have to do that a lot while I drive.

As I re-read the beatitudes this morning, I realized how far off the mark I really am.

Peter once asked Jesus just how much we are supposed to forgive. I understand that, I really do. In effect what he was asking was, how much is enough? What’s the required amount to fulfill God’s expectations. Peter was still stuck on the Law. Jesus said, “70 times 70,” which is pretty much infinity.

I wonder sometimes how well I really know Jesus. What He says is truly counter-cultural here in America. We are fighters after all. We don’t lay down and die. It’s written all over our history books. We are a nation of upstarts, otherwise the Boston Tea Party never would have happened.

As a Christian, I have to accept that certain American ideals I have grown up believing are not necessarily Biblical. There are times when laying down the sword and turning the other cheek is not a weakness, it’s the hardest thing in the world to do.

This is what I was mulling over in my mind this morning:

Not forgiving someone is giving them power over you. Forgiveness frees the soul and places the balance of power back where it belongs, with God. It’s a matter of trust that He, as the ultimate Judge will ultimately and in His time, right every wrong.

What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31

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Lent Day #38: The heart opens from the inside

 

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“To the angel of the church inLaodicea write:

The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:

‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Revelation 3:15-19

I am just finishing up the book, “Heavenly Man” by Brother Yun and I feel the kind of awe and stillness that comes as a result of seeing a people, a church, fully yielded and committed to their Lord and the miraculous things He does through them as a result. When you finish a book like that there is really nothing you can say, except that I felt like I got a glimpse of the real church in action.

Right now, the world is watching real Christianity as its marched across the global stage in its purest and most self-sacrificing form, by following the example that Jesus Himself set. All my life I have been taught that Jesus is standing at the door knoocking on the heart of the unsaved sinner. Brother Yun reminded me in his book that the door that Jesus is standing in front of is none other than the church door. And hearts, like doors, open from the inside. Sobering thoughts on this 38th day of Lent.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” Revelation 3:20-22

All I can do is watch in awe as my brothers and sisters all over the world, and many right here on our own soil, are stepping up one by one and saying, “We won’t turn back, no matter how hard it gets, even if we have to pay with our very own lives.”

Sometimes the sacrifices others make seem all but impossible to me, settled as I am in my comfortable corner of life. Other times, the sacrifices are played out in the smaller, more ordinary ways; the everyday choices to do the right thing over and over again, even in extremely challenging circumstances. I guess it’s easy for me to think of Jesus being really impressed with the “Big” ones and chide me for my pithy offerings, but the truth is, He notices things like cold cups of water given in love.

All I can do is peer into my own heart in humble gratitude that He still loves me, regardless of how far too often, my hands still clutch at the world and my eyes are still dazzled by all it has to offer.

Even so, come Lord Jesus.

 

Lent Day #36: Prayer Matters

Christ our Passover.....

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted……..” 2 Timothy 3:12

In the light of the massive amounts of persecution we see around the world just about every day now, this verse comes vividly to life from our computer screens and TV’s. In fact, all those Bible verses have come to life for me as I am reading the accounts of the beginnings of the Chinese house church movement. In the book, “The Heavenly Man,” the autobiographical story of Liu Zhenying, also known as Brother Yun I read vivid accounts of heartbreaking persecution and unbelievable suffering for the cause of Christ.
What does this mean for me here in America, the land of the free. Despite the fact that I believe our freedoms even here are eroding daily, we can still worship in the public sector without worrying about prison, death, or excommunication from our communities and families. We are extremely blessed to be living in a democracy that allows us to worship just about anywhere freely. I say “just about anywhere” because I feel the landscape is changing just as the Bible says in the last days it will.
I feel saddened when I see all the dusty expensive Bibles on my bookshelf. I have two I use regularly,  but I have others I’ve collected over the years, expensive reference Bibles with leather covers. I think of how precious just one verse or page would be to any of these persecuted groups even today. I think of the accounts of how the Chinese Christians hid and smuggled the Word, placing pages in loaves of bread; tucking pages under their coats and shoes. How they eagerly studied it, cherish it, memorizing whole chapters.
You might ask what one can do over here? There is much……we can financially support, but most of all we can pray. God says prayer matters. He says those mornings I spend out in my shop make a difference, and I believe they do. They change me for one thing. For another, I believe those prayers reach the very Throne of God. Over and over, there are accounts of miracles happening with no other explanation other than someone was praying and those prayers were felt.
I leave you today with one excerpt from the book that touched my heart. It takes place as some of he house churches were meeting after having some disputes over doctrine and teaching. The meeting was almost a failure until this:
The atmosphere deteriorated until it became like a business meeting, with everyone talking at once about different subjects. Many old wounds resurfaced and it became apparent the two groups were as far apart as they’d ever been. It looked as if Brother Zu had missed his chance to wash their feet (which God had spoken to his heart and told him to do) Suddenly Zhang slapped his knee and announced, “All this talk is a waste of time. Let’s pray and then we’ll leave.” Brother Fan pushed Brother Zu in the back and instructed him, “Quick! Get some water and do what the Lord told you to do!”
Zhang was praying with his eyes closed when Xu knelt down in front of him and started gently to take his shoes and socks off. Zhang opened his eyes and was amazed. He couldn’t believe the great Xu Yongze, leader of the largest house church movement in China, would ever kneel down and wash his feet! Zhang cried out and wrapped his arms around Brother Xu in a warm embrace.
Deborah Xu then brought out a bucket of warm water and started to wash the feet of Zhang’s co-worker, Sister Ding. The two of them knelt down on the floor and hugged and wept. “The Heavenly Man,”  Brother Yun with Paul Hattaway

Lent Day #35: Relationship……why He came.

Love one another

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-37

Without a doubt, relationships can be the most challenging part or the most rewarding part of life. It’s those really close relationships that can really put our hearts through the wringer. We brush past people everyday barely skimming the surface of each others lives. We can smile while in line at the store, offer to let someone go in front of us, practice grace with those rude drivers, hold the door for a Mom laden down with strollers and packages, or an elderly person struggling with a walker. These are easy. It’s the ones we are closest to that are the hardest.

What do you do when a relationship you’ve always counted on is broken? It always seems like it’s one person who hurts worse than the other. How do you handle the indifference of someone you thought was so close? How can they not see your suffering in silence? How can they turn away and not care?

I believe God gave us family and friends to teach us the hardest lessons about practicing grace and love in the midst of pain. Sometimes pain so severe you think you might not live through it. But when we think about Jesus life, we see someone who loved perfectly so that we would never ever have to be alone in this life. He came to create a bond with us that would never be broken. Ever.

It’s true, we need each other. God created us to live in relationships. But the truth is, we need God more. There is only One relationship we can’t live without, either in this life or the life to come. When we put our trust in Him each day, He surrounds us with the strength and peace we need to keep going, even in the midst of turmoil in the people around us. I know that to be true from experience. Sometimes, all we can do is release our loved one to God’s care and know that as the King and Healer of hearts, He has the power to turn it around for ultimate good. But it’s so tough to do this. Jesus knows this, He was betrayed by one of his closest friends.

And I look at my own life, how I have failed Him so many times, sometimes barely skimming the surface of our relationship, even though it cost Him everything. His love continues to amaze me. He’s promised to never leave me or forsake me. That’s a guarantee that just doesn’t happen in this life.

Please know…………if you are going through heartache with a relationship today, be assured that there are people you don’t even know praying for you right now.

On earth and Heaven. Take heart, and take hope my friends.

 

Lent Day #13: What is Truth?

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Pilate seemed to be haunted with the question: “What is truth?”  He was in fact standing right in front of the embodiment of “Truth,” Jesus Himself, and he still missed the mark. Pilate’s wife, however, had a brush with truth and it terrified her: “While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, “Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.”

I was asking myself this morning, why is it that so many young people have become disillusioned with the churches of their youth? Why are they so willing to grab at any other counterfeit philosophy, religion or way of life this world has to offer? Even ISIS, God forbid. What have they found so very attractive in the world?

What makes a seven-year old stand in front of a congregation, face alight with truth and knowledge and love of God, to declare their faith and plunge under the waters of Baptism only to abandon that same faith 14 years later?

I don’t think there is any one answer, but a combination of many things, but right now I would like to write a letter to all those young adults out there who think God no longer has any relevance in their daily life.

 

Dear Twentysomethings:

This is Jesus, remember me?

I’m still here. I remember you, even if you no longer remember me. First of all, I just want to say that I miss you, and so does my Father. We see you going about your daily life, with all its joys and heartaches and lost loves. We see how you smile and laugh with your friends, how you are learning so much. We see how you are burning the candle at both ends; falling asleep in class and working that part-time job.

We are deeply interested in all your comings and goings. Each day we try to get your attention in thousands of little ways. Did you see that sunset last night? I saw you look up briefly but I didn’t hear a prayer of thanks. In fact, I haven’t heard any prayers at all. I miss our talks. And remember that heavy rain storm last fall? Those were our tears as we watched you wrestle with that terrible decision. We wanted to help, to guide you. We could have offered a way out but you didn’t ask us. We stood aside as we felt the agony in our own Spirit, even as you told all your friends and family you were fine.

Let me remind you of something about my Father. He is less interested in telling you what to do and much more interested in infusing your life with meaning and truth and total fulfillment. He knows all have fallen short but He loves you anyway. We see your heartache and deep loneliness. We see the tears that fall when no one else is watching.

We know that the world is doing its best to make you believe that everything that looks good to you is truth. That whatever you feel in your heart must be right and that all those things you grew up learning in church were nothing but empty lies and fairy tales written by old men. Things that have no or impact or relevance in your life now.

Let me remind you that the Bible is my love letter to you, inspired by My own Spirit and written in my own blood and the blood of others who died for it. My Word will never steer you wrong, the world always will. There is an enemy out there who would like nothing better than to destroy your soul.

The soul I died to save.

You might think that your life is really exciting right now, but I promise if you really get to know me I can give you excitement and power and meaning like you never dreamed possible. More than you could ever ask or think. I am that kind of God. I am the One who calmed the waves with a word, the One that put this whole thing into motion. I long to take you to the far corners of the universe to hear the stars sing.

But only if you come back to the truth. To the only love that will never let you down. You may feel that your are free right now, but you have made yourself a prison of your own wants, needs and desires. Those can never give you true fulfillment or the peace and rest your soul so desperately craves. We can. It’s never too late to come home.

Our arms are always open. The Lover of your soul, Jesus.

“For although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened. While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes.”

Lent Day #11: Putting my heart through the wash cycle

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I head out to my car, again for some quiet time. And today I really have nothing, nada, no idea what “word manna” will come down if any. All I have is my inner assurance that something will. I have never done anything like this. It’s like a Holy experiment because I have determined that I will not write anything just for the sake of ticking one more post off the list, but to be silent until I receive something from the Holy Spirit. And like the manna that fell like snow for the Israelites in the desert, words can’t be left over. And neither can they be written ahead.

I open the sunroof and the sound of birdsong drifts in. A mockingbird is singing his heart out from a nearby Mesquite tree and clouds are blowing in. A change is in the air. The wind in the trees somehow mimics the sounds of ocean waves. Imagine that, here in the desert! God brings me the ocean even here. He loves to give us little surprises to see if we will notice.

Slowly I scroll through the Bloglists on Facebook until I get to one that leads further in to this site: www.21martyrs.com and I hear Jesus words and they stop me in my tracks and then it hits me. This is my message for today:

Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that.” Luke 12:4
But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!

“Surely not these atrocious acts, Lord.” Then I remembered how Saul looked in approval on as Stephen was stoned to death, before the Lord called him and he was renamed Paul. Ever since I have seen those 21 paraded out before the world, I have felt a searing hate for those with the knives. After all, I am an American patriot. We go after our enemies don’t we? Yes, part of me would love to see them wiped off the face of the earth. And yet.

Don’t I call myself a disciple of Jesus? A follower of the Way?

To forgive the unforgivable, that’s what Jesus did. Even while He was still hanging on the cross. And He calls us to do the same, impossible as it may seem. One thing I do know, everyone who dies for the sake of the Gospel and for Jesus will never die in vain. I believe God is calling us to pray, more now than ever before.

And I believe that these horrific acts that continue to color the ground red will lead to Heaven’s gates swinging open to others that may never have entered in otherwise.

As I sat there in my car listening to the trees that sounded like waves, I felt like my heart was being washed clean. I felt convicted. I felt the tide of hate in me recede just a little bit. I still hate what those people did, and God does too. But Jesus had to go to the cross because of my sin too, not just theirs. For there is no “little sin” or “big sin” in God’s eyes. It’s all the same.

And I know the only way I can possibly hope to forgive the unforgivable is to do it with His power and not my own. And by believing that anyone can be redeemed.

Because I was.

Let’s all pray. Join me over the next 40 days. For further reading please check out what Ann Voskamp has to say below.

http://www.aholyexperience.com/2015/02/the-call-for-the-next-40-days-to-the-nations-people-of-the-cross/