Saved and Called

holyHoly – consecrated or set aside for sacred use; standing apart from sin and evil; characteristic of God

This post has been on my mind and in my heart for a very long time. I have just had the hardest time focusing my thoughts and words so that it all didn’t come out like a bunch of stream of consciousness ramblings. (Which it will most likely be anyway). The subject of holiness has become very important to me over the last year of my walk with the Lord. From what I see of some people around me, it is their priority as well. But to others – it seems to be just one of those “churchy” words…and that makes me sad. In 2 Timothy 1:9, Paul says, “But join with me in the suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy life.” (emphasis mine). We all know – and truly appreciate – the God saved us part. We willingly accept that free, undeserved gift. But in the SAME breath, it says that he called us to a holy life. Saved us AND called us to a holy life. Yes, the gift of salvation was free, and nothing we can do can pay for it…but God calls us to be holy. And because of our love and devotion to him – that should be the life we want! All throughout scripture we are instructed to live holy lives. We are told that without holiness, no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). We are to live holy lives, NOT impure lives.(I Thessalonians 4:7). We are told to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God (Romans12:1). In my opinion – and my limited understanding of the word – it is NOT a choice. We cannot go on living the way we used to live – chasing our sinful desires – and be covered by the umbrella of grace. Now, I know that we ALL will stumble and fall and sin and need that grace…for the rest of our human lives. So, I am NOT for a minute saying that God expects perfection out of us and if we can’t be perfect we should just give up. I know that we are constantly begin transformed and renewed. The process of sanctification is just that – a process. But I can honestly say that I have seen and known people who knowingly choose to live the way THEY want to live – and then just say – “I’m covered by grace!” Again – I’m not a Bible scholar – but something tells me that this is not God’s picture of holiness. I heard a pastor the other day comparing the desire to live a holy life for God to the desire to please and love on your spouse. The longer you are married, and the more deeply you fall in love with that person, the more you desire to show your love for them by doing things that please them. So should our love with and for God be. The longer we walk with Him, the more we should love him and WANT to please him. The Bible says our lives should be holy and pleasing to God. So, it doesn’t mean we have to be perfect. We don’t have to worry about if we are good enough. God knows our hearts and he will see our desire to be holy and he will give us the strength we need to be holy. In his book “Jesus is …” Judah Smith says it (much better than I am doing) like this…”When we stop being insecure about our performance and instead trust in Jesus finished work, we are free to live a new kind of holiness. It’s a holiness that is internally motivated, a holiness powered by love, not guilt.” So, IF our hearts are truly seeking and desiring to live for God, then he will help us. Sadly, many hearts are using the idea of radical grace to dismiss to call to be holy. I know that grieves God and as believers it should bring sorrow to our hearts as well. Jesus did an amazing work for us. He was sacrificed, not so that we could use his name to cover our sinful lives and desires – but so that we could become holy citizens in his kingdom. “He suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood.” (Hebrews 13:12). My intent through this post is not to come off as some “holier-than-thou” Pharisee, casting judgment on those around me….not at all. But honestly, my heart breaks for what I see out of some of my very own “brothers and sisters” in Christ. Sin should make us truly sorrowful – NOT because we get caught – but because God loved us so much, even while we were sinners, to send his son to die for us. It should be our desire – our greatest desire – to live a holy life for such an amazing act of love like that. “Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from our sin.” (I Corinthians 1:30). As we strive to be holy, it is NOT to earn our salvation, that was already paid for. It is really (this is my humble opinion) to live lives that show our adoration and love for our heavenly Father.

“Our fight against sin is noble and good, but make no mistake; we are not fighting to become righteous. We are already righteous. We are simply learning to live outwardly like the people we are inwardly.” Judah Smith

Help us Father to live holy lives, to be ever so grateful for your mercy and grace, and to never forget the sacrifice you made for us through your son. Let us never misuse or abuse your grace to chase our own sinful desires, but rather let us walk humbly in your love and seek to be true conquerors through you.

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I am not a Bible scholar

newcrossI am not a Bible scholar. Ok, there. I got that off my chest. I grew up memorizing a weekly Bible verse, I went to church camp, I competed in Bible Bowls, I could sing the books of the Bible frontwards and backwards…and I’m still not a Bible scholar. But since I have made an honest, committed effort (with God’s guidance and help) to remain in the Word through daily Bible study, I have gained so much! Before I go any further, I understand that everything is relative. The things I am starting to glean from the Word are not earth-shattering by any stretch of the imagination. But, they are small things that I believe God wants me to learn – on my own – as I study each day. All of that was a set-up to share a new understanding I gained while reading in the gospel of John this week. John 12:31 says “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” Growing up in youth group we sang a song with this verse (I don’t think I ever knew exactly where it was located in the Bible). But when we sang the song I understood it to mean when Christ was lifted up to Heaven to be with God – men (people) would follow Him. As I read it now – and really think about it, the meaning has changed. Jesus, when speaking of being lifted up, is not talking about his ascension to be with God, but rather he is talking about being lifted up on the cross. As a form of execution, being crucified on the cross was an excruciating form of torture meant to bring great shame to the criminal. But that does not hold true for Jesus. When he was lifted up (on the cross) it was to bring glory to God by fulfilling his wondrous plan of salvation for humanity. It was not to draw shame and ridicule and guilt. It was to draw ALL to him. Because while NONE of us are worthy, ALL of us were included in this plan to cleanse us. He was lifted up and sacrificed in order to complete God’s plan and to draw all to Him to receive the beautiful, undeserved gift of salvation.

So hard to forget

Why is it so easy to remember all the bad stuff and so easily forget the good? Sometimes, I get overwhelmed with negative feelings and regrets from the past that I know that are gone…they have been taken away by the blood of Jesus…but I won’t let them go. Why do those feelings resurface so quickly when things get tough? I know and believe with all of my heart each promise that God makes me in the Bible. I believe that I have been made new in him and that I am daily being transformed into the person he wants me to be. So why don’t those feelings – feelings of pride and of being loved unconditionally by my Heavenly Father surface first when life gets tough? Eventually my mind and heart get there, but typically, my first reactions are negative…I’m not good enough, not worthy, etc. I am told through his holy word that God keeps no record of wrongs. I am promised that because of the sacrifice that Christ made for me that I can stand holy and righteous before God. So then why can’t I let all of the past go? Why is it so hard to forget? The devil really knows how to find and play with our weaknesses. He looks at me and says, “I just need to remind her that she’s never felt like she measures up…she’s not worthy.” And he jumps in and grabs hold. Why does his voice sometimes ring louder than the voice of the Holy Spirit who lives within me and guides me every day? I know that I am a beloved child of God. I know that He is stronger than the devil and that he is my guide. I know that I DO NOT have to live with the shame of past mistakes! I guess I just need to let the devil know – loud and clear – that MY GOD loved me even while I was still a sinner and that His love never fails. I need to stop allowing the devil to speak negativity into my world by listening more closely to the voice of the sweet spirit dwelling in me. I have to be the one to forget the hard stuff….cause God already has.

Dear God,

Please forgive me when I listen to the whispers of doubt that play with my mind and my heart. Thank you for loving me enough to save me from myself. I worship and adore you! And I know that you are working in my life each day, and that through that work I continue to grow in your love.

Amen.

Willing to Yield

Have you ever pulled up to a four way stop at the same exact time that another car has? And then you and the other driver awkwardly sit and look at each other waiting for the other one to go. S then you both start to giant the same time…more awkwardness. Followed by each of you waving the other driver on-at the same time. Now what? So you both start to move again….and the awkwardness soars to a new high. (Or am I the only person on earth who experiences these types of awkward occurrences?) Typically, in these situations, I am the driver who is willing to yield to the other driver and wait. I’m also the weirdo in the grocery who will let someone go in front of me if they have fewer things in their cart….so that I don’t hold them up with my overflowing cart of groceries. I yield to total strangers. And that’s easy, and it feels good. So then why is it sometimes so stinking hard to yield to those around us that we love. Not just in small, superficial ways…but in the big meaningful ways. If we truly love and care about someone, shouldn’t we yield to them. The dictionary defines yield as to give up, surrender, or submit. This can have so many meanings in our every day lives. Within the boundaries of our own families, are we yielding to each other? Do we hold out for what our selfish nature desires, or do we surrender to what is good for the whole family? Am I holding a grudge based on my hurt feelings, or am I giving them up in hope that relationships may be restored and grow? Do we submit ourselves to what God requires of us or do we attempt to maintain control and do it our way? Relationships are difficult. They are dynamic and challenging, but so vital and rewarding.

And if we (talking mostly to me) have trouble at times yielding to those we love…how much more difficult do we make the process of yielding to others…the poor, the homeless, forgotten. And what about our enemies!? We are commanded to love our neighbor. We are commanded to love our enemies. I believe that part of that process of love is yielding…submitting, surrendering. What if I gave up -even occasionally- my $6.00 cup of coffee (venti, quad, skinny, french vanilla latte) and blessed someone else in a small way. What if I surrendered some of my time to just sit and talk with someone who feels like they don’t matter. Am I willing to yield to others? This is a challenge that I know I am not alone in facing. I think if we were all honest, we could probably find areas that we have been less than willing to yield. Are we holding grudges over past hurts? Are we stubborn with our time, our money, even our emotions? I know that I am a work in progress and that I have many strengths but I also have many flaws. I thank God that He loves me…enough to die for me even with all my imperfections. And because of that sacrifice and my love for Him, I want to be more willing to yield.

James 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.

It was love.

crossOn this sacred, holy day there isn’t really much I can say to emphasize the sacrifice the Jesus made for us. My brain cannot come up with the precise words to describe the act that took place on a Friday many, many years ago. My head cannot be wrapped around it…but my heart can feel it.

I have been a Christian most of my life…but I truly feel that I have been a Jesus follower for only a couple of years. I must say that up until the recent past, I just didn’t truly “get it.” Even though I have loved God my whole life, and have tried to do all the “right things,” it wasn’t until hitting rock bottom and crying out to God for guidance that I really started to feel it. Continue reading

It’s about faith

Growing up, I was the type of kid who always followed the rules. I was never one to break a rule just for the sake of breaking it. Nor was I one to push the limits with authority. I think that part of the reason for my mentality was my birth order. I am a middle child. I am a people pleaser and most definitely the family peace maker. For this reason, I was a stickler for the rules. In addition to that personality make up…I was terrified of getting in trouble. I mean terrified. I never wanted to even think about facing the consequences of even the slightest infraction. I remember once, in the 5th grade I got into “trouble” and was devastated. Our beloved Mr. Vernot was out that day, leaving us with a sub…four of us were going down to change into our cheerleading uniforms for that day’s basketball game. We followed our normal routine of leaving just a few minutes early…but the sub was not exactly privy to this routine and was pretty upset (according to the note she left for our teacher). Upon his return, Mr. Vernot issued the four of us lunch detentions. Based on my reaction, one might have thought I had just been sentenced to the electric chair. I was devastated. I cried and sobbed and pouted right there in home room. Looking back, of course, my reaction was ridiculous, but to me at that moment in time it was perfectly normal. I simply hated the thought of being in trouble. I was terrified.

Somewhere, deeply buried in my personality is the strong need to please people. I do not like the thought at all of letting someone down. The idea that someone may be disappointed in me or my actions haunts me at times. As I grew from a young child to a teenager, this fear of disappointing people and fear of consequences shaped my early Christian life. In my youth group it seemed the focus was always on staying out of hell. (This was most likely not always the focus…most likely my hypersensitivity to the topic has affected my memory). I had grown up in church my whole life…I had heard the “Good News” but to me the message I got was how not to go to hell. I was so scared of making any mistake at all for fear that I would die and go straight to hell. It used to keep me awake at night. For me, at this impressionable age, living for God was about following the rules and staying out of hell.

As I have grown and matured in my walk with Christ, I praise God that I have also grown in my understanding of the magnitude of God’s love and His plans. It is one of my greatest comforts in life to know that I don’t have to follow every single “rule” to earn my stay of out hell card. I serve a God who wants my love and faithfulness and who sent His son to die for me. I can’t ever “earn” that sacrifice. Nothing I can do to try and please God would ever be enough to cover the price Jesus paid for me. In Galatians we are told “So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” If serving God was all about keeping the law the there was no need for Christ to die for us. None of us could live up to all the “rules” in that none of us is perfect. But we don’t have to be slaves to the law…we are free based on our faith.

Romans 3:27-28 “Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.”

I still want to please God and live in a way that is acceptable in His sight…but that’s not what saves me! To a girl who has spent her whole life trying to “earn” acceptance and approval, this kind of love is amazing.

“I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.” (Philippians 3:9)

Making the decision to serve God and to seek His guidance in my life was the best decision in some many ways. God’s love has granted me freedom from past hurts, given me unconditional love, and peace beyond understanding. But most of all, God has shown the mind of mercy and grace that has allowed me to stop worrying about breaking the rules so that I can now focus on a life of faithfulness and service.