Friday, February 25, 2011

Knight and Shining Armor

All of our lives we are inundated with fairytales.  Sometimes there's singing, sometimes they are dark and scary; but there is ALWAYS a Hero and a Damsel in Distress.  Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella; all contain young, defenseless females and a Prince to sweep them off their feet.  A man to fix all their problems, including (but not limited to) a super-mean Step Mother, a poison apple, and death by spinning wheel. 
Lessons to be extracted from these stories: Women should be beautiful, graceful, and fragile. Men should be strong, wealthy and brave.

Although I have always been independent, the ideas from these stories still seeped into my subconscious.  However; there are some genuine truths, such as, every woman wants to be desired, cherished, and taken care of by her husband.  For men, they want to be needed, respected and appreciated by their wives.  In the modern world, men do not ride into battle, and the women do not reside in a tower waiting to be rescued. Anyhow, we are still trying to find something from each other.Waiting for the one to complete the other.  Think about all the love songs and poems written by men about or to women.  Or the endless ways women try to get attention from men. 

I remember when Josh and I were dating... his friends would come up to me and ask, "What have you done to Josh?  He is so happy!  He has completely changed since he met you."  I didn't understand what they meant.  The only Josh I had ever met was happy.  And completely captivated with me.  Of course I didn't realize that Josh was looking to me for all of his fulfillment until after we were married, and I don't think Josh did either.  But when he recognized that I could never be everything he needed me to be, that I was human, he became angry. 

Every story needs a Knight In Shining Armor. Some of us are trying to be the Knight for someone, others are waiting for him to show up.  But what if he already came?  What if he didn't look much like a knight, and he didn't wear armor?  Would you recognize him?  What if he were so human, so humble that you missed it?  What if you were/are the Damsel in Distress?  And a man came to save you from all that wanted to destroy you?  And what if that happened 2,000 years ago? 

We are referred to many times in scripture (male and female) as a bride.

"And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife." Revelation 21:9

And our Hero?  He was born in an animal's food trough, never owned land, or established wealth.  He was not dashing, debonair or charming.  But he has undoubtedly swept me off my feet.  He will never leave me.  He will never break my heart.  And he has fulfilled, and given freely, ALL promises that mankind could possibly desire: immortality, peace, blessing, hope, freedom, and forgiveness.

When our Prince returns...

"...the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and [his] hairs [were] white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes [were] as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance [was] as the sun shineth in his strength." Revelation 1:13-16

Now what I call shining armor.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Down with the Pharisees

Poor Pharisees, what a bad wrap they have had throughout the Bible.  Jesus was kind and loving to all those horrendous sinners that deserved hell, but to the pharisees he called names and rebuked.  Why?  Because they thought they were righteous unto themselves.  And what does righteousness mean?

First, lets define what a pharisee is: "a sanctimonious, self-righteous, or hypocritical person." [ouch!]

Now, the dictionary says righteousness as a noun is: "the quality or state of being righteous."

as an adjective: "characterized by, proceeding from, or in accordance with accepted standards of morality, justice, or uprightness; virtuous"

However, a good biblical definition of righteousness is: Right standing with God.   

When I first heard the gospel of unconditional love and grace I couldn't believe it.  It was too good to be true!  It took a year for it to really penetrate my heart (and bad theology) and take root.  And when it did- it completely set me free.  I expected everyone I encountered to be equally excited about this revelation, especially my Christian friends.  But that was not the case.  And this is what I have learned through my experience:

There are people, for various reasons, who are naturally disciplined.  I don't just mean from the "big sins" I am talking about everyday things.  They refrain from sugar, cigarettes, junk food and other "naughty" behaviors.   They instead eat only things that are good for their body, run and train for marathons, and have incredible will power.  These behaviors are not evil or against God- of course not!!!  Physical accomplishments are to be commended and encouraged.  But let us remember they are only physical (of this world).  Spiritual "accomplishments" is another matter. 

Many times these same people are able to have incredible will power in "God's rules" as well.  They don't cuss, talk about people behind their backs, or {I will let you fill in the blank}.  This also goes along with their good deeds.  They serve endlessly at their church, always get to church on time, and read their bible on a regular basis.  Again, these are NOT bad things- just bare with me...

These Will Power People, may except God's grace to an extent.  They may not make others feel bad for their lack of good deeds, or think they are justified apart from Jesus, but they feel "close to God" when they are doing good deeds.  And when the occasion comes when they do mess up, they feel an inner need for penance before they can feel "close to God" again.  So when they hear about unconditional grace, they are offended for many reasons.  Not only does this lower the apparent value of their will power, but they feel this will lead others that are not as disciplined as themselves to fall into "greezy grace".  Although I believe we are made for good works (or deeds)

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."
Ephesians 2:10

These good works are not unto righteousness.  Good works are a fruit of a relationship, not a prerequisite for a relationship.

Perhaps this is why I was so set free from the message of unconditional love and grace.  I am a mess.  I always have been.  And as much as I would try, I would still eat too much ice cream, exercise too little and cuss too much.  And when it was explained to me that it is all about Jesus and not about me.  Well, praise God!!!  Because while I got everything wrong, Jesus got it all right.  And with being free from guilt and shame, and understanding the love God has for me- I am free to be who He created me to be.  And instead of willing myself to obey God's laws, my desire (fueled by love) is not to sin.  In short, I obey God's laws on accident more than I ever did on purpose.

Paul said it wonderfully in Romans 2:14-15 "For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them" NAS

 I also really like The Message version: "When outsiders who have never heard of God's law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that God's law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within them that echoes God's yes and no, right and wrong."

The "...something deep within them that echoes God's yes and no..."  that is our spirit, perfect and one with Jesus.  When the law is seperated from us by grace (and guilt, condemnation, and shame along with it) we follow the law on accident.    The Gentiles in Romans were free from the law by ignorance.  But either way, by ignorance or faith; freedom is accessible. 

Don't be decieved; the only thing that makes you lose the desire to relationship with God through Jesus, free of guilt and free of shame. 

Thank you Jesus...for freedom.

Friday, February 18, 2011

"Jesus is my Copilot"

I have seen this saying on many church signs, bumper stickers and maybe even a t-shirt or two.  I do not; however, agree with this doctrine.  In my life, I see it more like this: Jesus is the Pilot, Copilot, and stewardess.  I am the lone passenger fluctuating between many different emotions.  I am sometimes complaining about the length of the flight, sometimes expressing how beautiful the scenery is, sometimes panicking about the turbulence, and other times resting through the smooth sailing.  Jesus is never worried or concerned by anything happening.  And is constantly encouraging and reassuring me.  He also gives me an endless supply of peanuts.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The most expensive bowl of soup in existence

I remember the first time I heard a teaching on Jacob and Esau.  It was many years ago, and I couldn't believe that someone would sell their birthright for a bowl of soup!  I will say that there is nothing quite like a perfect bowl of hot soup, with a crusty piece a bread (I can practically taste Panera's french onion soup with extra cheese)...but come on, for your BIRTHRIGHT!?!
The very concept blew my mind.

"When Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished; and Esau said to Jacob, "Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished." Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said, "First sell me your birthright." Esau said, "Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?" And Jacob said, "First swear to me"; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright." Genesis 25: 29-34

Now in this teaching, it was all about how foolish Esau was and how he was not blessed or favored by God, due largely to this action.  And I judged Esau harshly in my heart.  But funny thing about hearts...they become less judgemental as you experience life.

So what meaning does "birthright" have for us?  When Christ died and arose he became the first among many brothers.  There is a birthright of righteousness, blessing and favor we receive in faith through Jesus.

"For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;" Romans 8:29

             When we moved here to Colorado, I expected angels to sing when we crossed the state line.  I expected a ray of sunshine to follow our car as we drove into the city.  We had never obeyed and followed God in such a radical way before.  But that didn't happen.  Not that God wasn't with us EVERY step of the way.  But there was no physical evidence that we were in the middle of God's Will for our lives.   The first 8 months we were here were the most difficult of our lives.  God had told us to to come to Colorado for the first step toward full-time ministry, and we knew He had AMAZING things in store for us.  But when you get bogged down with life:  wondering how you are going to keep the heat on, or where your next meal is coming from you say to yourself, "Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?"   
    I remember those moments so well, where we were standing on the precipice of unbelief.  So tempted to take the (seemingly) easy over the perfect.  And we were tempted to sell the future God had for us (birthright) for some comfort (bowl of soup).  Daydreaming about how wonderful it would feel knowing that a paycheck was coming, job security, or money in the bank.  Then a very soft spot formed in my heart for Esau.  I realized: I am Esau. 

But Jesus has redeemed me from myself, and there is grace that overtakes me to keep me on the path God has laid out.  So, although temptation has been there more than once to take the bowl of soup, we will take hold of the birthright purchased for us.