Monday, 17 June 2013

on confessing our sin

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9

When I was 16 I went with my mother to church.  This was not something that I regularly did and I had never been to this specific church before.  While I was there, the pastor preached the gospel and the Holy Spirit must have opened my ears to hear because I heard it.  The idea that God wanted to embrace people into his family, into his love, was very compelling.  The pastor talked about how God forgives us for our sins.  I remember sitting in the pew listening to the message, feeling a deep yearning within my heart to be close to God, to be a part of His family, to be enveloped in His love and forgiven for my sins.  I kept trying to hold back the tears but they spilled down my face.  It was such an excruciating moment for me because I longed with all my heart to embrace the message but at the same time I felt like I could never enter in.  

Every time the pastor said "Jesus forgives all of your sins" I would continue his sentence in my head with "except mine".  Whenever he talked about people entering into the family of God I would think "that must be so wonderful for those people who haven't sinned like I have and who are therefore able to be embraced, able to enter into that family, that love".  I was hearing the gospel and was romanced by what it could do for people but I refused to believe that something so wonderful could be available to me....I knew my deeds too well.

When the church service was over, I remember going out into the parking lot with my mom and saying to myself "I am never walking into a church again".  I was in so much pain.

It's interesting how the Lord pursues people.  How He shows up in people's lives at certain moments and lifts the veil, granting us understanding and inviting us in.  I am so thankful that God doesn't have rejection issues, that just because I said no then and at other times that He was still relentless in His pursuit of me.  It may have taken a few more years from that moment when I was 16 and much creativity on His part in wooing me but obviously I did eventually say yes.  Oh what love!

The world needs to know that there is no sin too great for Jesus Christ.  Sometimes I think the church needs to know that there is no sin too great for Jesus Christ.  If and when we as the church keep certain sins hidden, when we stop confessing sin and act as though everything is perfect when it's not, we are denying the power of the gospel....we are denying that Jesus died for 'that' too.  We are denying Him and ourselves the opportunity to see what redemption can come out of it.  

Confessing sin is difficult.  We don't always want others to know what we're capable of.  Often we don't even want to admit to ourselves what we're capable of.  We're worried about the consequences of our confession....'what will people think of us?' 'will we lose stature within our community?'  This is natural but also detrimental to our freedom and our wholeness, not to mention our witness to others.

There is freedom and power in saying to ourselves, our Lord, and others that "I really messed this one up", "I blew it", "there is ugliness in my heart  and I don't know how to get rid of it" "I have sinned".  There is freedom because we can wholly be who we really are...we don't have to pretend that we're someone else or keep track of what we've told whom.  Freedom because of the solutions that come as a result of acknowledging the problems.  There is power because that is where Jesus comes in, the Healer,  Redeemer, Comforter. 

Let's please be people who are real with ourselves, our Lord, and one another.  Who of course use wisdom and discernment in who we confess to and in what details we give but who do nevertheless  confess.   People who give Jesus the opportunity to change us, to forgive us for our sins, to bring beauty from ashes, to be glorified through our lives.  The enemy wants us to keep things in darkness, hidden.  We must live in the light.  Let's please be a witness to people like my 16 year old self that there is no sin too great for the Lord to forgive, that we all screw up sometimes and have done things that are wrong.   We cannot do that if we're too busy trying to look as though we've got it all together when we don't, as though we don't struggle when we do, as though there's no darkness within our hearts when there is, as though we never sin when we do. 

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  1 John 1: 7

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

on the power of the gospel

This morning I was silently apologizing to the Lord for neglecting my time with Him in the busyness of the past week.  I haven't taken the time to talk and listen to Him as much as I'd like and was feeling badly about it.  Then the thought came to me that I'm not perfect and that that's OK...if I were perfect and were able to do things perfectly, Jesus would not have had to come and I wouldn't need Him.  I was reminded of the foundation of my faith.

Can I just reiterate for everyone including myself that perfection in and of ourselves is not the goal here nor is it possible?  (Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God)  That it's OK that we fail and make mistakes, that there is a Saviour that loves us and came so that He could help us make things right again? (1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness) That as Christians we have the help of the Holy Spirit to lead us in the way that we should go, that we are not our own guides and are not expected to do things solely in our own power and strength?  (John 14:26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you).  

Getting bogged down with feelings of inadequacy is not helpful.  What is helpful is to first figure out where these feelings are coming from....are they coming from our own or the world's expectations of us, or are they coming from a place where we know that the Lord and His ways were calling us to do something and we didn't do it?  If the former, it is helpful to figure out what the truth of the matter is, what does the Lord say about that situation?  If the latter, it is helpful to confess, repent, and ask the Lord to do what needs to be done so that next time a different choice is made.  We don't have to carry the weight of our shortcomings with us wherever we go.  Our mistakes don't define us.  We can confess our sins, ask for forgiveness, do the work of reconciliation if required, and keep going, free.  This is the power of the Gospel.  

Psalm 103: 8-10 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.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

There are different roles within the body of Christ

1 Corinthians 12: 12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.  So it is with Christ.

So I've been having a lot of trouble reconciling how to belong and be a member of the body of Christ, his church.  I've had many struggles and issues and there is much that I don't understand.

I've historically understood this above passage (and the verses following) to mean that I have a part to play within the body of Christ and that my part will be different from others.  I cannot look at my place in the body in relation to another's and say that I want to just be like them.  Nor can I look at others and say that they should be like me.  God has created us all to be different and to work together to form something more beautiful than uniformity could form.  This I have understood.

What I'm learning though is to take that analogy one step further.  Not only is the hand needed to be a hand, but the hand cannot be told how to be a hand by the foot.  A foot knows how to be a foot and shouldn't tell a hand how to be a hand.  Similarily, I cannot tell a person with the gift of hospitality how to use their gift of hospitality simply because I don't know how.  It is not one of my gifts and doesn't form a part of who I am.  While God of course can choose to use me to help someone in their gift of hospitality if He wants to, it is not my area of expertise.  I cannot tell a foot how to be a foot if I'm not one. 

And who is it that directs the body?  That tells the foot where to go and the hand what to pick up?  Well it's the head of course, the brain.  In the analogy of the body of Christ, this is of course Jesus.  Which is just another reason that we must have a personal relationship with him.  We cannot just know him based on what other's tell us about him.  We can't just know him based on his
characteristics.  To live the fullest life possible, the life that we are created to live, we must receive our direction from him, we must acknowledge him as the source. 

I think that I'm finding this so exciting because it helps me to release people from my expectations that they should be helping me along my spiritual walk.  It tells me that maybe certain people don't help me as I want them to because they can't - they don't know the answers that I need nor do they understand the questions that I have.  They are simply just a different part of the body than I.

Monday, 27 May 2013

On speaking the truth even when it's unpleasant

Ephesians 4:15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

Part of loving people involves telling them the truth.  When the truth isn't pretty, this can be a really difficult thing to do.  As someone who loves to support and encourage, I find it hard to talk about things that could lead people to feel discouraged or disheartened.  What God has been teaching me though is that while it is good to encourage, it is not good to do so to the point that the truth is left hidden.  It is not loving to sit back and watch those that I love suffer because I'm unwilling to talk about an unpleasant truth that I see in their lives.  While it would be great to just be a cheerleader, part of being a good friend is being willing to ask questions about the hard stuff and giving real opinions when asked.

Taking a page out of the Lord's playbook, I'm finding it freeing to realize that the truth can be spoken in such a way that even if it is something that is negative or a problem, it still brings life and freedom.  The lie is that bringing up difficult truths or pointing out hard things will lead to discouragement in those that we love....the truth is that, if done with the right heart and with a sense of the Lord's guidance, the truth will set the captive free.  Now that's the Kingdom.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

the exchange

In a white room, a young girl, dressed in a white robe, delightedly hands her father a silver container.  Inside the container are worms that she has diligently and excitedly dug up for him.  Though the worms are worthless to him, he recieves them with much gratitude and love.  He then passes her a silver container and she opens it and finds that it is filled with gold coins - a box of treasure.

The Lord receives our gifts to him with love and finds them valuable because they are from us.  Our God is the Lord of All - there is nothing that I can give him that he is lacking because He does not lack anything.  Yet He still delights in my gifts to Him because He loves me and I'm His.  Moreover, in return for my gifts, He gives gifts that are abundantly valuable, gifts that bring things like joy, peace, life.  On a material viewpoint the exchange is completely unfair, but this isn't about material.  It's about love.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Have a little faith

He said to them, "How foolish you are and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!..."  Luke 24: 25
He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?"  Luke 24: 38
He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?"  Matthew 8: 26

So here's my current dilemna...I am afraid to have faith.  I don't mean general faith in God or faith in my salvation or faith that the Bible is true.  What I'm struggling with has more to do with the faith that is required to be a full-out disciple of Jesus Christ....the faith that says I'm no longer going to measure myself according to the world's standards but am going to fully live within the Kingdom of God, following Christ.

I find the thought of living completely within kingdom principles scary for many reasons.  Firstly because it's impossible to do without God's help and I don't like feeling weak or inadequate.   Second because it requires faith and faith isn't always logical.  Third because it opens me up to being misunderstood by others and I hate being misunderstood.  Fourth because sometimes the things of God sound delusional.  Fifth because it means actually dying to myself and that is painful and not fun.  Sixth, because it leads into the unknown and I'm not that much of an adventurer....I like to know what to expect.

So why do it?  Why not just continue to straddle both according to biblical principles in some ways and worldly principles in others?  The answer for me lies in the hope that there is so much more available to us living on this planet than what I am currently living....the hope that I can see the Lord reach into someone's life and make a positive difference for change, the hope that the Lord can reach into my life and transform those parts that are still lacking, the hope that there is an answer to the pain and darkness in this world that makes a positive, real difference.  The hope that the as yet unnamed passion and yearning in my heart will be satisfied.  Jesus said that he is the way, the truth and the life.  He also said that he came so that we my have life to the full.....I want to know what that fullness is all about.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

don't be afraid to hear God's voice

So I'm a part of a group in Hamilton that prays for people and practices what is known as listening prayer or prophecy.  Last night we had the privilege of praying for a young man who is on his was to be a missionary in Asia.  After we were finished praying, he expressed that he was encouraged and that he had been a bit nervous  to come to our group.  He was nervous because he thought that maybe in our listening prayer we would hear things from God about the things that he does wrong, where he feels like he fails. 

I totally understand this sentiment and used to feel it myself.  I found it very intimidating to be with people who heard God's voice and often felt uncomfortable in their presence because I didn't know what God would tell them about me.  I was worried that I would be seen and condemned.  Over the years though, as I've learned to discern His voice, I have found that I couldn't be more wrong.  This is what I want you all to know.  God does not condemn you.

It has been my experience that when I hear from God for other people, the overarching sense that I get is one of love.  God is passionately in love with people.  Really, sometimes the love that He expresses is so extravagant and vast that I am left speechless.  Since love covers a multitude of sins, His love covers us.  He does not focus on what we've done wrong or on where we fail.  Rather, He focuses on who we are at our core, the one whom we've been created to be.  He focuses on the parts of us that are good, that share light in this world, that bring joy.  He focuses on healing those parts of us that have been wounded throughout our lives.  He focuses on telling us the truth about ourselves and our God so that the lies can be eradicated and we can be free.

This is not to say that The Lord never brings our sin to our attention or that it doesn't matter.  Of course He does.  He died so that we could be free of it.  However, even when He is pointing out to us something we have done wrong, it comes by way of love.  It comes with gentleness and the choice and grace to do better. 

The Lord does not shout at us that we are unworthy, that we are unloveable, that we are too screwed up to be loved.  He does not go around telling other people bad things about us.  He does not tell us that we are unseen, that we are unknown, that we are not cared for.   That voice, which I'm sure we've all heard at one point or another, is not God.  That voice is the enemy of God, the one who actively pursues our destruction and takes pleasure in our pain.  That voice lies and lies and lies.  It is NOT the voice of God.  It does NOT accurately represent who God is nor who we are.  

Please don't be afraid to hear the voice of God. He loves you more than you could ever imagine.  The Lord is the Redeemer, not the condemner.