Friday, 27 April 2012
Get Over It
I stopped to get gas this morning and was grateful to see that the price per gallon had come down a few more cents. As I prepared to pump my gas, I noticed the sale prior to mine was for around $130! It was surely for a commercial vehicle and no doubt the driver had a company credit card. Someone else paid the price for his gas, but still the thought of paying that much for a tank of gas made me kind of sick.
There is a commercial on television (I can’t remember for what product or service) where a woman is watching the cost rack up on the pump as she fills up her car. When she is through filling up, the price suddenly changes to free. The smile on her face tells all – you can see her joy and happiness. She looks around, almost as if she is wondering if this is really possible. I know I would be doing the happy dance if I got a free tank of gas.
1 Peter 1:18-19
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
While a free tank of gas would be great, it can’t compare to a free life we can live thanks to the price paid by Jesus. Each day we go around racking up a sin debt – we are, after all, human. None of us is perfect. Romans 6:23 says: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Jesus paid the sin debt for us when He went to the cross. It wasn’t bought with silver, gold or American Express. It was paid with every drop of blood that He shed, and He shed it all.
For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Just like that woman in the commercial, we should be smiling from ear to ear in the knowledge of what Christ has done for us. We should be doing a happy dance. We should be celebrating our freedom every day. And yet, many walk around with the weight of the world on their shoulders. We ask God to forgive our sins, and then we hang onto them and beat ourselves up with them. We wonder how we can be used of God when we think about the things we’ve done. We bind ourselves with our own anxieties, insecurities, guilt, shame and doubt instead of trusting our Savior.
A lady in our church is fond of reminding us to “get over it.” We all have stuff – junk we are carrying around because of things we have done or things that have been done to us. We either believe that Jesus shed His precious blood so that we could be forgiven our sin or we don’t. We either believe that we must also forgive others as He forgave us – or we don’t. We either believe “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5), or we don’t. You may say that you are a Christian, but if you are walking around all beaten up and feeling unworthy, then you really don’t believe what you claim. You can keep dragging yourself around like that, or you can get over it.
John 8:32, 36
And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. . . Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
We know that we are supposed to forgive others, but we forget that we also need to forgive ourselves. If you can’t do that, then you are basically saying that the work Jesus did on the cross was not enough and lacks the power to set you free. You are saying that the work He did was in vain. And that would be a lie. We know that His sacrifice was more than enough and it is more than powerful enough to cover you and anything you’ve done. When God sees the blood of His Son, He can no longer see your sin. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
People keep score. People remind you of who you used to be. People would like to pull you back into the world where you can be miserable with them. If you have people like that in your life, maybe you need to get some new people! People aren’t going to determine where you spend eternity. Your relationship with Christ is going to determine that. If you believe and accept that He died so that you could be forgiven and set free, then live free right now. You don’t have to wait until you get to Heaven. Your salvation doesn’t begin when you die, but it begins when you start to live for Him today. Quit hanging on to your stuff. It’s time to get over it and get on with being about your Father’s business.
And while you’re at it, smile and do a little happy dance. Let people see the freedom and joy of the Lord working in you.
Posted on 04/27/2012 8:43 AM by Susan Nelson
Friday, 20 April 2012
We Are Being Watched
One night last week I was very tired and apparently a little cranky as I prepared to go to bed. No matter how tired I am, I always make sure to take time to pray. After my prayer time, I checked on my daughter’s progress and I guess I started barking orders about teeth brushing and putting on pajamas (which I had already told her to do several times). She looked at me and said, “Boy, you sure are grouchy after you pray!”
Certainly it was not one of my better moments, either as a mom or a Christian. I appreciated her holding up that mirror and letting me see myself as she was seeing me. I also appreciate that she loves me and does understand when I get tired and grouchy and loves me anyway. Our home is supposed to be our sanctuary – a place where we can be free and unburdened and be relaxed. We can let our hair down and be ourselves. We are comfortable around the people we live with. They see how lovely we look in the mornings. They do see us when we are grumpy. They see how we spend our time and they hear how we talk about people and issues. We are being watched. Our families are watching our lives and making decisions about whether it is the kind of life they would choose.
Our home is also our first mission field, if there are unsaved members in our household. And they can be some of the toughest people to win to Christ. I can’t say definitively why that is, but I suspect it has a lot to do with familiarity. A spouse or a child or other loved one knows you so well. They know your history. They know your moods, good and bad. They know how to push your buttons. So if you are not living what you profess to believe, they will be the first to see it. You can preach Jesus to them until you are hoarse, but unless you are living it before them, I don’t think they will really listen or take you seriously. We should never doubt the power of standing firm in our faith and living a Christ-filled life before our family and friends. Even though we may not think it is having any effect, it could be the very thing that makes a difference and draws them into a relationship with God.
Ruth was speaking to her mother-in-law, Naomi. Naomi and her husband had moved to Moab when there was a famine in Judah. Her husband died in that land, but her two sons were also with them and they each married a woman from Moab – Ruth and Orpah. In the years that these women were married to Naomi’s sons, they certainly had seen the family’s faith. Being Jews, Naomi and her sons would have prayed regularly and observed the religious feasts. The women would have heard the word of God and seen the Godly ways of their husbands and their mother-in-law.
But Ruth said:“Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.”
After her sons died, Naomi learned that the famine was over in Judah and she wanted to return to her homeland. She started out with her daughters-in-law, but didn’t get far before she released them from their obligation to her. She blessed them and encouraged them to return to their own mothers. Naomi felt she had nothing to offer them since she had no more sons for them to marry. Orpah was finally persuaded and returned, but Ruth would not let go. Naomi did have something to offer her, and it was greater than having a son to marry. Naomi had God in her life. You notice in the scripture she doesn’t exactly say, “I love you so much that I can’t bear to leave you.” I do believe she loved her mother-in-law, but I think what she loved even more was the love of God she saw in her. If she left Naomi and stayed in Moab, she would be separating herself from God, whom she had come to know and love because of seeing Him through Naomi and her sons. Returning to Moab would mean returning to pagan worship, and after knowing the real, true, living God, she couldn’t go back.
For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Naomi probably had no idea that she had such an impact on Ruth. We don’t know what kind of impact we might be having on our family or friends because of the way we are living our lives. We do sometimes need to speak directly to them, boldly and lovingly sharing the gospel of Christ and extending the invitation of salvation. But often, our actions speak louder than words. There will be times when they see us at our worst, because we are human. At least they will know that being a Christian doesn’t mean being perfect. But we won’t be judged by them for one bad day, but how we consistently live from day to day. If we are grouchy and hateful all the time, it doesn’t say much about our relationship with God.
Sometimes living a Christian life is all we can do, in addition to praying for our unsaved loved ones. We have to keep loving them and demonstrating the love of God. We have to further demonstrate our faith by entrusting them to God. Ultimately, it is their choice to make. Hopefully, like Ruth, they will want what we have – not just a religion, but a relationship.
Posted on 04/20/2012 8:23 AM by Susan Nelson
Friday, 13 April 2012
Color Outside the Lines
Highly creative people are seen as . . . well, a little different. They color outside the lines. They dress to suit themselves and not the latest trends. They seem to walk to the beat of a different drummer. They find beauty and worth in things that the world takes little note of. They willingly give up the material things of this world in order to pursue their passions (hence the term “starving artists”). They draw, paint, sculpt, write, design, sew, cook, act, dance, sing, play musical instruments, and invent. They do it because they must. It is as essential to their being as breathing.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Many of us may feel that we don’t fall into this creative category. However, every person is creative, though some demonstrate it more than others and in different ways. We can’t help but be creative, because we have a Heavenly Father who is The Creator. He created the heavens and the earth. He created the sun, moon, stars, animals, and plants. And He made us, male and female, in His image. Like Father, like son, as the saying goes. In John 5:19, it says: Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.”
As Christians, our goal is to be like our Heavenly Father and to be Christ-like. God is a Creator, so one of those Godly attributes, then, is creativity. I think many of us are more creative than we realize. Being creative is more than being able to paint or dance or sing. It’s also coming up with new solutions and finding ways to make what you have work for you in the moment (think MacGyver). You have a creative mind that God can use if you will allow Him to do it. You may not be destined to write worship songs, but maybe you will come up with a creative way to lead people to Christ. Perhaps you can develop an innovative way to serve the hungry and the homeless. Look at how the church is different now than 20 years ago. Who would have thought back then that people could watch a church service live from their home computer? The possibilities are as wide and endless as you can imagine them, if only you will imagine.
For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
Yet people are holding back in their talents and gifts. For every singer we have on the Praise & Worship Team, there are probably two or three in the congregation who have beautiful voices that are never heard. Just as surely, there are people among us who could teach, preach, play music, write, design, plan and implement events, paint, and reach out to others in ways that no one else can. But they are sitting in their comfort zones, afraid to step out. The poet Sylvia Plath said, “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” We are afraid of trying and failing. We judge ourselves harshly and deem ourselves unworthy. But if your gift or talent is truly from God, then you need to replace doubt with faith. If God has meant for you to do it, then He will help you do it. His anointing will be there. We need to trust in Him, rather than in our own abilities. It can’t be about us, because it is all about Him.
For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.
Creativity is a lot like muscle in that you must use it or lose it. In order to use it, we have to put aside self-doubt and fear. We also have to be humble, giving thanks to the Lord. We, as a church, must develop an atmosphere of freedom in which people can discover and grow in their gifts and callings. I came across this quote by an author named Julia Cameron, which echoes the scripture from Colossians. She writes, “We are ourselves creations. We are meant to continue creativity by being creative ourselves. This is the God-force extending itself through us. Creativity is God's gift to us. Using creativity is our gift back to God.”
It’s time to get out of the comfort zone. It’s time to color outside the lines. It’s time to be free to be who God called us to be. If you are in Christ, you are a new creation! It’s a new beginning and a fresh start. You weren’t meant to crawl in a corner and dry up. You can do things that no one else can. You can do more than you can possibly know or imagine. Through Christ, you can do all things. We know that all scripture is God-breathed (God inspired). Well so are you. He gave you life and breath and soul. But what you do with it is up to you. Let His love, joy, mercy, kindness, and goodness inspire you to do a new thing for Him.
Posted on 04/13/2012 6:09 AM by Susan Nelson
Friday, 6 April 2012
Roll Away the Stone
It is time to roll the stones away.
Inside each heart are secret places where things have been buried alive. They are things like emotional hurts, grief, guilt, shame, humiliation, betrayals, and disappointments. They are painful things that we cannot bear to deal with, so we bury them deep and cover them with a hardened resolve to not let them out where they can be seen or felt.
In doing so, we build up walls of stone in our heart. Walls serve two purposes: they keep things in, but they also keep things out. We build walls in our heart to protect us from being hurt again, but those same walls keep us from receiving the fullness of love and joy and peace. There have been many times when I have prayed for a person and felt my prayers hit those stone walls. If we really want healing and peace and spiritual fulfillment, then we need to roll away the stone or stones in our heart.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
You may be able to hide them from people, but God knows all your hurts and the secrets of your heart. You have been trying to take care of them on your own by burying them. The problem is that they truly are still alive. Sometime we do such a good job of burying them that we forget about them for a while. Then something will knock one of those stones loose. It might be a photograph or a song on the radio that reminds us of that painful thing. Suddenly it is there and you feel it as fresh as if it had just happened. It is still alive.
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.
This is Holy Week, ending with Easter Sunday – the day we remember the resurrection of Jesus. But let us also remember what Jesus endured for us. He was betrayed, mocked, beaten, unjustly tried and convicted, spit upon, denied, deserted, stripped and striped, and nailed to a cross. In addition, He took on all the sins of the world so that through Him we might be saved. They buried Him in a tomb and sealed it with a stone, hoping that He would never be seen or heard from again. And He could have stayed there, but He had a better plan. Despite all the pain, hurt and evil that was done to Him, He forgave and rolled the stone away. That’s what we need to do – forgive others and ourselves and roll the stones of our heart away. We need to set those old hurts free so that they are no longer living inside of us and keeping us from being what God called us to be.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
The walls that you have built in your heart are not protecting you from being hurt. They are holding those hurts inside. They fester and grow like a cancer to your soul. So why not roll away the stone and let them go. Give them to Jesus. When you do, you will have room in your heart for new things like love, friendship, joy, and peace. You will enjoy a closer relationship with the Lord, because those walls have been keeping Him out, too. You know how when you are going to paint a room and you have to go around and fill all the nail holes with spackle? The Holy Spirit will fill in those broken places in your heart and begin the healing process.
He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
Does that mean that you will never be hurt again? We know that as long as there are hearts there will be heartaches. But you will have a new way to deal with them. Instead of burying them, we can forgive and give them to Jesus. And move on. Get over it.
You want to go further in the things of God? How can living waters flow from a walled up heart? You have to have an open heart that He can use. You have to love others, which means making yourself vulnerable. Tennyson wrote in a poem: “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:1: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.” We cannot love with a heart of stone, and without love we cannot be who our Creator intended us to be.
It is time to roll away the stone.
Posted on 04/06/2012 8:59 AM by Susan Nelson