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Tough and Tender? No…Be Strong and Tender!

tenderness___by_reearadu-d3ezzclTenderness…I knew what it was but not at the level I do today (I wonder what tomorrow will bring). Much of my early life was spent being tough and not tender, more out of necessity than choice. The details really aren’t important; understanding is and hopefully sharing it! Unfortunately, I didn’t even know how “unhealthy tough” I’d become. Even though I’ve been greatly loved by God, husband, children, and friends for decades, I had still let toughness steel me to tenderness.

Circumstances finally forced a break, with toughness giving way and making room for tenderness. It seemed to happen “out of the blue”, but in truth, it was our extraordinary God making a way during an incongruous time in my life! So much was going wrong yet so much was right. The hurt was so bad, yet it was so good. It was the best of times and the worst of times at the SAME time! The challenges were overwhelming yet I felt calm in the midst of the storm. Harsh and hard-hitting things were coming from every angle yet I felt a sort of gentleness, warmth, and softness in my spirit. So…though everything seemed wrong, everything was right. Ever felt that way? Where toughness had previously made me hard and inflexible, now tenderness was making me soft and flexible, yet still strong. What happened?

  • LoveMeTSheetI lost some precious relationships but God found me in the midst of brokenness to show me my part – I learned a lot about friendship.
  • I doubted myself and my ability to be in healthy loving relationships but God made sure I saw and was certain of His ability to put me in healthy, loving, and yes, tender relationships where we can be strong in Him.
  • I struggled with trust at a level I couldn’t imagine, complete with skepticism, wariness, and cynicism hardening me even more. Instead of coddling me, God brought conviction, leading to reckless abandonment and vulnerability to Him. Though I’ve always trusted God, now I was addicted to trusting Him.
  • Worthiness, long ago settled for me in Christ, was nearly decimated. Holy Spirit replaced my feelings of unworthiness AGAIN, showing my worth in Jesus who loves like no other.

This exchange of toughness for tenderness came through the hand of God breaking what I thought to be unbreakable. It came through the Spirit of God shattering what appeared to be shatterproof. It came through gaining what I perceived to be lost and it came through admitting I wasn’t totally and completely depending on God.

When the exchange happened, I realized how much I REALLY need Him every moment of every day and night! I can’t breathe without Him. And trust me on this one; this kind of tenderness makes a person extremely vulnerable to Him and this in turn creates humility unmatched on this earth. These three things: Dependence, vulnerability, and humility can take any semblance of toughness we maintain and create tenderness unimaginable and unexpected.

I had some questions though. “How did this happen? How did God do this to me? How does God make us vulnerable? How does He position us for dependency on Him? How does He create tenderness in us for Him and others? How can we be strong but not so tough anymore?”

Tender-Lion-WebThe answers are found by looking in His Word, where tenderness is almost always united with His mercy. He showers us with His own “tender mercies” and then…we’re addicted! In both the Old and New Testaments God’s tenderness is most often associated with His mercy. For the Hebrews (Old Testament) “tender” references the “bowels” or “seat of the most tender of affections”; especially kindness, compassion, and benevolence. For the Greeks (New Testament) “tender” also refers to the “bowels” or seat of the more violent passions such as anger and love. In English, tenderness combines these same thoughts: compassion, warmth, gentleness, kindheartedness, affection, care, LOVE in the deepest parts of our being. In truth, if we could open our hearts, God’s tenderness and compassion would pour out. His mercies, which multiply without measure, would overwhelm us!

Here are a few verses from the Psalms to fill us with His tender mercies:

Screen-Shot-2013-12-23-at-11.22.01-AMPsalms 40:11 “Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O Lord; let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me.”

Psalms 69:16 “Hear me, O Lord, for Your lovingkindness is good; turn to me according to the multitude of Your tender mercies.”

Psalms 79:8 “Oh, do not remember former iniquities against us! Let Your tender mercies come speedily to meet us, for we have been brought very low.”

Psalms 103:4 “Who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies…”

Psalms 119:77 “Let Your tender mercies come to me, that I may live; for Your law is my delight.”

Psalms 145:9 “The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.”

In all these verses tender mercies refer to God’s compassion and favor poured into the innermost part of who we are. We are His creations; His dearly loved children. God is the source of all mercy and it is through His compassion that we are filled with His compassion, His tender mercies. When God broke through my toughness, even that which I was unaware of, He brought His compassion and favor to sit in the seat of my emotions and then His Word answered all the questions.

9780961519773How did this happen? Toughness came as a result of hurt, abuse, distrust, fear, doubt, loneliness, and a whole host of other circumstances. But in my toughness, I was not strong. I was just hard! How did God do “this” to me, break through my toughness with His tenderness? He did it by reminding me people I love will always hurt me and I will hurt others. Abuse, distrust, doubt, loneliness are all part of life. Fear comes at us daily. None of those things are going to stop – but toughness isn’t going to help! Jesus is! Total dependence on Him; complete reception of His compassion and favor will keep us tender!

God makes us vulnerable by showing how He sees us – as His own holy and beloved chosen ones! Colossians 3:12 “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering.” In Jesus, we are holy and beloved so we get to put on tender mercies. Now THAT is SOME strength! God positions us for dependency on Him by letting us be tough to the point of breaking and then He tenderly reminds us He is there in our innermost beings, deep within, full of compassion and mercy, making us strong and completely transparent before Him.

God creates tenderness for Him and others by putting a longing in our hearts. Paul says in Philippians 1:8 “For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.” Bowels is also translated affection, tender compassion, or tender mercies. THIS creates a tenderness causing us to love more deeply. Philippians 1:9 “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment,” In truth, He showers us with His own “tender mercies” and then…we’re addicted!

And finally, we can be strong yet not so tough anymore through the encouragement of Christ Jesus giving us courage to be strong and tender, not tough and tender! Philippians 2:1-2 “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion (also translated bowels and mercies or tenderness and compassion) make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”

If you’ve been tough, go ahead and let the tenderness of God make you strong…in Him!

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Being Quiet Together

Recently, two of my daughters invited me to grab lunch and go shopping with them after worship services. I don’t like shopping but they convinced me some mom/daughter/granddaughter time would be fun, plus we all had birthday gifts to buy. It turned out to be much more than fun and shopping.

samGrandchildren never cease to amaze, having a way of surprising me without even meaning to do so. My sweet three-year old granddaughter Samaria asked if she could ride with me to the mall. I buckled her in and got on the road. After about five minutes of complete silence I said, “Sam, what are you doing? You’re so quiet!” She said, “Oh, Buma (her name for me), I’m just having quiet time.”

800px-thumbnailI personally love quiet most of the time since it gives opportunity to sort dozens of thoughts running through my mind or to stop thinking about things and start thinking on Jesus! However, when I’m with people, quiet isn’t the norm and might even be considered unsocial.

quietI smiled when Samaria said she was having quiet time not just because of how sweet she said it but because we were having quiet time together. I realized there’s a difference between having quiet time alone and having quiet time with someone. It was one of the most beautiful quarter hours I’ve had in a long time; being quiet with my granddaughter in the backseat, each of us thinking our own thoughts, enjoying each other’s presence without words, touch, sight, or taste.

It was a new feeling for me, or at least one I haven’t recognized perhaps because I love listening to all my grandchildren, hold and hug them, watch their interactions and activity, and kiss their cute little faces. If one of them is close by, I cannot help but talk, touch, watch, and yes, just eat them up. So to be in a place where Samaria and I were not conversing, where I couldn’t hold her hand and she couldn’t sit in my lap, and I couldn’t see or kiss her and yet feel so very close to her was amazing.  The love I experienced for this moment in time was tangible love. God had provided the perfect scenario for me to once again be renewed in the reality this is what it’s like to be with Jesus every moment of every day, living in His tangible love.

The presence of Jesus in our lives, though a mystery, is still as real as if He was here in the flesh. Surely we can’t literally hear His voice yet we hear Him speak to our spirits in many ways. We can’t physically touch His face or hands yet we can feel His touch often as we journey through our days. We can’t see Him with our physical eyes yet we see Him through eyes of faith. We can’t taste Him but we surely can taste and see the Lord is good. And we can be quiet with Him and experience His perfect peace, feeling so close to one another, it would seem we are one.

downloadThis experience then brought me to the pinnacle of quietness as Holy Spirit reminded me of one of my favorite bible passages, Zephaniah 3:17 “The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

Some versions of the Bible say it this way, “He will be quiet in His love” to convey the message He is quiet with us in love or His quietness quiets us as we are renewed with His love. We are in the very presence of love when we are quiet with Jesus.

The quiet love I experienced with Samaria that day in the car was very special. It ended far too soon and I was left with the memory of our quiet time together. Yet, I smile every time I think of her words, “Oh Buma, I’m just having quiet time” because it reminds me we get to have this special quiet time with Jesus any time we want.

Jesus is with us, in our midst. He is mighty to save. He rejoices over us with joy and is quiet with us in His love. To top it all off, He rejoices, He takes great joy in us, so much so He can’t help but sing over us.

Today, I pray we’ll take the opportunity to say, “Oh Jesus, I’m just having quiet time.” Then enjoy being quiet with Jesus!

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How Awesome IS Our God? #4

Screen-Shot-2012-08-18-at-9_43_45-PMWe’ve done letters A, W, and E (How Awesome IS Our God? #1,#2,#3) now it’s time for the fourth letter in the acronym for AWESOME; simplicity! We’ve been exploring the ways we can purposefully and intentionally discover how awesome our God truly is!

A – Through Adoration

W – In Wonder

E – With Energy and Expectation

S – In Simplicity

O – By Obsession

M – Through Meditating on Him

E – With Excitement Everyday

2646213692_af0165c426Very often in life we tend to complicate things, including God stuff! It’s one thing when we make an effort to understand with patience, determination, and single-mindedness but it’s another thing to do so without patience, in frustration, and with double-mindedness! In other words, we can make something simple very difficult by thinking too much. We set hurdles for ourselves we can’t jump over; we make matters worse by asking the wrong questions; we confuse the situation more often than not! Overall, we tend to obscure the simplicity inherent in most things in life!

To discover the absolute awesomeness of God we should just let go of all the “stuff” we don’t understand about Him and in simplicity, learn what He clearly reveals to us! Then before we know it, we can comprehend things that we previously didn’t get!

simplicity-appeals-to-the-heartWe can learn a lesson from the early church about how to enjoy God’s awesomeness together by keeping things simple. Just because we’re a little “later” church doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy God and each other the same way they did! Acts 2:46-47 “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people…”

I don’t know; maybe we think it’s an insult to have simple hearts! It’s not! But, what does “simplicity of heart” really mean? In the Greek language, the word simplicity here is translated “singleness”. In fact, in the King James version of the Bible, that’s exactly what it says…they ate with gladness and singleness of heart. Now of course it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out this isn’t speaking of the actual “act” of eating, since the heart isn’t a big part of filling our stomachs. No, this has everything to do with unity and choice. They chose to be single-minded; to keep things simple; to be glad; to praise God; and as a result, they were well-liked by others. They didn’t look for all the things that made them different…they hung out with like-minded people who loved the Lord and the love they shared was evident to those outside who didn’t yet love the Lord! That’s a wonderful display of how awesome God is! We can hang out with other Christians and impact other people! How easy can it get?

Yet…we complicate it! We try to come up with all kinds of fancy, swanky, extravagant, and elaborate ways to reach the lost; we purchase expensive evangelism programs to “train” us how to share the Gospel when all we need to do is keep it simple. In simplicity of heart continue to meet and eat, praise God, experience His awesomeness and the favor of all the people will be on us! When we, in simplicity do these things, we overflow with the awesomeness of God by overflowing with praise, and then…our testimony is easy and simple as well. We don’t need to complicate Jesus to make Him known to others!

A little closer look at the word “simplicity” here in Acts in the original language reveals it means “without rock, to be smooth and plain”. So in simplicity of heart these people enjoyed their life in Jesus. Their hearts were not hard and complicated. They were soft and smooth; pliant and simple!

Paul also talks about simplicity in 2 Corinthians 1:12 “For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.”

A different Greek word is used for simplicity here; but singleness of mind is still at the heart of it! We learn here to conduct ourselves in simplicity both in the world and before God. When we do, we’ll experience the awesomeness of God. This simplicity is defined as “the virtue of one who is free from pretense and hypocrisy.” When we, in simplicity, seek the Lord, we aren’t self-seeking. We’re not interested in self-preservation. Our hearts our open; our lives are transparent; we manifest generosity to a world which teaches the opposite.

imagesCAVFDBKMTo revel in the awesomeness of God is to keep it simple with people; to live in complete honesty and singleness before people; to be sincere and let our hearts be kept in simple peace and love. We won’t experience the awesomeness of God without experiencing the awesomeness of His people. 1 John 4:21 “And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” Pretty simple!

I pray today we’ll all keep it simple! Be single-minded! Don’t complicate life! Be amazed at the awesomeness of God today and every day – and be amazed at the power of simplicity!

Awesome-God

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2013 in Awesome God

 

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A Tribute to My Mom…

05%20Mother%20and%20DaughterAnother Christmas has come and gone where I had the privilege of pondering Jesus like His mother Mary did. Another Christmas has come and gone where I watched mothers and daughter love on each other. Another Christmas has come and gone with “my girls” loving on me and me on them. Another Christmas has come and gone where I was amazed by the gift of grandchildren.

And another Christmas has come and gone without a word, a letter, or a phone call from my Mom. Of course, another Christmas has come and gone for my mom without a word, a letter, or a phone call from her daughter – that be me! Why? What’s the hold-up? Is there still un-forgiveness between us? Do we have irreconcilable differences? Do we not truly love each other? So many questions could be asked, answered, pondered, debated, or argued. But in truth…none of them matter…only that I love my Mom and always will.

0004TributeToMom01A tribute is an expression of gratitude or praise, something said or given to show admiration to someone. Most people write a tribute about somebody they are close to, has had a positive influence on them, or they have a deep love and respect for that other person. Most people do not write a tribute about somebody they haven’t spoken to in nearly six years, whose relationship has always been rocky at best but most often non-existent, where misunderstandings are abundant, and the walls are high and thick between the two.

But that’s exactly what I want to do…My mom is my mom…whether we talk or not, ever see each again other this side of heaven or not, like each other or not…She is my mom! I have only to stop and think my God chose to create me in her womb…isn’t that amazing? He didn’t choose some other woman, but my mom. That makes me smile!

Oh sure…there have been years of tears and no smiles…years of playing the blame and shame game…years of being the victim…years of accusations and wall building…years of complaining and grumbling; years of wishing for something else…years of wasted thoughts…but in the end, my mom is my mom and I love her.

Why do I love her? Because she was chosen for me and I for her! Because she said yes when God gave me to her though she might have wanted to say no; Because she chose life for me and not death; Because she held me close and rocked me at night making me feel wanted; Because she couldn’t just walk away on my first day of kindergarten as I sat, petrified, on the piano bench next to the teacher with tears streaming down my face. She peered through the little window in the door until I calmed down.

You_Are_My_Sunshine_WallBecause she cooked great meals and made sure I ate healthy and appreciated food; Because she sang “You Are My Sunshine, my only sunshine” when we did dishes at night. Because she held me close when my eardrums were infected and bursting, crying right along with me. Because she nursed me through chicken pox, fevers, and flu, mended cuts, a crushed trachea, fat lips, and all my other injuries from “going too far”.

Because she held my hand at the dentist and let me hold her hand every Sunday in church as I played with her veins and nail polish (weird but true). Because she took me to church, Sunday School, and youth group. Because she introduced me to independence; letting me play at the park by myself, go ice skating, sledding, snowmobiling, play sports with the boys, even knowing I was going to get hurt.

Because she took me to the state fair every year and bought me goodies. Because she went with me on long bike rides in the summer. Because she signed me up for “beginning” swimming three years in a row because I just couldn’t learn how to swim. Because she let me take part in sports at school even though she never had the opportunity to play herself. Because she was a strong disciplinarian making sure I knew the difference between right and wrong.

Because she forced me to know and appreciate hard work by making me get a full-time babysitting job for three kids when I was fifteen years old, spending the summer wiping noses and changing diapers. Because she went to bat for me so I could get my first “official” job at Bridgeman’s Ice Cream though I had no experience. Then again at Montgomery Wards when I was in college (she worked at one and got me a job at another). Because she dropped me off at college and let me grow up though I was scared and she would be alone.  I could go on and on and on.

504529_Honor-Your-Father-and-MotherAll this – yet we are not in relationship. We have tried. It just hasn’t worked. I still honor her though. In fact, it’s an honor to honor my mom! The Bible says “Honor your father and mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”

I could spend my time trying to figure out how to make right what is all wrong, how to restore what has been stolen, or how to reconstruct what has been dismantled.  OR… I will just love my mom for being my mom. I will count my mom as my blessing. I will count it all joy. I will thank God for choosing my mom for me! I won’t try to figure it out anymore. I won’t recount all the bad things .I won’t look at what I don’t have but what I do have. I won’t think what could have been but I will look at what is. I won’t talk about what I wanted but that God has given me what I needed. I can tell you, it has all worked together and it IS good. Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Great_God_CARSome of you reading this have great moms; imperfect but great. Some of you wouldn’t say your moms are all that great! If that is you, I pray you look for the greatness of God in the midst of imperfection! I never thought my mom was “great” but now? Wow! She is GREAT! Why? Because she belongs to my great God and He does great things with great people!

love,familly,mom,quotes,cute,inspire-a1e92acfc70ef68968fa93aa609e9563_hAnother Christmas has come and gone…the greatness of God is here to stay! Thank You, Father God for my mom. You’re the greatest and You chose my mom FOR ME making her the greatest mom on earth! And mom…here’s to you! You’re the best!

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2013 in Family, Lifestyle, Uncategorized

 

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Don’t Judge! Oh, But Please Remove Those Planks and Specks!

“Don’t judge” – the automated response by unbelievers and silent believers alike whenever Christians mention “sin”!  It makes me wonder what would happen if we told the highway patrol “Don’t judge” when he pulls us over for speeding?  Or, how about we tell the doctor “Don’t judge” when he tells us to quit smoking? Or if people are robbed we tell them “Don’t judge” the thieves? Or when kids are bullied, what if we said, “Hey, don’t judge bullies!”?

Too extreme you think?  Perhaps!  But that’s exactly what we do when someone holds us accountable for sin and we tell them “Don’t judge”. The Bible clearly lists and describes oodles of sin yet if a brother or sister in Christ loves us enough to hold us accountable, we are still likely to default to “Don’t judge”! We do this for a variety of reasons: We assume we are being judged when our actions are questioned; our conscience is pricked so instead of dealing with the prick we deal with the person pricking; we simply don’t know there is a difference between “judging behavior” and “passing judgment”; or maybe we are in denial about our own tendency to pass judgment leaving us super sensitive to any accountability!

No matter what reasons we come up with, the root of all “Don’t judge” pleas is ignorance about true judgment and its meaning in light of Scripture.  When Christian people “feel” judged they will often recite parts of Matthew 7 to demonstrate how others should not make them feel bad about sin.  1-5 “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.’” 

People especially love their own renditions of the plank and speck visual which usually leads to the conclusion, “Mind your own business because we all sin!”  Unfortunately, this deduction only focuses on sin and judgment while missing the message Jesus is conveying; remove our own sin to see clearly; then remove sin from others in the family. 

This reminds me of reading game instructions. Sometimes we would rather just start playing instead of reading through all the instructions first, thinking we can just learn as we go along.  We end up playing some games “our way” instead of the way they were designed to be played.  Instructions are meant to give guidance and provide more enjoyment when rules are understood.

Christians need to read and understood the “Official Rules” in regard to judgment and sin.  They might start something like this:  “Matthew 7 Official Rules!”  Players: Any number can play at the same time. Players are those who have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  Contents: Sins known as planks  and specks. Object: To remain free from judgment while removing sin from self and others. How to play: Carefully consider your own planks, remove them, see the specks in others, then remove those.

Loopholes and exceptions are inevitable in any game, life being no different.  Christians should not assume they know how to play without reading the instructions as well as stop making up rules as we go!  We need to read all the instructions and ask those with “game” experience for guidance as well as return to the instructions repeatedly for clarification. Doing so assures we understand how to play and that we all play by the same rules.

When Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged”, it was the perfect set up to play by the rules!  He was saying don’t condemn, criticize, pronounce judgment, or pass sentence on people.  In other words, don’t write people off because of their sin and don’t act the part of judge, handing down a death sentence. He was not suggesting we move through life ignoring our sin and refusing to see the sin in the lives of loved ones.  He was not saying “Don’t judge” behavior or actions if it is sin in the body of Christ. Instead we are charged with the privilege and responsibility of handing down a life sentence to people.  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)  Sometimes we just need a little help to acknowledge our sin in order to confess it! We need help removing the specks!

The problem comes with our understanding of judgment because most people jump to conclusions and misapply truths (make up rules) in regard to judging. However, judging something as sin is not the same as “passing judgment”. The most common English definition for “judge” is “to form an opinion or estimate”.  When this definition is applied to sin, people conclude that calling out behavior as sin means we form an opinion and make a judgment about A PERSON rather than form an opinion and make a judgment about A BEHAVIOR! Immediately then, defenses go up, and we protest “Don’t judge” because we assume “WE” are being judged rather than the truth, our “SIN” is being judged.

When people play a game without knowing the rules, by using their own rules, or by changing things up as they go, it always causes arguments, frustration, and even anger as people might even throw their hands up in the air saying “I quit!”  It’s no fun playing a game with people who cheat or change the rules to benefit themselves.  In life, God’s rules get more and more distorted as people refuse to read His instructions and live by His rules, preferring their own set of rules. For example, one person said to me, “If people were REAL Christians they would leave the judging up to God and not spew their narrow-minded opinions.  EVERYBODY has the right to love and be loved.”

There is so much wrong and implied in those words! First off, there is only ONE kind of Christian; a REAL one who actually follows Christ.  People who don’t follow are not Christian.  “REAL” insinuates there is a “FAKE” and “Fake Christian” is an oxymoron!  In other words, you can’t be a fake follower because you would be faking your following and that would mean you are not a Christian.

Secondly, leaving the judging up to God is correct in the sense of letting God “hand down the judgment” but knowing we are our brother’s keeper gives the sense of accountability and desire to bring truth for the sake of Jesus Christ! Judging sin based on the Word of God is our responsibility.  Naturally (and supernaturally) final judgment is God’s alone, but judging sin and calling it out has nothing to do with being narrow-minded or opinionated and everything to do with love!  True, unconditional, God-fearing love motivates us to share the love of Jesus with people as we stay busy removing planks and specks.

Think this through!  We cannot and should not rank sin, yet we do.  We think our sins are HUGE LIKE PLANKS, therefore we shouldn’t deal with the little specks  in others.  Instead we need to remove planks from our eyes to remove the specks from our brother’s eye.  BUT…for our brother, the speck we see in them is actually a plank to them.  So they must remove their plank (that we call a speck) so they can see the speck (that we call a plank) in us.  BUT… the speck they see in us is actually a plank and our plank is actually a speck! You get the point!  Plank or speck – Sin is sin! This teaching from Jesus is all about getting rid of sin and in the process, refusing to pass judgment on each other because sin is sin is sin is sin!

Thirdly, “Everybody has the right to love and be loved” is an interesting concept that makes me think about children, love, and obedience. Children disobey parents!  But even when they disobey, they are still loved! They have no “right” to disobey and they have no “right” to be loved. Love is a gift! We simply live passionately in love with them because we belong together! Our acceptance and love for children is never based on their obedience or disobedience (though we might not like them at the peak of disobedience).  Love motivates Christian parents to judge behavior as sin!  We remove our own sin and then we also remove it from our kids, most often through discipline and punishment, which always hurts, but is always worth the effort!  Likewise, taking a plank or a speck out of the eye is painful!  But oh, what sweet relief when it is out!

If love is a “right”, I guess our kids have the right to come back at us and say, “Hey, Dad and Mom – Don’t judge me!  Be REAL Christian parents!  Leave the judging to God!  Stop spewing your narrow-minded beliefs (opinions) at me!  I have rights you know!  I have the right to love and to be loved. Back off!”

No, love cannot be contained in a “right”.  Rights involve entitlement or thinking we are justified in making a claim on something. The moment we start thinking of “love” in terms of a “right” we fall into the trap of thinking we have done something to deserve love. That is a slippery slope into conditional love if there ever was one.  God is love! God first loved us therefore we are able to love others. Love is not based on what we do or don’t do but on who we are!  We have no right to be loved but we are blessed by the gift of love!  We have a God who loves unconditionally so that we can love unconditionally!

So what should we do instead of cry out “Don’t judge” all the time? Read the instruction manual.  Don’t judge!  Oh, but please remove those planks and specks!  Irritating specks, glaring planks – what’s the difference? Let’s do something about all of them!  Jesus did!

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2011 in Judge, Uncategorized

 

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God Likes Secret Places! He Has a Place Preserved and Reserved For You!

Secrecy!  It can really raise some eyebrows!  People generally don’t like secretiveness (unless you are the one being secretive)!  Actually, different forms of the word “secret” can conjure all kinds of imagery for people.  It can infer being underhanded, hush-hush, sly, or covert, giving the impression of hiding something by keeping it secret.  Secretiveness can keep people on edge or uneasy because mystery, privacy, or exclusivity is involved. We generally get irritated if people “keep secrets” from us, assuming we are being left out or they are up to “no good”.  Sometimes the contents of secrets can be good like a surprise or a little-known technique or approach to making something a success such as “The secret to Grandma’s banana bread is….”  But if we don’t like secrets, even these would be perceived as “bad”.  

The Bible also talks about secrets and secret places!  For example there are things God tells us we need to do in secret (that is for the next blog).  But the more I read about secrets in the Word of God the more I want and need to get away in secret with Him, and of course, that is exactly what He wants us to do!  He has a secret place reserved for use. In God’s economy, much of our life in Him is grounded in secrecy!  But in God’s terminology secrecy doesn’t include exclusivity or imply anything underhanded. No – instead God talks about His secret place where He longs to meet and protect anyone who wants to run to Him and share in His secret place!  Everyone can have access to it through faith in Jesus Christ because He made a way and no one need be excluded.

His Word confirms we can find Him in His secret place where He will hide us.  Psalm 27:5 “For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.” This secret place with God is a place of protection and defense where our enemy cannot find us.  I like the sound of that place very much! We are confident because it is a restricted area where Satan and his cohorts are not allowed!  It is a private, secure, “secret” place!   We go to this place to be hidden in God where He sets us high up, out of the reach of our enemy.  I don’t know about you but I need to be in that place more often.  The concerns of this world, sickness, disease, pain, hurt, slander, ambivalence, complacency, anger, bitterness, and so many other enemies to our souls attack at a rate it feels impossible to keep up with!  Though we can stand against them all, knowing there is a secret place we can go to in this ever-present time of trouble is exciting and comforting at the same time. It is a place of quietness and stillness where troubles cannot come!

In 2 Kings 11:3 we are told about Joash, a descendant of David who was hidden in the house of the Lord for six years where he was not only preserved from the sword but reserved for the crown.  Today we are preserved and reserved for God’s purposes not within the walls of a church building but within the arms of a God who saves! Our comfort is found only in communion with Him. How incredibly safe the secret place of the Most High truly is! Proverbs 18:10 “The Name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe!”

The secret place provides two benefits to those who choose to find it. It is a place of communion where we know and grow in God (dwelling) and it is a place of protection (abiding under). Psalm 91:1 “He who dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”   People who choose to live a life of communion with God are continually safe under His protection.  Those who by faith choose God as their Guardian, Lord, and Savior will dwell,  “sit down” and stay in communion with Him thus they can expect to experience serenity and security of mind at all times.  It is in our character as true believers to be at home with God, always returning to Him, longing to be within the veil to worship and be alone with Him, conversing in solitude.   This dwelling gives us the privilege and comfort to “abide” under His shelter where He comes between us and everything that annoys, aggravates, and frustrates us.  Not only do we have admittance into God’s secret place but we have residence there and receive both rest and refuge at all times.    

Understanding this communion in the secret place is much like living in a godly marriage on earth!   Marriages are grown, watered, and nurtured in the secret places of life. The intimacy shared in a godly marriage is meant to be “in secret” where we explore the depths of one another physically, spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually.  The more time we spend intimately, the more stable, safe, and secure we are out in a world that wants to separate and destroy our intimacy.  What we “see” in the interactions between married couples publicly is the result of what husbands and wives do in the secret place.  Married couples cannot spend every moment of every day in the physical presence of one another, yet they are never far apart in thought.  The more time couples spend together in their “secret place” the more they dwell together, return and be at home with one another, long to be alone and conversing in solitude together, the safer they feel, the more they trust each other, and the more their relationship will stand against everything that upsets, provokes, and riles them in the world.

So it is with God.  Our life in Christ “out there” for the world to see can be directly traced back to what happens in secret with Him.  If we haven’t been knowing and growing our relationship in the secret with God, exploring His depths physically, spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually, the world will successfully cause us to doubt and question this love relationship we share with our Lord and Savior.

We can also understand this secret place in botanical terms. Growth in plants, trees, flowers, vegetables and the like all start in the secret place with the fruit, leaves, or blooms eventually being exposed and useful out in public. But the miracle of growth happens in the soil where we cannot “see” what is happening!  We plant a seed (which is dead) and it miraculously opens underground, and pushes forth a sprout which can be seen.  But while the plant is growing up visibly before our eyes, its roots are going deeper and spreading out wider underneath, with double the growth occurring underground than above ground. 

So it is in the secret place with God.  We die to ourselves when we are reborn in Christ and the miracle begins.  As we spend time in the secret with our Lord through the power of His Spirit we open up and become what He created us to be.  We spring up and come forth as He molds and makes us. The deeper we get into Him and His Word, the more solid we become because our roots take hold and spread, grabbing hold of more of His richness.  The more time we spend in Him, the stronger and more stable we become.  What people see in us on the outside can only be measured by “if” and “how much” time we are spending with the Lord in His secret place! 

You see we cannot possibly become all He created us to be without the secret place.  Things and people in this world bring fear, uncertainty, worry, stress, ungodly desires, and so much more that disrupt and takes us completely out of God’s will and purpose for our lives.  We need a place to go to and be protected as we grow and live with Him even as we live on this earth.  Our spirits can engage with Holy Spirit all day, every day even when our minds and bodies are working, resting, and being!  We must dwell and abide in the secret place with our Protector! He is all things to those who believe and receive Him.

And lest you think the secret place can only be attained solo, think again!  You can find Him in His secret place in the body of believers, in worship, bible study, in corporate prayer, in the fellowship of the saints!  It is through this communion with one another we learn how precious our communion with God truly is!  It is another amazing thing about God!  You can be surrounded by hundreds or even thousands of people and still be alone with God!  And each of them can be alone with Him at the same time!  And all together with Him too!  Oh how amazing He is! So now that you know there is a secret place to go and meet with God – Go!  Enjoy! Be safe! Be surrounded! Know there is much to do out in the world so that Jesus would be known!  Abiding in the secret place with Him will cause your growth to literally be out of this world!  

 

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