Nuggets: What Do I Do Because of Who I Am?

“While walking by the sea, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.”

Yeah? So what?

… because they were fishermen … 

What do I do “because of who I am”? Because of what people believe about me or what I believe about myself? What do I do daily to meet expectations–others’ or my own? What do I do because I “have to” to make a living, to make someone happy, to keep the world spinning or because no one else will do it?

What do I do to maintain my identity? And will I leave it?

Will I leave it all behind to follow Jesus? Does He only have to invite me once? How many pleas must He utter? Can He simply say, “Follow me”?

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Nuggets: When Today Doesn’t Meet Your Expectations

It’s been a bit since I shared a nugget, I know. But when God keeps you up at night, bombarding you with His precious thoughts (Psalm 139:17), sometimes you just gotta share!

I wrote a quick devotional last night for my niece, Kylie, talking about preciousness and God took it from there.

As I tuned into His precious thoughts, God brought Psalm 5:3 to my heart.

In the morning You hear my voice, O Lord; in the morning I prepare [a prayer, a sacrifice] for You and watch and wait [for You to speak to my heart].

This verse reeks of expectation: watching and waiting. But that’s not how I tend to order my day. From the moment of waking (or even going to bed at night) I have a budding plan of what must be done, what relationships must be tended, who must be seen … and a growing anxiety that there’s just not enough time to do it all.

But God says all I have to do is prepare a sacrifice and prayer, then wait and watch. Here’s what I wrote in my journal this morning:

I set so many plans and expectations on each day. I want to plan everything, right down to intimacy with my husband and what time I will have a third cup of coffee. But you, O God, have called me only to prepare my prayer and sacrifice (surrender) and then to watch. Your goal, plan and summation of my divine to-do list today is to watch and wait for you. 

In the path of your judgments, O LORD, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul. Isaiah 26:8

That takes a lot of pressure of off the day, right? It effectively cuts my to-do list down to a manageable size and I have plenty of time to get it all done. All I must do is prepare myself before the Lord–commit the day to Him and surrender the rest. Then, watch in confidence of His goodness and ability to take care of it all.

Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established. Proverbs 16:3

If you prepare your prayer and sacrifice before God today–what has He left on your to-do list? What will you take care of first?

Your Broken Body, A Freewill Offering

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1

God has had me in Leviticus lately; a place Beth Moore affectionately calls “the graveyard of anyone who commits to read the Bible in a year.” However, I’m powering through it, not for the first time, but discovering all kinds of ponderable things this time through.

This time, I’m mesmerized by the specificity with which God describes each type of sacrifice and offering.

The sacrifices and offerings described in Leviticus never truly did away with sin. The animals were merely a portrayal of the ultimate sacrifice to come—Jesus Christ. That is why the offerings for sin, guilt and purity always required an animal without spot or blemish.

Have you ever wondered about Paul’s meaning in Romans 12:1 of, “ … present your bodies a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God … “ .

Those who believe in Christ as savior understand that Christ paid our debt. He was the final sacrifice. There is no more blood to be shed, work to be done or sacrifice to be offered. And even if there were, we are painfully aware that our imperfections would exclude us from being an acceptable sacrifice. What kind of offering could we possibly be, that Paul would urge us to … oh …

Present. That’s an important word. It implies to bring something to someone or surrender it to them for their purposes. In other words, it’s a willingly given offering. It is not an offering demanded for payment. It is not required by law, but Paul urges us—“by the mercy of God” to do this. It’s only reasonable he says.

The freewill offering is the only offering in the Old Testament in which God said the Israelites could present a blemished animal. That’s you and me. It is only in this capacity, freely presented, that our blemished, broken bodies are of any use or value to a holy God. (Leviticus 22:21-23)

You see, Christ did pay the ultimate sacrifice. His sacrifice for sin was required. Without it, all of humanity is damned. But now, we are overflowing with gratitude. We are stunned speechless by undeserved mercy. Now, it is that mercy, the mercy of God, that compels us to bring forward our damaged bodies and present them to our Father. And the beauty of it is, because of Jesus, they are acceptable.

A National Debt of Gratitude

This is a phenomenal post by Melinda K. 

Have we become ashamed to show patriotism?

It may depend on where one lives and whether or not one was raised to appreciate our military and our freedom they protect. I wonder, however, if most of the holidays established to celebrate our heroes and our country have not been reduced to nothing more than picnics and parties. Have burgers and hot dogs replaced flags and memorials? Do we now ignore their sacrifices and hold “sacred” the three-day weekend?

While we enjoyed the freedom to gather with family and friends for cookouts, did we soberly consider the sacrifices that were made to give us our freedom?

Please read this whole article at The Bottom Line … 

Clean Forever

river-scene-2-1413837-mHow often do you take a shower? Hopefully more than once in a lifetime.

How often do you cleanse yourself from sin? How do you do that anyway?

There are some pretty scary verses in the Bible that demand that we be cleansed from sin. According to 2 Corinthians 6:17 and 7:1, unless we are cleansed from sin, we cannot take full advantage of God’s awesome promises. In 2 Corinthians 6:16,18 Paul spells out several of God’s promises, enough to us really excited:

I will live among them

I will walk among them

I will be their God

They will be my people

I will welcome you

I will be your Father

You will be my sons and daughters

Sounds great right? Until you turn the page and find the caveat at the beginning of chapter seven: “Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.”

It’s that little word cleanse that scares me. I know that God is holy; how can I ever be pure enough, clean enough, pure and virtuous enough to lay hold of those awesome promises? I want to know God as Father, to be welcomed by Him and to walk and talk with Him. But even if I’m good and clean enough for one day, what about tomorrow when I mess up again?

I wonder if ancient Israel dealt with such fears and guilt under the sacrificial system. After all, the priest constantly offered sacrifices and burnt offerings. Every Israelite knew they would break God’s law again, but they also knew there would always be one more lamb slaughtered for their sins. Day after day, week after week, year after year, they could walk away from the temple confident that they had cleansed themselves from sin in the blood of a lamb. God washed away their filth in an animal’s blood and once again they walked in God’s favor. All of God’s promises for protection, deliverance, health and provision were theirs.

So what about now? How do we cleanse ourselves? How can we be comforted in knowing that today’s sin and tomorrow’s sin is washed away as completely as yesterday’s sin, so that we can claim the sweet and precious promises of God?

As a whole, in the modern church, we act as if we are cleansed at salvation—that glorious, single moment when we prayed and accepted Christ’s payment for our sins. But then, we must keep ourselves clean. We stand from our knees determined to be better, purer, more God-honoring, cleaner people with set-apart lives. But uh-oh, merely 30 seconds later, or maybe it’s 30 minutes or 30 days—but sooner or later we feel filthy, tarnished and unfit all over again. For us, there’s no behavior, no lamb or other sacrifice or ritual we can perform to make us feel clean again. Are we doomed?

The word cleanse in 2 Corinthians 7:1 is katharizo. It means “to clean, cure, free from sin and guilt; to purify.” It is actually used over and over again throughout the Bible and many times in the Gospels.

The interesting thing about the use of the word katharizo in the Gospels is that it nearly always refers to something Jesus did. Specifically, this is the word used when Jesus healed lepers. Cleansing is an action performed by Jesus Christ. 

So how then can we “cleanse ourselves” as 2 Corinthians instructs, since we are obviously hopeless to keep ourselves clean? We cleanse ourselves from earthly things and sins, just as the ancient Hebrews did: we come again with the Lamb to the Father’s throne. No, Jesus doesn’t die again, His sacrifice was once for all, supremely more powerful than the blood of bulls and goats. (Hebrews 10:1-10)

When we come to the throne with Christ, the once-for-all sacrifice, the Father again—and over and over again for all our past, present and future failures—sees Christ’s sacrifice and deems us clean. The only way we do this, when we fail, is to anchor ourselves again in the knowledge that we ARE clean, because of Jesus.

We cleanse ourselves not by working to “stay clean” but by repeatedly coming, grateful and humble to the cleaner.

Below are several more verses that bear this out. I encourage you to look them up, dig The Word yourself and discover your ever-compete cleanliness.

Revelation 7:14, 1 Corinthians 6:11, Hebrews 9:12-14, Ephesians 1:7, Ephesians 5:26,

Titus 2:14, Hebrews 9:14, 1 John 1:7, 9

Book Review, Ted Dekker’s “Outlaw”

If I hadn’t heard Ted Dekker speak in person at the re:Write conference in Austin, TX, I probably never would have picked up this book. I like to read true stories and prefer a good dose of probability if not historicity in my fiction. To the casual reader, Outlaw, delivers neither.

The first 21 chapters follow Julian, a lonely, unattached, single mother perplexed by a mysterious song in a repetitive dream. Feeling as if she has nothing to lose, Julian and her two-year-old son, Stephen, leave their home in Atlanta in search of the dream’s source, its meaning. And here the story opens, with Julian and Stephen “tossed about like a cork on a raging dark sea off the northern tip of Queensland in 1963”.

A sudden storm capsizes the boat, taking the captain under with it. Julian is rescued alone by three indigenous warriors representative of three tribes collectively called the Tulim, living in a jungle valley by the same name. Briefly, Julian clings to the hope that she will escape or be freed and return to her homeland. But, she also wonders if life without her son is worth living. Perhaps she would rather die at the hand of uncivilized strangers.

Julian never goes home.

I won’t wreck the story by divulging details, but I will try to explain the feelings that, Outlaw, evoked in me.

Most nights, I put the book aside determined not to pick it up again. I wasn’t drawn in. I didn’t identify with Julian. The jungle setting and depictions of tribal life seemed to stretch my imagination. But somehow, perhaps a bit like Julian’s winsome melody, Outlaw, held some magnetic power over me.

Outlaw’s obvious themes are sacrifice and redemption. But what captivated me was Dekker’s description of humanity. Through key characters, Dekker reveals his perception of human bodies as costumes, our immortal spirits as our true selves and the freedom that comes from internalizing this truth. I could almost taste a new freedom; personally feel chains and inhibitions fall away as his characters progressively released their fears of pain, loss and loneliness and embraced the all-sufficiency of The Father.

A few things marred my appreciation for this book. Three characters seemed to simply disappear without proper closure and the demise of one seemed unnecessary and slightly outside of the narrative’s flow. Secondly, in the final chapters, it is a little difficult to discern between what is happening to flesh and blood characters and what might be happening to them postmortem in their eternal existence.

As for the narrative seeming a little far-fetched, the Author’s Note explains it was in fact realistic, however outside of the average reader’s experience. Dekker was raised the son of missionaries in the jungles of Irian Jaya. He lived among a tribe of cannibals called the Dani tribe. I particularly appreciated this revelation as it lent authenticity to the story instead of simple, wild imagination.

What Have You Done?

What have you done?

Pathetic creature!

What have you done

All clothed in dust.

Marred and scorned

And shell of life.

What have you done?

Shedder of blood

Rent of innocence.

Now split to die,

What have you done?

Now I am done.

Have done away with all you did.

What have I done?

Sweet shedder of my own blood.

What have I done?

But love you and clothe you.

I healed you and died.

What have I done?

But mend the innocence of creature

Hemmed with Creator’s blood.

What have I done,

But comfort you.

What have I done

But rescue you?

There’s nothing for you to do.

If God is Good…

For about a week now, I’ve been fumbling with thoughts about pain. Sounds morbid, right? Except that I’ve been thinking about the Privileges of Pain.

Truthfully,  most of the world is hung up on, “if God is good, why Pain, Suffering, Death?” Authors have gone so far as to declare loudly, God Is Not Good, (Christopher Hitchens.) But before we turn away from this topic, which we have covered for two months, I want to suggest to you that pain proves that God is decidedly good. 

Let’s start at the very beginning, according to Fraulein Maria, in Sound of Music, a very good place to start. What is the very first recording of pain in the Bible? I imagine the animal that God slew in order to fashion clothes for Adam and Eve was the first creature to experience pain. (Genesis 3:21)

If you recall, Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden by eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The first indication of their sin was that they realized they were naked, they became ashamed and they hid. Therefore, God made clothes for them of animal skins.

The animal whose life was forfeit in order to clothe Adam and Eve was the first picture of a blood sacrifice to cover the sins of man. Then, throughout the Old Testament, under the Mosaic covenant, death was required to pay for sin so that man might remain in relationship with God. (Hebrews 9:22)

Fast forward to the first four books of the New Testament. These Gospels tell us the story of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus endured pain’s grand finale in his death on the cross. His pain was the payment for our sin. Isaiah 53:5

But why pain at all?  Pain came with man’s sin. Man invited death, pain and struggle into God’s perfect world. (Genesis 3:14-20) But why does pain remain? And if God loves me why must I suffer? 

Think of a little child who brazenly ignores his mother, climbs up on his step stool and promptly places his tiny palm flat on a hot burner. What if there was no pain? Not only would the child not remove his hand from the burner where it would continue to destroy his flesh, but also his pride and embarrassment would keep him from running to his mother. If the child was not forced by his pain to seek out his mother – who would soothe his wound, apply ointment and offer comfort?

God knows that if we don’t experience pain in this broken world, we will ignorantly continue to invite sin and death into our lives, essentially playing Russian roulette until one day, unaware of our self destruction, we will die – forever. If pain and death were not the result of rebellion against God, what would drive us into His arms and restore relationship?

I do not mean to imply that pain and suffering are a direct result of sin in an individual’s life. Even those who love Jesus with all their hearts and have trusted him for salvation, experience pain and eventual death. Now look with me into the heart of Christ’s ministry, right in the middle of the Gospels’ stories.

In John 9, we meet a blind man. Because he had been born blind, the snickers and questions circled as Jesus healed the man. “Who sinned? This man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man or his parents sinned, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3)

God’s glory arrives in the midst of our pain. When HE saves us. When HE comforts us. When HE is enough. When HIS strength is proved perfect.

God’s glory arrived in the midst of Christ’s anguish. When God showed that HE was willing to go to the farthest length to restore man. When God showed that HE loved us enough to walk among us. When God showed that HE was stronger than death.

So maybe we should quit saying that God allows pain to teach us something. Often that causes us to look inward and try to change what surely must be wrong with us. What if pain is simply so that He can show to us and in us the change He has already made: that He conquered death, that He reversed the power of sin from the very first painful experience in the Bible.

God Blood on My Hands

Blood on my hands.

I struck the heart of God.

And He gave himself for me.

His blood on my hands.

And life pulses through me.

Life blood seeping into pores.

Heart inflating, lungs gasp.

Blood, God blood.

Infinite, perfect blood on my hands.

I cry, tears of anger, loss, gain, redemption.

I claw at passersby,

Some never see me.

Desperate, pleading – His

blood on my hands.

If I can but brush their hand

As they pass me by.

I, the irrelevant, pleading, bloody beggar.

If they might notice His stain.

The stain of His blood

As they pass me by.

Let His contagious blood

Seep through their pores

And that stain on their hand

Never fade.