Brokenness to Beauty

Transforming Your Brokenness into a Beautiful Life


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Where does God live?

Home. The place where we can rest and relax from all the pressures of the outside world. A safe place. Or it should be these things. We need this kind of home. A place we want to come back to at the end of the day.

When I was a young wife I knew I wanted our home to be a place Randy wanted to come to at the end of the day.  I wanted it to be the place where he knew he was loved and accepted, safe; a place where no protective defenses had to be kept up. The world can sometimes be harsh; home should never be.

Of course, making such a home has been a learning experience for two imperfect and very different people. After more than forty years of marriage, we are still learning. But it has been deeply gratifying to hear Randy say at times how he likes coming home and being at home, being with me. Kudos and more to God, the giver of grace to both of us!

We need a gracious place called home, but a new dimension of home and a place of rest struck me when, a few weeks ago, a friend read to me Isaiah 66:1, 2:

 

Thus says the Lord,

“Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool.

Where then is a house you could build for Me?

And where is a place that I may rest?

“For My hand made all these things,

Thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord. (Isaiah 66:1, 2a, NASB)

 

The phrase that got my attention? “And where is a place that I may rest?” (Literally, “where is My resting place?”) God posed this question to his people, the Jewish nation, in the time of Isaiah the prophet.

Of course, God, who made the heavens and the earth and all in them, cannot be contained in a physical space. He made all things. There is no place worthy of his resting place. And how is it the God, who never grows weary or tired, desires a resting place (Isaiah 40:28)? Must be something more to this than meets the eye.

Very early in the biblical record we read that at the end of God’s creative process of making the heavens and earth and everything in them, including mankind, he rested:

 

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Genesis 2:1-3, NASB)

 

In the book of Hebrews we read that God has a rest prepared for those who believe and obey him.

 

Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also;[1] but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, “As I swore in My wrath, They shall not enter My rest,” although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; and again in this passage, “They shall not enter My rest.” Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before,

“Today if you hear His voice,

Do not harden your hearts.”

For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:1-11, NASB, emphasis added)

 

The Israelites heard God’s good news, given through Moses. They had his promises given them, but as a people they did not obey God’s words. They missed God’s rest.

When someone hears the gospel of Jesus Christ and responds in belief and obedience, they enter God’s rest. Our “work” of seeking salvation is only “finished” in Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, whose work on Calvary’s cross made possible salvation for all mankind. That salvation is made effectual in those who trust in the name of Jesus Christ for their eternal salvation. This is the rest of God, designated for all those who put their faith in him through Jesus Christ. The work of God, both in creation and salvation, has been completed. God has rested from his work. It is finished. Through faith in him and his word, we too can enter his rest.

Yes, there is certainly more here than meets the eye. All of scripture consistently declares the same truth. The more I read it, the more the pieces, like a puzzle, come together and the whole picture is revealed, little by little.

 

So we can “enter” God’s rest when we trust Jesus Christ for our eternal salvation, but where is the place of God’s rest, as he asked in Isaiah 66:1? Where is the place he can call “home”? He told us heaven is his throne and earth his footstool and these places are not his place of rest. We are still at a loss to figure out where God’s resting place is located. Until we read verse 2b:

 

“But to this one I will look,

To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word. (Isaiah 66:2b, NASB)

 

This is not one isolated verse. Consider these puzzle pieces:

 

For thus says the high and exalted One

Who lives forever, whose name is Holy,

“I dwell on a high and holy place,

And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit

In order to revive the spirit of the lowly

And to revive the heart of the contrite.” (Isaiah 57:15, NASB)

 

The one who can dwell with God is typified by these characteristics and behaviors:

 

O Lord, who may abide in Your tent?

Who may dwell on Your holy hill?

He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness,

And speaks truth in his heart.

He does not slander with his tongue,

Nor does evil to his neighbor,

Nor takes up a reproach against his friend;

In whose eyes a reprobate is despised,

But who honors those who fear the Lord;

He swears to his own hurt and does not change;

He does not put out his money at interest,

Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.

He who does these things will never be shaken. (Psalm 15, NASB)

 

Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?

And who may stand in His holy place?

He who has clean hands and a pure heart,

Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood

And has not sworn deceitfully.

He shall receive a blessing from the Lord

And righteousness from the God of his salvation. (Psalm 24:3-5, NASB)

 

He does not delight in the strength of the horse;

He does not take pleasure in the legs of a man.

The Lord favors those who fear Him,

Those who wait for His lovingkindness. (Psalm 147:10-11, NASB)

 

When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:1-12, NASB)

 

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. …“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” (Matthew 7:21, 24-27, NASB)[2]

 

God will make his home, his place of rest, in those who love and fear him, those who obey his word and trust in him. He sent his Holy Spirit to live within each one who trusts and obeys Jesus Christ. This was his desire and design from the creation. He will faithfully follow it to its culmination:

 

I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,

 

And we get the best end of the deal, I think.

 

and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. (Revelation 21:4-7, NASB)

 

Come, Lord Jesus. May you find a home, a resting place in us now and forever.

 

 

 

New American Standard Bible (NASB) Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. https://www.biblegateway.com

[1] The Israelites, the Jewish nation

[2] All emphases in verses added.

 


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GOD IN THE SHADOWS

A few weeks ago I read a prayer letter from a friend who serves with a major mission agency and knew I wanted to share her thoughts with you. I asked and received her okay to do so, with slight changes to conceal my friends’ and their mission’s identity since they work in sensitive areas of the world. Her topic is of universal interest and application. I trust her words of wisdom and insight will encourage and challenge you as much as they did me. My thanks to my friend for allowing me to re-post her letter below.

I get anxious. When I anticipate giving a talk or carrying out a big responsibility, when I am in transition between job roles, when I am concerned for a friend in need … my mind wrestles with possibilities and ‘what if’s. I can easily tire my husband by emoting about these anxieties, even when he understands that I am an external processor. It doesn’t do any good to just suppress this, or pretend that I don’t feel these things—anxiety likes to make its home in my mind.

As I look at the Psalms, I notice that King David also got anxious. He had plenty of reasons to: with huge responsibilities, enemies chasing him down, trying to kill him, undermining him, taunting him—and with his own doubts and fears chiming in as well.

Re-examining the Psalms gives me hope, as I notice the recurrent theme of David turning his heart to God in the midst of his anxiety.

David asks God: “Where are You in these shadows around me? Show me the truth about these persuasive negative thoughts. Un-divide my heart (which is pulled in many directions by fear, discouragement, anxiety) so I may trust more fully in Your love and power.” David allows God to re-frame situations; to re-interpret what is going on when things look dire. David uses his anxiety as a signal that it is time to seek God and listen to His voice.

I’ve discovered freedom and transformation recently as I confront anxious feelings, and ask God to show me what they are made out of. He helps me name specific thoughts that are triggering the anxiety. Then I ask God to expose the lies and speak truth to my heart. No darkness stays dark when I give God permission to show where He is. Then I set my will to agree with Him about what is true in that situation.

For example, recently I was in a foreign country on a missionary coaching visit to our teams there, unexpectedly needing to carry out the coaching on my own. This is because my husband had not been allowed to board the plane due to his passport photo being damaged by an encounter with the washing machine.

My stress level was high due to this last-minute change in plans: Anticipating all the taxi journeys I’d need to negotiate with minimal knowledge of the local language and my unreliable internal compass, needing capacity to listen with discernment to each missionary family’s current situation … basically needing to function as my husband might have without his gifts! These thoughts hounded me: “I’m all alone in this, I can’t be him!” Emotions triggered by these thoughts wore me out before I could even begin the week.

In quiet moments, I journaled and asked God to name the thoughts, and then to speak His truth to them. Deep in my heart He spoke calmly and clearly (things any observer might think are obvious!). After naming the thoughts, He reminded me of His Presence being with me to give me rest, of all the friends who would help if I just asked (thus, “alone” was not a true description at all), and that of course He had brought me there to minister to people through who I am (so, I didn’t need to be my husband).

Although every taxi journey that week did involve being lost for half the time (inexperienced drivers, obscure addresses, as well as drivers taking advantage), I eventually reached my destinations and had rich times with each team member. I facilitated a large group meeting … in my style.

Although I found it necessary to confront anxieties frequently, joy and love met me each day.

In recent years several dreams have reinforced this lesson: how differently one situation can be interpreted depending on the emotions-and-thoughts lens through which it is viewed.

In one dream I was driving passengers down a country road, in a hurry to be somewhere. Anxiety was all around us; the heat and stillness was ominous.  It seemed that enemies were nearby or some natural disaster had just occurred. Up ahead a car had pulled off the road, with people bending over it. My anxiety increased – they, like us, seemed also to be fleeing, or they possibly might hurt us. In fear we took the next right turn, moving on.

But what was the threat? I awoke with intense anxiety, unable to pinpoint why.

So, I closed my eyes to revisit the dream, asking God to shine His light and show His truth. The sequence of events replayed with all the same details. Only this time I recognized that it was a summer afternoon, sunny with no wind. We were just driving through the countryside to take a walk somewhere beautiful.

The other car was just others also out to enjoy the countryside. Everything was surrounded by calmness and the freedom of a day off.

The only difference between the two dreams was the lens through which I viewed things: whether I was sensing threat and danger, or assuming that all was peaceful.  The truth is I can look for God and let Him reveal where He is, even in situations that are fraught with imminent danger (as the Psalmist could).  God’s Presence is ready to greet me (and you!) in every dark corner, transforming every shadow into a place of insight (“Here I am,” He says).  Every twinge of anxiety can lead to growth in trust.

King David said, ‘Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

John said, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

Shadows will always be present in and around us. So let’s look for Him in the shadows. Allow Jesus to spread His light to people though you today.

 

 

 

 


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Paint is like Love

This phrase has been rattling around in my brain for the last few weeks, ever since I had to do some baseboard painting in the house we’re moving into. I had cleaned the baseboards but the years had not been kind to them and they looked awful. Paint would remedy that! Paint, like love, can cover a multitude of sins.

I got to thinking about paint being an illustration of love. When Jesus said “love one another,” telling the disciples this was his commandment to them, (not a suggestion or a nice idea), he knew we’d need to do this above all else. He also knew that love, the full-orbed love of God that he shed abroad in our hearts by his indwelling Spirit, fulfills God’s law.

“Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10).

The love of God didn’t supplant the Law of God, it fulfilled it.

It is so easy for us to see the faults in others, isn’t it? The accumulation of years of grime and dust and scuffs and scrapes, figuratively speaking, is right there for all to see. But I am the other person to someone else, and they can see my faults just as easily as I can see theirs.

I am reminded of the parable of the speck in my brother’s eye that I’d sure like to remove, and the log Jesus said is in my own eye that I am all too blind to (Matthew 7:3-5). Love is merciful. I want mercy shown to me. I need to show the same to others.

As Jesus’ followers, we are “clean,” cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, as Jesus told Peter when he went to wash his feet (John 13:5-15), so we don’t need a bath but we do need our feet washed. We need the love from others that “covers a multitude of sins.”

“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1, 2, emphasis added).

The law of Christ is love. The love of God is gentle; God has dealt with us gently. I want to be treated gently and am so grateful for God’s kindness and mercy. Likewise, I need to treat others gently, and guard my own heart from temptation.

“‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.’… For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions “(Matthew 6:12-14).

Love is forgiving. I want and need forgiveness from God. I must forgive others.

In the past I always read the following verses as a teaching on prayer (the familiar ask, seek, knock passage), which it is, but it is also part of Jesus’ lesson on God’s goodness to us and how we are to imitate our heavenly Father in the way we treat others. Note the example of God’s goodness in the middle verses and the “therefore” in the last verse.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:7-12, emphasis added).

Love is the fulfillment of God’s Law. Doing good to others is love in action.

“The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:7, 8, emphasis added).

Paint is like love. I dip the brush into the paint and spread it over those dings and scuffs and scrapes. They disappear. We all need a good coat of paint now and then, metaphorically speaking. We all need to love one another, all the time.

Love covers a multitude of sins.

 

Scriptures taken from https://www.biblegateway.com .


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Time Out

God calls us—but are we listening?

God is always calling to us, like he called to Israel:

I have spread out my hands all day to a rebellious people, who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts. (Isaiah 65:2)

He was calling to them but they weren’t listening. Are we listening?

In our culture we race through our days in a blur of activity, and truthfully, haven’t we heard others and even ourselves say, “I don’t have time for ….” We don’t have time for reading the Bible. No time for prayer. No time for … God. We “walk in the way which is not good, following (our) own thoughts.” And God calls to us, but too often we aren’t listening.

Then enters something unwanted, that slows us down, even stops us in our tracks. There is nothing like abject fear, pain, or a sense of powerlessness to drive us to our knees to cry out for help from Someone who is not overwhelmed by any of those things that can and do overwhelm us.

I wrote these words in the opening to Lesson 5 of the Bible Study Guide for Brokenness to Beauty. The Bible study is still in the writing stages, to be published next year.

After looking for the address to send my friend Marsha a card to encourage her as she goes through a seriously rough patch of life, I went to her blog and started reading. She has a gentle way about her and depth of insight from the Lord, for she walks with him and has cultivated a listening, servant’s heart.

I want to share this particular blog post, The Power of Silence, with you today. I hope you will not just read it and go on your way. I hope you’ll take the time to listen closely and let the Lord challenge you. I believe Marsha’s message is especially timely for us today.

Read her post here: http://www.marshasmusings.com/blog/the-power-of-silence


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Are we low enough to get up and go?

In my last post I shared from a journal I started back in 1995, a few months after we moved to West Virginia to start our work in community development, serving the people of McDowell County. Earlier in that year I had begun reading through the Bible, taking my time, absorbing not only the magnitude of the span of history I was reading about, but also pondering the depth of what was written. I wrote:

“As I read I realized how little I truly understand and grasp of the spiritual realm. To ‘walk’ through these pages of Holy Writ is an exercise in humility. It helps me put things into perspective.”

Today, in 2016, I still feel that way about the Bible! As I now write a Bible study guide to accompany my book, Brokenness to Beauty, I am constantly reminded when I read a verse or passage of Scripture, how amazingly relevant and applicable it is to our lives today.

From my journal:

“One of my most favorite passages is in Exodus 34:5-8. Here God fulfilled Moses’ demand/request to see God. Though he only saw God’s “backside” because of his great glory, the LORD proclaimed himself to Moses:

The Lord descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the Lord. Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.’ Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship.

This just struck me as so powerful! This is who God is. He himself declared it. It is quoted almost directly, in part, in a couple of psalms. I’m sure I’ll see it quoted in other books of the Bible as I read through it (I have).”

This passage, in which God tells Moses who he is and reveals as much of his glory as a human being can bear and still live, is to me one of those pinnacle moments in God’s revelation of himself to mankind. He declares who he is and what he is like, then throughout Scripture we witness how he proves it by his actions.

Compassionate and gracious. Slow to anger. Abounding in lovingkindness. Abounding in truth. He keeps lovingkindness for thousands. He forgives iniquity, transgression and sin. But he will mete out judgment for the guilty.

Think on these truths about God. May we make haste and bow low in worship of this Awe-inspiring God, as Moses did! Then get up and serve him faithfully the rest of our days.

 


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Cosmic Necessity–to write is to Move?

There must be a cosmic reaction to the act of writing which produces the necessity to move from one location to another. While writing Brokenness to Beauty we moved twice, once across the country, the next time across town. The distance of the move is almost irrelevant; you still have the same amount of work!

Now, while I write the Bible study guide for Brokenness to Beauty, we will be moving once again.[1] This time we are moving to southern California or “down south,” as they say here in the central valley. Having lived in the east most of my life, I have to do a quick mental switch from thinking of “the South” back east to the south part of California!

So now I am once again trying to downsize, going through the same stuff for the umpteenth time, trying to decide if I keep it or toss it. So hard! I am not a packrat but neither am I natural purge-r. I still have things my kids made while in school and now I am adding things my grandkids make! I think they call that sentimental.

I have several journals, all partially filled. I’m not a natural journal-er either (I’m making up these words as I go). I started reading the journals and decided I have to keep these little books. They are like records of the heart, keeping tabs on where I was and where I was going.

I also decided to begin sharing some of these journal notes, or “journey notes,” with you.

In May of 1995 Randy and I moved to West Virginia, establishing a home base for Mustard Seeds and Mountains, the community development organization we founded earlier that year. This would be our home for the next 17 ½ years. My friend Carolyn gave me a journal when we moved. Six months later I started writing in it:

November 13, 1995

I’ve decided to start writing down some of the thoughts which come to me from reading, studying and meditating on the Scriptures. I had started a systematic, meditative reading of the Word of God beginning with Genesis, earlier this year. In places God spoke to me powerfully. All throughout Exodus and Leviticus God gave little glimpses of insight. Unfortunately, I did not write these down, the same with Numbers and Deuteronomy.

As I read I was impressed with the knowledge and depth of meaning and spiritual richness in these books, especially Exodus and Leviticus. I felt as though I was in a canoe skimming over the surface, and down beneath me were the stores of riches to exceed all riches. I had a sense of the immensity of the person and wisdom and knowledge of God.

The physical symbols God gave—sacrifices, rituals, festivals—are “shadows” of the heavenly realities. What we live and experience are as vague and ungraspable as shadow, substance-less while infused with substance. The heavenly realities are Real. Though unseen, they are true, everlasting substance.

As I read I realized how little I truly understand and grasp of the spiritual realm. To “walk” through these pages of holy writ is an exercise in humility. It helps me put things into perspective.”

This is how I began, as I recorded my thoughts and impressions about the Word of God and what it was teaching me. Of course, it was the Spirit of God teaching me as I read and thought about the words of Scripture. And he continues to teach me as I go back to the Word regularly.

Next blog post, taking a break from packing and writing the Bible study for Brokenness to Beauty, I’ll share more from my journal notes, including favorite passages of scripture, like Exodus 34:5-8:

5 The Lord descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the Lord. 6 Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” 8 Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship.[2]

Deep, eh?

To be continued.

[1] More on that later

[2] New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

https://www.biblegateway.com

 


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Why It’s Not About “Accepting Christ” (Repost)

Last week I clicked on the link to read Susanne Maynes’ latest blog posting (you can read it on her blog here). Susanne is one of my blogging friends whose articles are thoughtfully written and rich with truth. I respect Susanne’s writing so much I asked her a few months ago if she would read and write a review of my book, Brokenness to Beauty, which she kindly did. You can read it on Amazon reviews (click here to read her review).

After I read one of Susanne’s postings, I often leave a comment, letting her know how much I appreciated what she wrote, how it encouraged me in some way. It’s sort of like a verbal “high five,” digitally sent hundreds of miles from my computer to to hers.

This time I read Susanne’s blog post and not only thanked her for saying so well what I believe and have tried to live, but told her I wanted to repost her blog post. She enthusiastically gave her assent. Thanks, Susanne!

Below is what Susanne had to say about a very important issue for us today:

Why It’s Not About “Accepting Christ”

Have you ever read through the whole Bible chronologically just to get a feel for the over-arching story of God? If so, you may have noticed the same phrase which stood out to me this time around.

cross-from Susanne Maynes' blog 800x532

In my read-through for 2016, I was struck by the  New Testament theme of  “Obey the gospel.”

Nowhere did I read,  “Accept Jesus as your Savior.”  Nowhere did I see an invitation to “ask Jesus into your heart.” No, the call of the gospel is to die to the old, selfish way of life and rise to an entirely new life in Christ.

How do we do this? By means of obedience.

Please hear me out before your “legalism” trigger goes off.

It bothers me — nay, troubles me deeply — that the Church has reacted against rule-keeping to the point where we no longer talk about obeying the commands of Jesus.

Jesus said:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” — John 14:15

Real faith is more than just accepting an offer for forgiveness. That’s the starting point, but it’s our obedience to Christ that demonstrates a changed life.

However, we’ve allowed pop psychology to worm its way into our thinking. We’ve bought the notion that Christianity is a self-improvement plan, the ultimate 12-step program, a way to feel better about ourselves and to fulfill our potential.

So we advertise a gospel that is really only half the story.

We talk about a Savior who has mercy on us and died so our sins could be forgiven. This is wonderful news — but there’s another dimension to it!

Jesus doesn’t just forgive us. He empowers us to live a different life. A holy life. A life that spreads the fragrance of his beautiful name in the earth.

God’s goal for us is not to make us comfortable and happy, but rather to transform us into the image of Christ (see Romans 12:2 and Corinthians 3:18).

Going back to my New Testament reading, I’ve placed our theme in italics here:

  • Romans 10:16 refers to the importance of preaching the gospel, and says, “But they have not all obeyed the gospel…”
  • 2 Thes. 1:8 refers to the second coming of Christ and God’s judgment on “…those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”
  • I Peter 4:17  refers to God’s judgment beginning with believers, and “…if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

That’s just a smattering of references to this idea, but do you sense the seriousness of the apostles on this topic? They’re telling us that some people will not obey the gospel — and that’s bad.

Did you catch the wording? It’s not that some will not “accept” the gospel. It’s that they won’t obey it.

One comedian describes how, as a boy, he would whine endlessly about a toy he wanted until his mom relented — whereupon all his pleading and grousing quickly turned into a flippant, “Thanks, Babe!” as he ran out to play.

Too often, we demonstrate a “Thanks, Babe!” attitude towards the Lord Jesus. Problem is,  we can be guilty of inviting unbelievers into a flippant, shallow faith — a faith that fails to produce change.

Paul writes this to the believers in Corinth so they will follow up on their promise to send a generous gift to another church:

“…others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ… —2 Corinthians 9:13

Wow! I want obedience to accompany my confession of faith. I don’t want to be a “Thanks, Babe” kind of believer.

You?

Visit Susanne’s blog at Susanne Maynes: Unleashing Your Courageous Compassion. Check out her website. She has good things to say, and write.

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