Friday, October 4, 2013

Something Old...

This is about 7 years old. It seemed interesting to post and then compare later with something new.  It's funny to see how much I have grown in writing and spiritually.  
   God gives us so much, how do we receive it? What is it that God really gives us? Seems like basic questions. 

  The first thing you learn in church is John 3:16. It almost loses its impact because it is the one verse everyone knows but we need to see the awe. God, the Son, left heaven, became flesh and chose to take the punishment for our sin to give us life. For our sin, He endured such pain to give us love.

  Personally, I cannot tell you some picture perfect story of how I was saved.  What I can tell you about is  God’s constant pursuit of me.  As a teenager, I set out to show God that I could get by on my own. All during this rebellion, God patiently laid the gift of salvation at my feet. Years later, I found myself face to face with this undeserved yet beautiful gift. My heart broke and repentance poured out, but why did I wait so long?

  The most spectacular thing is that God puts one gift inside another. With salvation, you receive renewal, justification, sanctification and glorification. That’s a lot of -ifications.

Renewal was easy to grab up. How exciting it is to have the promise of new life when your current one is so tattered and stained. I thought nothing could repair the damage I had done or change my heart. How wrong I was! God is powerful and it does not matter what we have done, He can forgive.

  Micah 7:19 says “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”  That is awesome and I needed a Father strong enough to crush the darkness in my life and even better to throw it away forever.

  I battle with the feeling of rejection so the gift of justification was difficult for me but God’s gifts are beautiful and perfect.

  He reaffirms His desire for us in  Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…” He already knew everything about us, every choice we would make, every word we would utter - He knew it and He wanted to forgive us and draw us to Himself. Nothing we do will change that.

  Sanctification means growing in that relationship with Him and letting the Holy Spirit change us.  Right here is where I fight. My heart yells, “You can‘t tell me what to do or manipulate me.” It doesn’t sound logical to do when God only does what is best - but reason was never a strong point for me. It seems impossible that God could take such a pile of ashes and turn it into His own likeness but He does, some of us just take a little longer than others. It is a work He promises to finish and that is glorification, being perfected once we get to heaven.

  If we trust Him and receive His gifts, we can have freedom. With that freedom, we can move forward and receive the other gifts of God.

Here is one of the best - Love, totally free of condition, regardless of what we do it will never change or stop. Have you experienced that? I thought I had. There is a secret about love that I learned from my daughter.

  One night, I texted my children a question sort of like a game show and whoever texted back first would win the points. I asked, “Of faith, hope, and love, which is greatest.” My daughter, texted back and said, “Love because God says that He IS love and there is nothing greater than God.” Man! I knew what the Bible said but I missed the big picture- To have love, to know love, you must have and know God and He offers Himself to us freely in faith.

  Love will come to wherever you are. The woman at the well in John 4 probably expected her life to be the same because of her circumstances but that day, she met love face to face.  God went to meet her. I was always viewing my life with questions that I never expected to be answered, “Would my father always hurt us? Why was I not good enough for my mother? Does anyone love me and can I trust anyone?”

  One day, when I listened, love answered them. My mind wondered how God could love me especially after all I had done. Normally, when things got difficult, people disappeared but God had been there every step and every wrong turn pursuing me with His gifts.

  The more we receive, the more He gives and even offers His fellowship. For someone who spent most of their life feeling ugly, alone, worthless,  and unlovable; this gift was so precious.

  He reminds us that we are valuable to Him even when no one else on earth thinks so in 2 Timothy 4:16-17, “At my first defense, no one came to my support; but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed…” 

  I do not feel worthy of that but wrestling with God and waiting to accept truth only hurts ourselves. I do it and He has to bring me to my knees and show me that He is all-powerful, my endless strength,  and my unfailing protection.  Instead of just receiving what He offers, I put myself under a huge weight of guilt, then I have to back up, repent and then receive. Not very efficient and definitely  full of needless hurt.

 God gives His power so that we can do His work. It’s easy to step in trying to do it all our own way. Foolishly, I try to be the plower, the plow and the ox. In reality, there is only one half of the ox that truly represents me and it ain't the front end. When we are yoked to Christ, the burdens are light and we have direction.
  When I do things on my own, well…the results are questionable. You’d think it would be easy to keep securely yoked to Christ but it’s not. For me, it is as if someone has given me an address and offered me a GPS but instead I insist on doing a coin toss at each intersection. Good thing God is long-suffering. When we receive His power, we  are trusting Him and letting Him lead. We are His children, even if we act like the backside of an ox sometimes.

  Which brings me to another gift - His comfort. When we come to Him and lay all the ugliness and pain at His feet, He gives us peace and understanding. I love when Moses begs to see God and God knowing that it was not completely possible, gives to Moses as much as He can. 

  He says in Exodus 33:22, “…I will put you in a cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand…” I truly believe that when we come to God desiring to know Him, God scoops us up and covers us in His hand, to me that is true comfort. Even more, He gives us the Holy Spirit as a guide and when words fail us the Holy Spirit groans to God for the very things that our mouths cannot form words. As we grow in Christ, we learn to care for others like Christ, praying for them, giving to them and in this we become a comfort to others. 

  If we do not receive His gifts, how can we give these things to others? So, how do we receive these gifts? To receive salvation  you must believe Christ died for our sin, confess that you are a sinner, repent and make Him Lord of your life.

 2 Corinthians 13:5 says “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith...” It’s easy to take the first gift of Christ and just sit immobilized by fear or lack of knowledge and be a pew potato at church, which I know I did for a few years. But God has so much more, like discipleship, if we have faith and receive Him.

  I don’t know much about sports but I know that in football, the wide receiver is the one whose main job is to receive a pass. You have to make sure you are not blocked and you are on the right part of the field. Google says that Patrick Jeffers has the unfortunate distinction of being known as the “worst receiver ever.“ He and I have much in common.

  In my Christian life, I have earned that title. Even receiving a compliment is difficult for me, much more gifts from God. Sometimes, when I am supposed to be in the position of receiver, I am not even on the field,  I am still sitting in the parking lot, afraid to even put on the uniform. We receive God’s blessings by faith. We have to put that faith into action.

  My view of God and Christianity was very distorted  but when I let go in faith, He redeemed every moment. God was calling me and I wanted to receive what He offered but I didn’t understand. My grandmother talked with me some and led me in a prayer. At that moment, I thought that God would take away all the bad things and make my life perfect. I prayed to have a real family and a real home with a yard. No one told me that things might get harder and  I had to have faith that God always hears and answers. This misunderstanding led me to be very angry with God.

  We must have faith and believe that God does what He promises. He upholds the faithful and he answers their prayers. He had answered mine. I just did not listen. He would gently show me this later.  I assumed something about God from what I knew about people. I yoked myself to sin and there I became a slave to it. God did not desert me, He pursued me and I was missing out on all that He had for me.

 Nehemiah 9:17 is a good example of truth, “They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them…” He brings righteousness to the faithful and I was choosing rottenness. We must have faith, no matter what.

  The gift of salvation has to have faith to be received. There I sat for years, wallowing in pain, darkness and sin faithless. This is how I lived my life from about age 13 until 23. 
  This part of my story could go two ways, I could tell you all the terrible things that happened so that you feel bad for me and just see me as a victim or I could tell the whole truth because there are no excuses. In those ten years, it was hard and many terrible things did  happen but I also made choices - bad ones:

I lied, I cheated, I stole, I got drunk and high, I lusted and looked at porn, I cut myself, I planned suicide, I met a young man, I got pregnant, and  I refused to marry him because I didn’t believe in marriage, I manipulated people, and I fell, trapped under sin.

  Ending up on the ground at a crossroad, I came face to face with God‘s gift. I had purposefully set out to trample His gift to me for 10 years. By that time, I had married and God was working in my husband’s life, drawing Him to church. I would go, angry to be there until one day it hit me - God loves me and He never abandoned me.  Sadly, I even went down the aisle fighting to not give in to God. But, He took me just as I was, an angry viper, and that day I received what He offered.
    He took that anger and started the process of healing. I am still learning the greatness of God’s gifts and what each one tells us about Him. His love, the only real love is perfect for us. Even the good things in this world will have no substance without the gift of God. Your own strength, intelligence and emotions will lead you to something shallow and empty like a hollow chocolate bunny. It looks so good but the moment you bite into it, it easily crumbles and the goodness is gone quickly.

But, God’s gift is deep and sustaining. It is completely satisfying and unending.
He restores us to Himself. He gave Himself without hesitation, knowing what each one of us would do.  He desires a relationship with us completely knowledgeable of the cost. We aren’t hiding anything from Him.

  If He knows the very hairs on our heads, don’t think He doesn’t recognize you wearing a mask. Our sin is a great cost but He forgives. He stood in my place, took my punishment and gave me the freedom.
  His grace IS amazing, it is God’s favor, not because of what I have done or am doing or will do, but because of what Christ did. I cannot ever repay that debt, no stimulus package could cover it and because of it, God’s blessing is just poured out. 

  I lived many years sitting at the start line but we have to suit up, get on the field and make ourselves open to receive. You can choose to build a wall around yourself, denying any responsibility for your sin, hiding from people and God but I am here to say that it doesn’t work. God knows you and He cares for you enough to offer you something more.

  The woman at the well found that Christ was an eternal spring. She could not hide and then she realized she had to give to others. Once we have faith, the showers of blessings can pour out. Don’t let fear, shame, or pride stop you or slow you down. My road is still long and I am still trying to figure out who I am but now I am on the field, in the game waiting to receive. It has taken me 13 years to get this far. 

So let me ask you: What have you done with the gifts God offers?

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