Dirty Diapers

Most of us wouldn’t want someone to have to change our diaper. And yes, most of us right now don’t have to wear diapers anyways — but you did — and you may again some day.

I use this example to illustrate the point of John 13:1-18 in a more relatable context given today’s culture. In Jesus’ day, their feet were filthy and nasty. They didn’t wear a new pair of freshly scented and fabric softened socks everyday, safely covered by shoes, and they didn’t live and work in environmentally controlled and meticulously cleaned buildings, and they didn’t travel in vehicles. They were outside, in open sandals, walking where the animals walked and defecated, working in the open environment. Feet were nasty, like a dirty diaper would be today.

Years ago, I wrote a post entitled “It’s time to stop pooping our pants” and it came to mind as we discussed our morning devotional about John 13.

Instead of talking as a family about washing feet (which is really not a big deal in our society today because of how relatively clean feet are these days) — we talked about the fact that some adults have to wear diapers — and that changing someone’s dirty diaper would be more in line with what Jesus did when He washed the disciples’ feet.

And we talked about how sin is like a dirty, stinky, filthy diaper spiritually — and

1) how sinfulness in our own lives will influence and stink up the spiritual lives of those around us if not repented, confessed and forgiven

2) how we need to come to Jesus to be washed clean from our sin

3) how we need to be like Peter after he was told the purpose having our stinky mess uncovered and revealed in front of others (public, verbal confession of our sin, struggles, shortcomings)

4) how we need to be imitators of Jesus that we would help meet the physical needs of others as a servant (even as far as lovingly changing their diapers as a caregiver if it comes to that) and more importantly, willing to hear others’ struggles and be willing to forgive them, remind them that they are washed clean by the Blood of the Lamb, and to intercede with prayer for them, encourage them, and serve them spiritually as well

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:1‭-‬20 NLT

As we become caregivers for our elderly , and as we are already spiritual caregivers for those we counsel, shepherd, sharpen, encourage, and equip for the ministry — let’s not forget that our example is to get our hands dirty doing the real work of the ministry that is dealing with things most of us would buy nature rather be left hidden and not dealt with — but if we are only superficially religious, we are walking around with untended, stinky diapers spiritually, that need to be washed clean.

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT

Are we ready for the mess?

Are we willing to have our mess, our weakness, be surrendered publicly in front of others so that God can get the glory for washing us clean?

Are we afraid of letting others “know our business” and possibly “gossip about us” if we were to confess to others — can we be honest with ourselves and with them about our lack of trust?

Are we willing and ready to forgive, to wash clean, to do the “work” of an imitator of Christ and get in the mess with someone else?

Lord, it is only by the power of your Holy Spirit, by the power of Christ who lives in the heart of the believer, that we can do these things that will be hard, challenging, and will stretch us beyond our being comfortable. But you bid us step out of the boat and into the water, even in the midst of the waves — you bid us to take up our cross and bear it — you bid us come and die to self and be imitators of you. Reveal yourself to us, through us, and in us. Amen.

Don’t Withhold

​When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. – Genesis 50:15‭-‬21 ESV
Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.  Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”  And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” – Luke 7:44‭-‬48 ESV
Pray then like this:  “Our Father in heaven,  hallowed be  your name.    Your kingdom come,  your will be done,   on earth as it is in heaven.   Give us  this day our daily bread,    and forgive us our debts,  as we also have forgiven our debtors.   And  lead us not into temptation,  but  deliver us from  evil.    For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,  but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. – Matthew 6:9‭-‬15 ESV

The “AND” really does matter

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
– Hebrews 12:14 ESV

Peace and Holiness.
Christ as Savior and Lord.
Forgiveness received and Repentance lived.

Do we see the AND?

Many will fall to one side or the other, interested in one but not the other,  because that is the goal of the enemy – that there would be those that fail to receive grace. Yes, the very next verse warns us of this great danger.

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. – Hebrews 12:15-17 ESV

If we want peace, but have no interest in holiness, the enemy can falsify peace by giving us a life of wealth, comfort, false security or worldly pleasures in this life so that we might ignore and avoid any interest or urgings towards being holy. He will speaks lies of all kinds to keep people on this carnal path of lasciviousness and worldliness – even letting them call themselves Christians and participate in religious ceremonies and practices as long as they keep God at a distance from their actual lives.

If we want holiness,  but have no interest in peace,  the enemy can falsify this by encouraging an air of spiritual pride, offering us works and honor amongst men and the ability to sew and point out the specks in others eyes without seeing the log in our own – so that we might know about law and scripture but know little about love and peace amongst our brothers and sisters. He will speak lies of all kinds to keep people on this prideful path of legalism and loveless religious practice and bitterness towards the lost, the hurting, and the afflicted – even Leyva them call themselves Christians and be leaders as long as they keep others at a distance from the forgiveness and love that they have to offer.

Yes, the path of the AND is critical,  because without it, “no one will see the Lord”. And that path is narrow and few will find it,  but will be satisfied with those broad ways that go to destruction.

Which gutter is the enemy trying to drag you into today? Which of the two would you rather avoid and instead cling to the other? God seeks a greater righteousness be born and grow in us than that of the lawless sinners or the loveless religious hypocrites. This is the Law of Christ. And when strived for as peace with everyone AND with holiness towards God – we understand His commandment:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
– Matthew 22:36-40 ESV

Just like the churches in Revelation needed to examine themselves to recognize their strengths and their weaknesses and then act – we need to examine ourselves and then act.

The life of a Christian is not passive – it is not a powerless mentality of “once saved always saved because I’ve baptized” and “I’m just a sinner saved by grace that will continue to sin every day” – with people existing their remaining a slave to sin when Christ doesn’t just set us free from the consequences of sin – He sets us free indeed to walk as a new creation!

The life of a Christian is not war against flesh and blood or building a tower of works to get to heaven either. It is nothing that would have us standing in front of others, proud of what we have done. If something is commendable in our lives,  He must receive the praise and honor and I must humble myself with the realization that it was Him who lives in me and not me.

Whichever of these two you are most comfortable accepting is not the one that you need to work more on – and that is our tendency – to fall into one ditch and keep digging deeper.

We must climb out. We must get back on the narrow path.

Locked tight

I have a box that is locked tight in the closet of my mind. It is a box that has been tucked away with hopes that I might forget about the guilt and shame and weight of its contents. It is something that I cannot change and it is a weight too heavy to bear.

At times I have feared that it’s weight might carry me down to Sheol with it. It is a weight that men will hold against me like a scarlet letter on my chest that announces “Unclean!  Unworthy! Disqualified!” Some would go as far as to tell me that I should not speak of the glory of my Lord and Savior – some would go as far as saying that I am doomed, with no hope at all – an abomination – filthy and eternally rejected by a God they claim can love them but not me,  can bless them but not me, can hear them but not me.

And their archers know exactly where to target those flaming arrows so they enter the creases of my armor. They are very familiar with the broken places in the walls where they seek to creep in and set up strongholds. They are very good at accusing their wounded brother, at mocking their wounded prey, at tearing into the very flesh of my heart with their teeth. And once they have set up camp inside the walls, they are very good at hiding and keeping quiet,  hoping that I will not remember, hoping that I will not find these intruders until they are ready to attack and overwhelm me in a moment of weakness.

And even when I think about this tightly guarded box, I do not know what to do with it. The stench of its contents overwhelms me and I wretch in shame and guilt just at the memory. I built up a great arsenal of weapons for the enemy to use against me and they have taken up camp in the armory that I built for the enemy through the foolish ignorance of my old, childish ways. I have handed the enemy weapons of mass destruction to use against me to terrorize my very heart.

You see, the past – I cannot change it. I cannot even fathom how to set it right. When I see the hurt and pain and wreckage that my past caused to some – especially to one – I know the warnings of stumbling even one of these little ones – but what about us who may have clipped the wings of an angel? What of those of us who have burdened another that we once loved? The event doesn’t even need an accuser to stand when I am called. They don’t even need the pile of evidence to hold against me.

I stand before you a dead man walking. I stand before you as the very man that carries the millstone around his neck. I stand before you, worthy of and expecting the pit for my broken covenant between God and another. I stand before you, knowing that on that day, I will finally know whether my hope has been in vain.

Can He love even me? I cry out, Yes! He can and He does! I preach to others the Good News of the gospel,  even as I fear the consequences that I deserve. Even as I acknowledge that I am unworthy, unqualified in the eyes of so many perfect men – I do not envy such men that are in their own estimations above reproach. I do not strive to be listed and titled and honored here on earth among them – because either Christ is my only portion and prize, or He will send me too the pit that I so truly deserve.

Enemy, do you call for a witness, for a testimony against me? Let me speak! Because I declare myself guilty by virtue of my old life – but thank you,  Jesus,  it doesn’t stop there! Yes,  I am guilty. Yes, I bear my cross as a man condemned and worthy of death and destruction and separation from a holy and righteous God – BUT GOD…

And I’m so thankful for that BUT GOD…

But God so loved ME, that He sent His Son to die on the cross in my place,  and the enemy was defeated by His love and by my faith, and He rose again as not just the judge, but the advocate that we have in heaven, and His Holy Spirit came to live in me and convict me if sin, teach me truth, and guide me in His ways, so that He will be glorified,  not me.

That box in the back of the closet will be opened, and the contents may do their best to torment me and distract me, and they may even overcome my emotions and my reason and my logic, but they will not overcome my strength because it comes from the Lord – because the victory is His, not mine. With God, all things are possible.

It’s time to open the box.

The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made  them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’  and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’ ?  So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.  And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.” His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”

But He said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given:  For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.”

Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”  And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.

Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good?  No one is  good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, “ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’  ‘Honor your father and  your  mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  ” The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Matthew 19:3-26 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/mat.19.3-26.NKJV

Gomer, Hosea, Christ

When the Lord first began speaking to Israel through Hosea, he said to him, “Go and marry a prostitute, so that some of her children will be conceived in prostitution. This will illustrate how Israel has acted like a prostitute by turning against the Lord and worshiping other gods.” So Hosea married Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she became pregnant and gave Hosea a son.
Hosea 1:2-3 NLT
http://bible.com/116/hos.1.2-3.NLT

This isn’t Hosea finding a whore on his own and saying,  “God, make her mine.”  No,  many men have been enticed by their eyes and their flesh to chase after the harlots of this age that don’t even walk the streets,  but that peddle their bodies to men unknown from their own bedrooms over the Internet. And the same can be said for these foolish men who send indiscreet and inappropriate pictures to the daughters of God, who seek to commit incest with sisters in Christ who are to be another man’s wife. We don’t get to twist this passage into something that justifies sexual immorality, fornication, prostitution, exhibitionism, perversion – because it does not. These things are still part of the “shall not inherit the kingdom of God” that we find in Galatians 5.

No, this is God saying to Hosea that he will do as God instructs, even if Hosea is aware of the risks and danger and ridicule and embarrassment and betrayal that will come from marrying such a woman – He has to trust that God has a meaning and purpose that is more important than his own wants and concerns.

This is a different kind of faith than what is sold on TV and from behind so many pulpits that seek to make merchandise of the children of God. This isn’t a message about getting God to give you what you want now. This isn’t about living your best life now. This isn’t about God or His children participating in the ways the law breakers. This is a message about the obedience of a man of God to the calling and purpose set before him by God,  even when He knows the cost to himself will be great.

Yes, this is the life that Christ talks about when He says that we will face trials and tribulations and suffering in this life. This is the life that we hear about when we learn that we will be a peculiar people, strangers/foreigners walking through this world,  living lives clearly set apart from the ways of the world – even as we walk amongst the world and show them and teach them about Christ. And He tells us that the world cannot receive the Spirit of truth,  and that many will go to destruction,  and that if we stand faithful that we will face persecution.

Does this sound like a preacher trying sell worldly promises of prosperity in this life in order to fill the pews with dead bodies and his pockets to overflowing with their money? No,  this is about our God who searches for even one heart that truly seeks Him and wants to know Him and serve Him.

God doesn’t promise Hosea a faithful wife if he is obedient and faithful. And Good doesn’t promise us that those we love and help and serve will return or love with anything less than betrayal and treachery. Look at His example on the cross – He came to them with love and truth and they hated and crucified Him for it. And He tells us to pick up our cross and follow Him,  to not turn back, that true love is to lay down our lives for others.

This is not the sugary sweet half truths that get people excited and distracted by great entertainment and a charismatic teacher and a message that leaves them comfortable as the God of their own lives – that feeds philosophical ideals and life lessons,  but leaves them no closer to a godly, righteous life with Jesus as Lord of their lives, with His will being done in their lives. It is vanity, repackaged and sold religious materials sold by the DVD and book and thirty that bears the names of men,  and companies, instead of the name of God. It is the fleecing of the flock by the wolves, while Jesus told us that His disciples will feed His sheep (not feed off of them).

Hosea obeyed.

Hosea faced disappointment.
Hosea faced betrayal.
Hosea faced embarrassment.

Because his whore wife did what whores do, she committed adultery, she went to the only thing that she knew. Because Hosea knew God, but his new wife did not. There are many we will help and serve as followers of Christ who will hurt us and betray us, but it is not about us.

Yes, this is the hardest idol to lay down – self. It is not about you,  friend. It is about Christ who either lives in you or who is waiting for you to hear His call. And I’m not selling you rainbows and sunshine and lollipops – I’m saying, count the cost. If you believe Him,  then it is clear that there is nothing in this world worth your eternal soul,  no matter the trials and tribulations that you might face.

Then the Lord said to me, “Go and love your wife again, even though she commits adultery with another lover. This will illustrate that the Lord still loves Israel, even though the people have turned to other gods and love to worship them. ” So I bought her back for fifteen pieces of silver and five bushels of barley and a measure of wine.
Hosea 3:1-2 NLT
http://bible.com/116/hos.3.1-2.NLT

And after Hosea’s wife proved herself unfaithful and returned to her adultery – God didn’t tell Hosea that he had the legal grounds to divorce his wife. No, God tells him to go and love his wife again. And it even cost him to buy her back. This sounds costly, this sounds like sacrifice, this sounds like it would have been impossible for a proud man – and you’re right, but for a humble man,  submitted to God’s will it is just another act of faith.

And this act of faith wasn’t to build up or equip Hosea, or to buy Him any more love or favor from God who already loves Him fully – this act of faith was about being a clear find visible example of faith to a rebellious nation. Our acts of faith are meant to be a living testimony to a dark,  lost world – even when it has a cost – ESPECIALLY when it has a cost.

Yes, at some point,  we were Gomer and needed rescue by Christ (our personal Hosea). But if you are married to Christ in baptism,  and if He’s even bought you back from your rebellious ways with the Holy Spirit that lives in you – don’t we see that at some point we should be realizing that the world needs us to be more like Hosea? How many of us still think of ourselves as Gomer when He is telling us,

“You are forgiven, you are born again, you are no longer like Gomer, you are like Hosea. I have not only given you a new name in Christ, I have come to live in you and to bring life to the world by raising up my children. Stand up, Child of God – you are called to your pups and mission. You are no longer Gomer,  but I send you out to the Gomers of this world, like sheep among wolves. But I am with you always. Go and let them see Christ who lives in you.”

Created for Good Works

And you He  made  alive,  who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it  is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:1-10 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/eph.2.1-10.NKJV

It is not our good works that earn our salvation, but through good works are a blessing and an opportunity to participate in His Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Yes, we are familiar with the wages of sin. We have walked that path before and we have experienced the consequences of that life. But God has offered us a new, abundant life in Christ – one of forgiveness, fellowship and relationship as we learn and grow in a new life,  following His example.

Lord, do not let us forget our past, otherwise we might become proud thinking that we have accomplished something on our own. Do not let us be paralyzed by guilt and shame of our past disobedient ways,  otherwise we might miss out on the glorious opportunity to serve you now. Let us remember the redeeming powerofthe Blood of the Lamb, and the strength and power of your Holy Spirit. Help us to realize the value of this amazing gift of grace and to walk in grattitude today, Lord. We love you. Amen.

Clean hands, Pure heart

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered. 
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
Psalm 32:1-2 ESV
http://bible.com/59/psa.32.1-2.ESV

We all have had dirty hands before. Did we just leave them dirty,  or did we wash them until they were clean? Did we just run some water over them but not scrub them clean? Or did we diligently wash them with soap and water,  getting all of the filth and grime off of them,  even from underneath or fingernails,  because we know that the filth and germs are not good for us?

Isn’t it the same with our hearts,  our Spirit,  our soul? Isn’t it clear to us that it needs to be washed by the blood of the Lamb,  by our faith and belief and following in Christ’s footsteps,  turning away from the filth and enticements and ways of this world to walk in a new way,  bearing the fruit of His Holy Spirit?

So we must encourage one another,  to not play around with empty religious practice by just running our flesh under the water but never really intending our lives to be delivered,  surrendered, washed clean – but to instead seek that fully surrendered, born again life that is renewed daily by the redeeming power of the blood, by the strength of Christ who lives in us,  by the renewing of our minds as we seek God’s will for our lives.  

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord ?
And who shall stand in his holy place? 
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully. 
He will receive blessing from the Lord
and righteousness from the God of his salvation. 
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah
Psalm 24:3-6 ESV
http://bible.com/59/psa.24.3-6.ESV

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which  is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of  himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
Romans 12:1-3 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/rom.12.1-3.NKJV

Guilt or Conviction?

Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence. And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him.
1 John 3:21-22 NLT
http://bible.com/116/1jn.3.21-22.NLT

I’m learning that guilt is a corruption of conviction and a trap of the enemy. Yes,  I’ve known this intellectually,  but I’m beginning to understand it in my heart. You see, guilt is dwelling on past things that we cannot change, just like anxiety is dwelling on the future that we cannot yet affect. Guilt and shame paralyze us and bring no honor or glory to God. They are perversions of God’s wonderful gift of conviction.

But conviction is one of those amazing gifts and blessings from God. Conviction identifies those dangerous and poisonous things in our lives so that we can:

1) Ask forgiveness for past shortcomings
2) Accept Christ’s atoning blood that washes away our sins
3) Ask for deliverance and guidance as we repent and resist temptation
4) Believe. Know that He will overcome.
5) Trust Him to prove himself faithful and true, even when in His time and not ours
6) Rest in the peace of our faithfulness,  remembering the price He paid, and the value and purpose of our life as part of His Kingdom

Conviction is an opportunity for transformation now,  in our hearts. It moves us forward,  it presses us on toward our goal. Conviction leads to prayer,  to communication and a drawing into the presence of God in that humble position before God that allows us to worship God and receive His grace and mercy fresh and new.

And His grace poured out upon these old bones, as our hearts cry out to Him,  “Great are you,  Lord!” What a blessing is this conviction that leads us to praise our Lord and rely upon Him as our comforter,  as our protector, as our Savior,  and as our Lord.

So I encourage you,  friend,  do not run from conviction – for it is the light that shines down and offers us the blessing of His touch. Do not fear the light revealing your imperfections, because His refining fires will burn away the imperfections,  His blood will wash over the wounds and heal and restore you. Stand with confidence in His presence,  friend. Not because you are worthy or proud, but because He is worthy and His promises are true,  and He will forgive you. He will restore you. He will redeem you and deliver you.

Let Him make you brave, friend. Know that He is for you and not against you,  friend. Even as the waves crash against us, He is our rock and our foundation,  and He will not be overcome.

Receive everything that you need to walk in the path that He has set before you. Walk in His will and see the enemy conquered and defeated and see His hand upon the lives around you as you learn to love and serve, as you grow to be more like your teacher,  as you accept the imprint of Christ who lives in you upon your life choices and actions.

Live,  bride of Christ. Arise to meet your Love in the heavens. Come,  Lord Jesus,  come. Rescue us into your presence. Release us from our waiting,  from our yearning for your face, deliver us together as one into your eyeball courts,  to sing your praises eternal.

We are no longer lost,  we are no longer blind,  we can see the love in your example,  Lord – in your grace you are revealed to us,  and we are humbled at your feet. Amazing grace,  that saved a wretch like me – so sweet a sound, to be found in your arms, even a prodigal like me. Your mercies reach so deep into the darkness to rescue even me,  Lord. Even me.

Even me.

Even you,  friend.

Judge? No. Rebuke? Yes. Forgive? ALWAYS!

When someone repeats their past mistakes and hurts us again and again, our tendency is to no longer forgive them – because we listen to the voice that tells us we must protect ourselves from them.

So watch yourselves! “If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive.  Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.”
Luke 17:3-4 NLT
http://bible.com/116/luk.17.3-4.NLT

We are to be a voice of encouragement and accountability into the lives of other believers. If we choose to stop being that voice in their lives because we have grown weary, either from the repeated pain or from the hopeless feeling that they refuse to change, then we are choosing the path of last resistance, the broad path that is easy and is chosen by many.

That path offers less testing and proving through the faith that refines us. In fact,  the resulting lack of exercise and testing of out hearts results in the love of many waxing cold. It is not healthy, in fact,  it is quite dangerous for us to turn to the cold, exacting,  judgemental nature of a legalistic and religious person who measures and judges people and offers sacrifices at their altar of religion,  but who produces no love in their life and in the lives of others. Yes, Jesus tells us to even love our enemies, so we do not have the excuse of someone being our enemy to release us from the obligation of loving and forgiving them.

And fellow believers need accountability, they need a gentle rebuke when gentleness is called for,  and they need a more clear and direct rebuke when their rebellion puts them in the path of death – but it must always be done from the stance of love,  with the intent of encouraging them towards repentance,  and the hope of seeing them restored.

Even though there are many unfaithful who would claim the name of Jesus Christ today falsely, by cling to the promise of grace and forgiveness while ignoring repentance and following Christ – that doesn’t mean that we are to be silent and let them continue blindly into the darkness. The same ones who respond,  “You can’t judge me. You aren’t perfect either.” As they cling boldly to their sin with no fear of God whatsoever are the blind that need the healing touch of the truth. And that is exactly what a rebuke is – it is speaking truth into the life of someone who is confused,  misled,  lost,  and struggling – it is done in love to provide assistance and guidance in hopes they will step back onto the narrow path.

But broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many will refuse to follow the path with their actions even though they will try to claim Him with their words. But it is our hearts that are weighed,  my friends.

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.
Matthew 7:21 NLT
http://bible.com/116/mat.7.21.NLT

‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
Matthew 15:8 NLT
http://bible.com/116/mat.15.8.NLT

People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their heart. The Lord is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices.
Proverbs 21:2-3 NLT
http://bible.com/116/pro.21.2-3.NLT

Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Matthew 9:13 NLT
http://bible.com/116/mat.9.13.NLT

Show mercy,  friends – for that is where Christ is found,  that is where His love is demonstrated, and that is how your life can be used as a vessel of His glorious grace.

Find mercy and love for those who persecute you and you will soar like on the wings of eagles where their actions can no longer touch or harm you in the places that matter. For we are temporary residents of this foreign land,  and we return to our home eternal soon enough. What can mere men take from us that we are not willing to give in exchange for our eternal life with Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior?

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.  If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.  And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?  For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds.
Matthew 16:24-27 NLT
http://bible.com/116/mat.16.24-27.NLT

1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

Isaiah 41:10 ESV
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

The Betrayer

Jesus tells us to take up our cross and follow Him.

He tells us to not look back,  and to follow Him with complete abandon.

He tells us to love our enemies.

He tells us to see past the false security of personal wealth and to consider everything that we have to be His to be shared with those around us who have needs instead of stock piling things and wealth for ourselves.

He tells us to trust in Him alone for our security.

He tells us to “Go and sin no more”.

He tells us to love others, to preach this gospel to the ends of the earth, to make disciples, and to baptize in His name.

He doesn’t say that it is easy, but He does say that His burden is light, He tells us to count the cost, and if we value His Kingdom,  if we value Him above all other things that might stand as idols between us and the Lord – we will forsake all things for Him.

“Listen to me and remember what I say. The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies.”
Luke 9:44 NLT
http://bible.com/116/luk.9.44.NLT

How many times have I betrayed Christ into the hands of His enemies with the sins of my life?

How many sins have I placed upon Him at the cross?

How many stripes within His flesh were because of the works of my iniquities and disobedience and rebellion against the will of God?

How many of the thorns upon His head were the pains of my thoughts,  words,  and actions in opposition to a just and righteous God who created me in His image to bring honor and glory to His name?

How many strikes of the hammer upon the nails were from my selfish pride and vanity?

Oh,  Lord,  I have failed you miserably with the example of my life. I look upon your perfection and your glory and I see all the more in my own life that needs the healing that your touch alone can restore and redeem to righteousness. As I draw closer to understanding the beauty of your grace,  I am overwhelmed by the inadequacy of my own works and words and thoughts and shortcomings. I am humbled by the magnitude of evidence pulled against me by the accuser,  Lord. By all rights and accounts, I have betrayed you into the hands of your enemy,  Oh Lord,  and my very soul,  my heart inside my body cries out, “Let it not be so that I would be the betrayer of my love, my bridegroom,  my Savior,  my Lord”. But my own words now only testify to what you,  Lord already know to be true. My life is far from perfection, it is worthless beside the glory of your example. So I am thankful for grace,  for your tender mercies Lord. Keep me here, faithfully in your presence. Let me not escape your presence. Let me cling to the hem of your garment, let my tears wash your feet, and let me kiss them,  Oh Lord. Lead me in your ways along this narrow path – I have counted the cost c and the world has nothing to offer me if I can’t have you,  Lord. But you ARE mine,  and I AM yours. Take my hand,  beloved,  and walk with me in eternity.