February 28, 2011

Striving for Wholeness

If I asked you to define the role of women based on the messages you receive from the media, your family, and/or your church, what would you say? Would you use words like: soccer mom, proper, nag, slave, caretaker, busy, high achiever, lover?

Most of those words are negative, or at least assumed to be negative. You see, our world and unfortunately even some of our churches capitalize on a woman’s default emotion: shame. A woman can be shamed into almost anything. Think about that for a second…we are awesome at making excuses for whatever we couldn’t do and/or rearranging our schedules to almost our breaking points to make sure we can. Shame.

I have read story after story of women who were too afraid to say no, to whomever or whatever, and so have sacrificed their families, their jobs, their friendships, and even themselves to be “The Proverbs 31 Woman”. What is really the motivation behind such a huge pursuit? We want to be accepted. Acceptance…the opposite of shame. Unfortunatley, your methods to procure acceptance may couple with shame, negating the acceptance. You are right back where you started: shame.

Women are constantly striving. Striving to lose weight, dress better, save money, interact more, work less, love husband, protect kids, look good, improve house, stay composed…stay composed? Yeah right! We automatically feel as though we aren’t good enough. That was Eve’s problem in the Garden…it wasn’t good enough that she had the perfect body, awesome husband, beautiful home, best job. Nope…she wanted to be like God. But before we are too hard on Eve, you must remember…she was deceived by the Father of all Lies, Satan. He mingled truth and deception and got her. He targeted her Achilles heel: shame. If she had the same knowledge and understanding as God, wouldn’t she be better able to protect herself from ever feeling ashamed? She thought so. So she took the bait. So have you…and now you are paying for it.

At some point in our lives, we experienced one of the following:
-          Unmet needs.
-          Unhealed hurts.
-          Unresolved issues.

The result: We believed a lie about ourselves…and we have been paying for it ever since. How do I know? Every woman is looking for love, acceptance, worth, security. If you aren’t sure which one, think through your greatest fears, or to simplify, whatever makes you most anxious. Now, get to the bottom of the fear, anxiety…what are you really trying to avoid? You want to know why women seem to be control freaks and/or nags? We are attempting to avoid whatever it is that we feel will steal our love, acceptance, worth and security. One of those unmet, unhealed, or unresolved circumstances lied to us and told us we are not okay in and of ourselves. Let that sink in for a minute.

We hurt so we self-medicate. We turn to sex to feel loved and wanted…only to find out, we are neither to that man…or sadly, that woman. We try to perform so that we are owed certain rights and/or to avoid never measuring up…only to realize that we are made of the same stuff as those “sinners”. We take pills to relieve the anxiety and to find rest. We get angry to protect our children. We nag to keep our husbands. We have our hair died, nails done, skin tanned and buy the perfect clothes so we have an “in” with our husbands, friends, co-workers. We do whatever it takes and we are left disillusioned.

Genesis 1:27 says that God created man…and woman. Both. Specifically us.

You have dignity because you were created after God’s image. However, we live so undignified when we try to find our love, acceptance, worth, security elsewhere. We run frantic, act paranoid, get angry, live manipulatively, all because we cannot accept ourselves because at some point we were fed the lie that we were unacceptable.

Now we can’t even accept God’s love.

We need to understand how God created us so we know exactly how we are wired and how He will fill us, heal us, and meet our needs.

We were designed with three outstanding desires:
-          We want to be romanced.
-          We want to share in an adventure.
-          We want to unveil our beauty.

1 Peter 3 gives the Biblical breakdown of these desires. God wants to romance us. Over and over in Scripture, we read that He holds our hands, protects us, draws us to Himself, seeks us out, and ultimately, died for us. He is our protector, defender, lover, friend. He wants to include us in His adventure; He has a purpose for each of us. He has instilled in you a dream that He created you to pursue…with Him! Don’t ever think God wants to give you less than what you dream…His plan is to give you a future and a hope. Go for it!

God has made you to reflect His awesome beauty and creativity. Your beauty was never designed to be the source of your security…but it was given to you to point back to God, the awesome Creator. You are beautiful…read that again if you need to. You ARE beautiful. However, how you feel about yourself internally is always reflected in your external appearance. Some women take too much care of themselves and others not enough…for the same reason: insecurity. Those that are secure in their God’s love and their husband’s/friend’s, are conscientious but not obsessed with their outward appearance. Interesting.

Here is your challenge…

Get alone with God. Ask Him to reveal the lies that you have believed about yourself. This is so hard to do and be sure to be alone and have Kleenex. You will cry. You will be surprised to discover that you have been deceived for probably years…and possibly by something that the world would deem as “not that big of a deal”. But oh, it is!

After you have discovered the lie, own it. Admit that you have believed it and have allowed it to define you…for too long.

Then, get into the Word. You have to replace the lie with Truth. You have to purpose to listen to only the Truth…not feelings. If you don’t have a good handle on Scripture, no worries. Log onto www.Biblegateway.com and plug a word into the search bar. If you believe you are unlovable, put “love” in the search. If you believe you are ugly, put “beauty” in there. You get the idea. Print out some of the verses and put them everywhere:  your car, bathroom, desk, kitchen. Read them. Pray over them. And then hang on…God is going to heal you!!!

Adapted from Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge

February 24, 2011

Defined by Freedom

In my Bible reading today, I came across a familiar verse, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” I had never stopped to consider the context of this powerful statement.

Just verses before, Jesus interacts with a woman being used as a pawn by the religious leaders who claim to have caught her “in the very act of adultery” (interesting accusation that leaves much to the imagination). Jesus knew the religious leaders were attempting to ensnare Him and He wisely gives them permission to stone her, but only if they themselves are without sin. The eldest of the accusers walk away first, coming to grips with Jesus’ point:  Their own sin disqualifies them from leveling condemnation. The woman is left standing before Jesus, the only One Who has the right to strike her dead. His comments echo through the chambers of grace: “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more”.
The wages of sin is death…But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ…”

At this point, Jesus has gathered a crowd. Therefore, Jesus testifies: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

The religious leaders, still reeling from being outwitted by the Master Teacher, refuse to humble themselves and so reply, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

Jesus reminds the religious leaders of the point He just made when they wanted to stone the adulteress: Sin is an equalizer. No one is free from the condemnation sin inflicts because no one is free of sin.
“For all have sinned…”

Jesus explains, “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.” Sin is an equalizer, and sin enslaves. While a slave may be a member of a household, he is not free: He is not a son.  The religious leaders thought that since they followed a strict set of laws, they were a part of a religious household. Indeed they did belong in the household, but only as a servant belongs to a master. They lived under the dictatorship of religious codes. Consequently, Jesus says, “There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope.” The religious leaders stood condemned by the law that they sought so diligently to follow. They were not free, and they, in their honest moments, knew this to be true.

Jesus proves His superiority to the religious leaders by claiming to be the Son of the Father of the household. Jesus has preeminence over the slaves. Instead of damning the slaves to perpetual bondage in following religious laws, He has chosen to proclaim freedom…constant, eternal freedom through a relationship with Him.
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Instead of living as a slave to religion, Jesus invites His followers into a relationship with Him and His Father. The relationship is based on grace and frees the individual from guilt and condemnation. He/she no longer needs to feel as though he/she has to keep a list of rules for love, acceptance, worth, security. He/she is accepted by God the Father based on the death of His Son.
“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’”

Once I claim Jesus’ death and resurrection as my only hope, I receive Christ’s life. His past, present, future all become mine. I am forgiven. When God sees me, He sees Jesus. I have nothing to prove to Him. I don’t have to earn His approval. I have it.

Paul says in Galatians, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery…or Christ will be of no advantage to you.” Don’t let a list of rules define you…let Jesus’ life, which is in you, define you. You are loved, accepted, worthy, and secure because Jesus lives inside of you. God values you as much as He values Jesus. You are worth Jesus to God. Period.

February 22, 2011

Legalism: Throwing Stones

“God did not ration His grace to me so I will not ration it to others.”

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of Our God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11

If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9

I have my juniors read The Scarlet Letter within the first few weeks of school. Although they complain about the language and the length, they are captivated by a story that intermixes judgment, revenge, shame and hypocrisy. Why? Because they can relate.

We talk about how in our churches today, we don’t make sinners wear a “Scarlet Letter” of sorts. However, we do have our lists of seemingly “unforgiveable sins”. I asked my students what they thought those were. Here are what we as the church are communicating to sixteen and seventeen year olds as just some the unforgiveable sins:
-          Murder
-          Abortion
-          Homosexuality
-          Adultery
-          Divorce

Divorce. One of my students shared that because his father was divorced, he was not able to be a deacon in his church. His story broke my heart. I personally know his father…he is an awesome guy. He loves the Lord and takes great care of his family. I realize that every church has the right to determine what their specific qualifications for leadership will be, however, have we elevated divorce to some other level above every other sin? I realize that each scenario is different…for instance, I would be uncomfortable if my Pastor or one of my Deacons got a divorce while in his present position and never stepped down to organize and deal with his personal issues. However, if the divorce happened in the past and the man has since proven his devotion to the Lord and to his family, do we still hold that against him? You may be running 1 Timothy 3 through your mind frantically looking for the clause that states, “husband of but one wife”. However, upon further study, you will realize that the Greek means, “devoted to one woman”. Also, don’t ignore the line, “the overseer must be above reproach”.  You must realize that if applied extremely and absolutely literally, this verse takes all of us out of the game because I don’t remember the last time I was ever perfectly above reproach. In fact, I should step down from my ministry yesterday if this were the case.

If your feathers are beginning to ruffled, God knows that I am not trying to bash the church or excuse sin. I love the church…I am all about the church and I am paranoid of sin. However, I am pretty fed up with those of us who make up the body of Christ “benching” fellow believers so to speak because they skrewed up at one point in their lives.  Is that honestly what Jesus did? I have been glued to John 8 over the past couple of weeks. A woman “caught in the very act of adultery” is dragged before Jesus and threatened to be killed. Jesus bends over and writes in the sand. As He stands up, He says, “Sure, stone her. Only those of you who don’t have any sin in your lives, throw the first stone.” The Bible is clear that the oldest walked away first, leaving only Jesus and the woman. Realize, Jesus had every right to kill her. But He didn’t. Instead, He says, “I don’t condemn you. Go and leave your life of sin.” The woman walks away perfectly free…free to follow Jesus and to serve Jesus. He put no stipulations on her. So why would we?

What about the Apostle Paul? Here is a man who thought he was being a devoted follower of God, only to realize he had it all wrong. After his Salvation, he has to deal with the fact that he is a murderer. Is it any wonder why he says in Philippians 3:12-13, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect…But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead...”? Later, in 1 Corinthians 15, he grapples again with his past by stating that he was “one abnormally born” into the family of God and “the least of the apostles and does not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” I wonder…would we let someone like Paul into our churches as a Pastor or a Deacon today? I mean really think about that. Paul goes on to say, “But by the grace of God I am what I am.” Amen! Isn’t that true of all of us? Yeah, we sin and have some pretty messy pasts…and that sin may have happened when we were unsaved or even saved. However, if we have asked God’s forgiveness and He has showered His grace over us and we are now living pure, God-honoring lives, are we really limited to only certain ministry positions? I just can’t seem to wrap my mind around that.

Alright, well enough with my ranting and raving. I am sure I am going to get slammed with comments remarking on how I have forgotten this verse or have overlooked that chapter. But I just want to leave you with Jesus’s words…”If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Fight or Flight?

A student asked me: "Is it okay to be angry at God for something that He allowed to happen to you?"

The following was my response...
Emotions are simply reactions - automatic, spontaneous reactions. When something good/bad happens to you, your first reaction is usually an emotion. Feelings in and of themselves are not wrong. The Bible speaks freely of emotions - raw, vivid emotions. The book of Job contains the biography of a man who lost everything, and expressed deep hurt, abandonment, confusion, depression, loneliness, and anger. The Psalms are filled with intense emotions: anger, fear, bitterness, brokenness, guilt, frustration, loneliness. Jesus himself felt anguish, anger, sadness, loss. So the issue is not that you react; the issue is how you respond.

God is sovereign – that means that He knows stuff that we will never know. He sees through circumstances to His glory. And I think therein lies the issue. He knows more and so allows situations to happen that will bring Him the most glory – and that seems unfair. Shouldn’t God be out for our good? Shouldn’t He seek to protect and to bless those who are sold out for Him? But…He doesn’t. That sucks. Honestly, you could spend all of your energy trying to figure God out…but you won’t. The Bible is clear – God’s thoughts and ways aren’t our thoughts and ways. No kidding, right? So if you spend time and energy trying to figure out how a good God lets bad things happen, you will end up angry and bitter…at Him. Here’s the deal – it’s really not a good idea to be mad at the God of the universe. I mean, I ‘m just saying. He is quite a bit bigger and stronger and wiser than you. He has all the power…and I really wouldn’t want to be up against that…personally. I think this is why some people just cop out and become atheists and agnostics. It is easier to just not believe than to deal. The problem with this is that this person will die and go to Hell. How is that for straightforward?
So right now you have three options:
1.       Be angry and bitter the rest of your life – miserable.
2.       Try to get back at God – useless.
3.       Choose to not believe – hopeless.

Okay, nothing good about those. However depending on how angry you are, one of those options probably looks really justifiable and relieving. Let me remind you…you are setting yourself up against the God of the Universe. You will not win.

Your only option for peace is to lean hard into the promises of God regardless of how you feel, what people say, or your circumstances.

Read John 11 and the end of Job and realize that God is the sovereign, almighty, everlasting Creator and He agrees that you cannot and will not ever understand Him completely. Read Ephesians chapter one and soak in all the ways God has blessed you despite your sinfulness. Read through Hebrews 13 and realize God will never leave you alone…you can deal with your emotions WITH GOD. Dwell on WHO God is and not always on what He does. Allow Him to comfort you (Corinthians) in the midst of the pain. Philippians says that God gives peace that surpasses our thoughts and feelings…you need that now. Stop spending all of your time fighting God about your circumstances, when He wants to prove Himself so real to you through your circumstances. Just a thought.

The Diffuser

I was so overwhelmed with God’s grace on Sunday. My husband Bryant based his talk out of John 11 and the death of Lazarus. His premise was that those pivotal circumstances in our lives that often cause the most pain are what bring God the most glory. God so desires to “grow our faith in the One Who is over, in, above, and through all things” that He “leverages the worst for our best.” 

Take a look at verses 4, 15, 25-26, 40-42 for proof. Mary and Martha were desperately hurting. The disciples were so confused. If Jesus loved Lazarus, why did He wait? “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Because it was only in this desperate situation that Mary, Martha, the disciples and the onlookers could really experience God’s incredible glory and His powerful Name: I AM (11:25-26). “God created this circumstance in order to shout that He is the ‘I AM’ in the midst of pain.”

My CC (Centerpoint Church) ladies and I have been studying through John and Stasi Eldredge’s book Captivating. We have been discovering the lies that Satan has held us captive to, many of us since we were young. These lies have so deceived us into believing that we just have to accept who we are and what we have done, without ever experiencing the healing grace of God in our lives. We profoundly mistrust God…however, at times, we don’t even realize we are doing it. We try to control the world around us because we are self-medicating and self-protecting. We have our reasons and our logical arguments for this selfish lifestyle, just like Eve in Genesis 3, which blind us from the truth that God wants us to live abundantly by fully trusting Him with every detail of our lives...even the pain (Ephesians 3:20, John 10:10).

As Bryant brought his talk to an end Sunday and asked for a response, I watched (yes, I am allowed to peak J) men and women raise their hands committing that they would trust God to define their pain instead of their pain defining them. I sat in utter amazement as my brothers and sisters in Christ who have experienced such deep hurt, disappointment, resentment, and regret confidently raise their hands in surrender and trust, releasing control of their lives to God for His glory. All of my petty excuses and bitterness were diffused in that moment.

God, Your grace is beyond words. Thank you for penetrating our hurt, our failures, our bitterness, our disappointment, our loss with your healing love, forgiveness, mercy, grace. We love you and stand amazed.   

(Go to www.centerpointfl.org to hear Bryant’s podcast: Sun Stand Sill 7, and check out his blog: http://bryantgolden.blogspot.com).

The above quotations came from my man J. I am a proud wife!

February 18, 2011

My New Best Friend


I am probably in the best shape I have ever been in...thanks to Jillian Michaels. She is my new best friend! 

My mom called me and told me about Jillian Michaels's 30 Day Shred. I was not a believer until I began the program. The DVD includes three twenty minute workouts that are each composed of strength training, cardio workouts, and ab exercises. All you need are some weights (I started out with two pounds and then upgraded to five pounds) and a few minutes a day. After attempting P90X and getting so frustrated because I did not have the strength or the time, Jillian Michaels has helped me overcome the misbelief that I will never be fit. I love her!

One quick tip...you will gain muscle but not lose weight if you do not watch what you eat. I never thought counting calories was necessary until I started calculating how much I ate a day and saw the pounds melt away. Below is the calculation method to determine how many calories you need to eat a day to maintain. If you want to lose weight, exercise 20-40 minutes a day and eat less calories than your daily maintenance. You will be developing a lifestyle more than just attempting another diet. I am thrilled about how much weight I have lost and how healthy I feel! I am in great shape as well...even beat my husband at basketball the other day!!!

The following information came from another source:
"Calculate Your BMR:
Your BMR is the amount of energy your body needs to function. We use about 60% of the calories we consume each day for basic bodily functions such as breathing. Other factors that influence your BMR are height, weight, age and sex. Step one is to calculate your BMR with the following formula:
655 + (4.3 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years)
66 + (6.3 x weight in pounds) + (12.9 x height in inches) - (6.8 x age in years)
Please note that this formula applies only to adults.
Calculate Activity
Step two: In order to incorporate activity into your daily caloric needs, do the following calculation:
·         If you are sedentary : BMR x 20 percent
·         If you are lightly active: BMR x 30 percent
·         If you are moderately active (You exercise most days a week.): BMR x 40 percent
·         If you are very active (You exercise intensely on a daily basis or for prolonged periods.): BMR x 50 percent
·         If you are extra active (You do hard labor or are in athletic training.): BMR x 60 percent
Add this number to your BMR. The result of this formula will be the number of calories you can eat every day and maintain your current weight. In order to lose weight, you'll need to take in fewer calories than this result. As you lose weight, you can re-calculate the formula to assess your new BMR."
The DVD is available at Walmart and Target. I purchased mine for $10. Go get it done ladies!!! And have a blast :)

February 17, 2011

Freedom from Prison

We as women desperately need profound healing and cleansing from all that the Enemy has done to try to ruin us. I say “try” because my special lady, if you are reading this and have an ache and a desire to grow in the love of Jesus, you are not destroyed! You are not doomed to failure, to second class, to a life of hurt and pain, to insignificance, to…you fill in the blanks. Please, please remember that Satan is the father of all lies and has come “only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 8 and 10).

Each of us has an unhealed hurt, unresolved issue, or unmet need. Most of those hurts, issues, and needs were seared deep into us by a bad relationship with a parent, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a teacher, a coach…you get the picture. The problem is that some of these hurts, issues and needs are buried so far down in our lives that we have no idea they even exist. The first couple of weeks in study I encouraged you to get alone with God and to implore Him to reveal to you hurts, issues and needs that have been lying to you for years. What we have to realize is that these are the things that have shaped our self-image, our personalities, our interactions, our relationships. If you are struggling to get to the bottom of what your particular unhealed hurt, unresolved issue, or unmet need is, start here: Journal Who you think God is and how He sees and interacts with you. Your words will reveal the lies you have believed about yourself, which ultimately affect how you view God. And most times the way we view God stems from the sort of relationship we had with our parents or some other adult as a child, teen, young adult.

Some of you will begin to see that you have deep pain associated with an occurrence in your childhood. For others of you, like me, it came as a college student or young adult. The time frame is irrelevant. What is so crucial is that we have believed lies that were communicated through a faulty relationship that have shaped who we are today. We are held in a prison of hurt. God never dreamed that for us. In fact, His plans for us are “to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”(Jeremiah 29:11). He so desperately wants us to live an “abundant life” (John 10). Do you see how Satan has so distorted that life for you? Do you see now that the wounds that you nurse were not from God, but from the Devil who is only seeking to devour you? Get angry my friend. Get really angry because the Enemy wants you down for the count. You have something amazing to offer the world…and he knows it and is after you. Get pissed (I am so sorry to use that language, but if more women got “pissed” about what Satan has done to us, we would revolutionize the world and future generations…that is who we are in this for…our sisters, daughters, friends…). Get pissed.

So, do some personal inventory. We as women tend to one of two extremes in order to protect and to hide from the pain we have experienced. We either become Domineering or Desolate (Captivating).

Domineering Women: They control, refuse to be vulnerable, and if they don’t feel secure, “kill their longings for intimacy”. They are perfectionists and “Can-Do, Get-It-Done” kinds of women. They “dominate and control because they fear their vulnerability. That self-protective way of relating to others has nothing to do with real loving, and nothing to do with deeply trusting God. It is their gut-level response to a dangerous world”. (Captivating)

Desolate Women: They are “needy and far too vulnerable”. They are “ruled by the aching abyss within them…consumed by a hunger for relationship.” However, they tend to “hide their true selves…certain that if others really knew them, they wouldn’t like them…and they can’t risk the loss of a relationship.” (Captivating)

Both of these types of women indulge and hide in order to feed and quiet the cravings for intimacy. We self-medicate, which we know is sin. We turn to sex, drugs, alcohol, porn, shopping, performing, competing. We do whatever has to be done to take care of ourselves…because, we have bought into the lies. As a result, we are bombarded with shame and embarrassment, and crawl further into our caves of indulgence or protection. Get angry.

Listen, my precious friend, if you do not face the truth of where your unhealed hurt, unresolved issue, or unmet need originates from, you can never find healing. We fill the whiteboard of our lives with all of our failures and carry it around with us. The moment we self-medicate again, we take out our Dry-Erase marker and add to the list. Meanwhile, Satan stands back and laughs at us…lying to us that we will never get it right. We shouldn’t even try. We are labeled by him. All the while, God is lovingly pursuing us…arms wide open, whispering that He loves us, He wants us, He will heal us. He only asks us to lay our whiteboards down at His cross. He paid for those sins…we don’t have to carry them anymore. His love and forgiveness and grace erases and then cleans off the whiteboard…you see only white again…no markings (1 John 1:9, Hebrews 10:22). He wants you to carry around your clean whiteboard…that is what you have to offer others. No more shame. No more baggage. No more. You are worth Jesus Christ to God the Father. If a diamond is worth $10,000, then if you put a diamond on a scale, you would have to put the money on the other side to balance it out. When you were on the scale, God put Jesus on the other side. You are worth and of the same value as He is to God.

Leave your baggage with Him…He never meant for you to handle it. Bask in His unconditional love, unbelievable acceptance, incredible worth, and everlasting security. They are yours.

The above was taken from John and Stasi Eldredge’s book Captivating.

Offended...Insights from a Recovering Legalist

Paul says in Galatians that Jesus Christ is offensive. In John 6, Jesus asks if those following Him were offended. Oswald Chambers says Jesus Christ is the most inconsistent person who has ever walked the face of the earth.
Think about it… He forgave adulterers but convicted religious leaders. He would rather have dinner with a thief than with a scholar. He touched lepers but angered the Pharisees. He broke the religious codes but preached devotion to God. He befriended a man He knew would betray Him. He welcomed children but refused to answer politicians. He spoke in parables knowingly confusing some, allowed a man to die whom He later resurrected, He told people to respect a government obviously opposed to God.
He claimed to be the Messiah but prophesied His own death.
He was a man of seeming contradictions…or was He?
When Jesus asked His disciples if they would follow the crowds and flock away from Him, Peter answered, “Where are we going to go? You are the one with Eternal Life…If You aren’t Who you say you are, we’re all in trouble.”
How could Peter say this? Peter knew his own heart…he knew that if Jesus wasn’t Grace, if Jesus wasn’t Life, if He wasn’t Truth, Peter was damned…literally. Why? Because Peter knew he was a man of inconsistencies. He would rebuke Jesus for talking about dying for the sins of the world.  He would promise to be faithful to Jesus and yet deny Him three times. He would preach grace to Gentiles and yet side with the Jews. His name meant “rock”, but he knew he was a coward. Until the resurrection…
Peter understood his own failures…but stood amazed at the forgiveness of God. His actions were often inconsistent with what he claimed to believe. Jesus was always consistent with Grace.
I don’t understand grace…I am trying to…but I am a long ways away. Legalism preaches safety in perfectionism and perfectionism is only accomplished by following a long list of do’s and don’ts. If I can follow my list, then I won’t have to deal with the guilt and consequences of sin. I cling tightly to my list because of fear…fear of condemnation. My list becomes my “god”. I don’t have a relationship. I don’t need a Savior. I am in control. Isn’t that what Jesus wants? Isn’t that what the Bible preaches?
Who’s being inconsistent?
What do I do when I interact with people who maybe didn’t follow their own lists? What do I tell them? Is there hope? I would say “Yes!”…but then again, how I have lived my life for so many years screams: “No! There is no hope…if you violate your list, you are done for. The end. Nice knowing you.”
“Hi, my name is Nicole and I am an inconsistent legalist.” Yeah. The truth hurts.
God, free me from my own inconsistencies. Believing in grace is scary…it means I let go of all control over my life and the lives of others. It means I believe what the Bible says…
Liars are friends of God…Abraham.
Adulterers are men after God’s own heart…David.
The arrogant are chosen to lead…Joseph.
Murderers are the mightiest leaders…Moses, Paul.
Unbelievers become pillars of the church…James.
Backstabbers father Nations…Jacob.
Idolaters are priests…Aaron.
Drunkards experience miracles…Noah.
Prostitutes are the best worshippers…Mary Magdalene.
Thieves become the greatest givers…Zaccheus.
Believing in grace means I get to embark on the greatest adventure…the opportunity to see You transform lives…starting with mine.