Don’t Shy Away from Difficulty

Our son is currently in basic training for military service to our country. We are incredibly proud of him and want him to succeed in all of his training areas.

This week he starts training in the field.

It’s spring in Texas and that means storms and flooding usually. Last week was particularly active with thunderstorms, flooding and a few tornadoes. On the lighter end of the weather spectrum is oppressive humidity & heat. I hate trying to sleep outside in a tent when it’s hot, muggy & buggy, so I started to pray for him.

I was going to ask the Lord to bless he and his fellow recruits with beautiful, mild weather, so they would have an easier time of it, but I stopped without uttering the words.

These young men and women need to be prepared to function in adverse conditions. Fair weather is not a fair challenge of their endurance & ability to adapt. Almost anyone can do their best when conditions are favorable, but our world is not set up that way. We do our children (and ourselves) a disservice when we want the world to change to make our life easier.

One of my favorite lines from The Princess Bride is spoken by Wesley to Princess Buttercup, when he is facing her as his alter-ego, The Dread Pirate Roberts:

“Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” 

Do I want my son safe & unharmed? Absolutely. Do I want he or other recruits to suffer abuse from superiors or fellow enlistees? Absolutely not! But there is a difference between difficulty and abuse. Those who survive and thrive are those who don’t give up when times get tough. For Christians, we have the assurance that God will pour out as much grace as we need to meet whatever challenge we face:

James 4:6 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)
6 But He gives us more and more grace (power of the Holy Spirit, to meet this evil tendency and all others fully). That is why He says, God sets Himself against the proud and haughty, but gives grace [continually] to the lowly (those who are humble enough to receive it).

The Apostle Paul was like any one of us. He got tired and he got fed up.

God had blessed Paul with incredible revelation of Jesus, in all of His many facets of glory. God gave Paul gifts of miracles & healings through the power of the Holy Spirit, as confirmation of Paul’s preaching. Many people came to Christ through the ministry of this mighty man of God.

And Satan didn’t like it. So he came up with a plan to try to stop Paul’s work. Paul describes what he was dealing with in 2 Corinthians 12:7-8:

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.”

Almost everywhere Paul preached, riots broke out. People threatened him, had him arrested, or tried to kill him. If it were me, I would be pleading with God, too: HELP! MAKE IT STOP!

But the Lord didn’t take this particular thorn in the flesh away. He simply answered Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9 a

Paul came to a place of rest in Christ where he simply trusted God to provide what he needed, when he needed it, as his words attest:

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9 b – 10

Perhaps what you need right now is not a perfect life, but God’s perfect grace. He is for you and longs to show Himself strong through you, and on your behalf. All you have to do is ask & believe.

Blessings ❤

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Why God Hates Sin

So many people think that God is vengeful & mean, just sitting on His throne in heaven waiting to zap us with a thunder-bolt every time we do something wrong.

For starters, that image is more appropriate to a pagan God, like Zeus or Odin.

When I speak of God, I am speaking of the One True Living God. God the Creator. Jehovah, El Shaddai. The God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob. God the Father, the One who sent His only Begotten Son, Jesus, who is also God, and the Holy Spirit. The divine Trinity.

I make this distinction for a reason. God, little “g”, represents many different things to different people. When someone says they believe in god, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they believe in the Judeo/Christian God, or Jesus, who is the only one who gives us access to the real, true living God, big “G”:

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” ~ John 14:6

Now that I have laid that foundation, back to the reason for this post: God hates sin. No ifs, ands or buts. Anyone who says differently is trying to sell you something…or deceive you…and is deceived themselves.

Sin is anything that God says is sin, or sinful. Sin is not subject to trends or societal mores. There are no acceptable & unacceptable sins in God’s eyes. That’s a human construct. That is, if the human in question even considers the reality of sin. Many people don’t and are highly offended by the use of the word. Here is one thing the Lord says in regard to sin and sinners:

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes And clever in their own sight!” ~ Isaiah 5:20-21

Good is also whatever God says is good, just so we’re clear. There are many good things that our western society calls bad: monogamy, integrity, obedience to authority, truth, freedom, purity, forgiveness, mercy, etc.

Since I am a parent, a mom, I’m going to share with you what God has shown me in regards to hating sin, from a parent’s perspective. I think anyone, though, who truly loves someone else can relate to the example I’m going to use.

As a parent, I hate anything that has the potential to hurt or destroy my child. Let’s use addiction as an example for this post. What my child may see as good or desirable or harmless, like say drugs or alcohol, I see as a threat to my child’s health & well-being. Just because something is legal or natural does not exempt it from being dangerous. While liquor is legal for adults over 21, how many people’s lives have been destroyed because of someone’s misuse or overuse of beer, wine or distilled beverages? The same applies with drugs, dangerous sexual activity, gambling, food, spending money…whatever. The addicted person is no longer in control of that thing. Instead, the thing is now controlling them.

I am not saying it’s a sin if you drink alcohol. Just please consider what I am saying. As a parent, no matter how young or old your child is, it hurts to see the one you love enslaved to an addiction of any kind. Marriages are destroyed because of addictions. Families break apart, children are scared, scarred & abused because someone in their world is under the control of something stronger than they are. The reality of an alcohol addiction is not the breezy, beachy Corona scene of commercials:

beer_beach-06-2407

It more often looks like this:

Children-Growing-up-with-Alcoholic-Parents

or this:

alg-teen-alcohol-jpg

If your child or loved one is under the control of alcohol, do you have warm, fuzzy thoughts when you see them drunk? Are you happy to see that six-pack enter your house? Is it a pleasant surprise when you find liquor bottles hidden in a closet or stashed under a bed? My guess is you would hate the thing that is contributing toward the destruction of your child, spouse or friend. I know I would.

After a period time you may start to resent and hate the person too, if you’re not careful. After all, they are causing you a lot of emotional pain, possibly physical pain as well.

You hate the thing that is destroying your child. God hates sin, because it destroys the ones He loves…us. And here’s the thing: everyone has sin. Not one person is exempt from the condition or consequences of sin because we are born with it:

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Romans 3:23

“If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.” 1 John 1:8

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man (Adam), and death through sin, so also death was passed on to all men, because all sinned.” Romans 5:12

Now, as a parent, spouse or friend of someone who is addicted to (*fill in the blank), wouldn’t you do anything to see them set free, healthy & whole?

God has already done something. Sin does not have to hold you in bondage any longer. You’ve heard it before, but hear it again:

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:16-17

God is giving you an escape, a way out of the sin that you were born with and can never be rid of on your own.

“Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.…” John 3:18

Just like an addicted person who thinks they can handle their (*fill in the blank) and doesn’t need any help from anyone, we can never do enough good works or be “good enough” in and of ourselves to satisfy the righteous standard of a Holy God.

God punished sin when Jesus, His sinless Son, willing went to the cross & took the sin of the world upon Himself… past, present & future…suffering a punishment we all deserve but are spared when we accept His sacrifice on our behalf.

Haven’t their been instances when someone you love is suffering, and you think, “Oh please Lord, let it be me and not them!” This is what Jesus has done for you. He suffered in your place. He took our sin, and the punishment our sin deserves, because of His unfailing love:

“Greater love has no one than this, that one should lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

Jesus laid down His life for you. Receive the mercy, cleansing & love He paid such a high price to give to you and be free.

 

Outstretched Handedited

 

 

Mercy and Grace

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy”  Matthew 5:7

I confess that I love God’s mercy! And not only do I love it, I need His mercy everyday.

If I receive His mercy, then I need to extend that same generousity and grace to others. I love this description of mercy from Merriam-Webster:

~ kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly

 ~ kindness or help given to people who are in a very bad or desperate situation

~ compassion or forbearance shown, especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power; also :  lenient or compassionate treatment

~ compassionate treatment of those in distress

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love it when someone is gentle with me when I’m having a hard time. And I’m astounded and humbled when someone graciously and patiently responds to me when I have been less than gracious and patient with them!

Mercy and forgiveness can be demonstrated in so many ways:

* Offer a word of encouragement to a busy cashier. I can guarantee they have heard and felt the pressure of other people’s irritation. We can be the bright spot in their day.

* Let someone steal the parking space you were waiting for. Take a deep breath and find another one. While annoying, it’s not worth the drama. Ask God to bless them with peace in their day, too.

* When your spouse comes home and fills you in on their bad day– just listen. Ask God for the ability to nurture and love them even though you are tired too. Hug them and tell them you love them. God will return the favor to you.

I think the reason some people have such a hard time with this is because they have never experienced true mercy. Or they do not see or acknowledge their own weaknesses, and are therefore harsh with others. This is particularly hard for people who are “strong” and/or gifted in their life.

I put strong in quotation marks for a reason. Strength is an illusion. If you ever find yourself in a position of weakness for any reason, you will know what I mean. True strength is manifested through faith in God and His ability to work through us and on our behalf. We are never told to be strong in ourselves, but in Christ:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” Ephesians 6:10

And as far as being gifted, well– it’s a gift. We are simply the recipient, not the originator of the ability or talent…so we need to recognize it as such.

I wish I could tell you that I have learned to be merciful because I read it once in the bible, understood it, then went off with flowers in hand and love in my heart, blessing everyone I met…but that is not the case. I have come face-to-face with my own weaknesses, short-comings and failures. I have been humbled by the love and compassion God has shown me throughout my life. I have received forgiveness when I didn’t deserve it, kindness when I could have been rejected or rebuked and help when I was emotionally overwhelmed or physically unable. God has sent people to encourage me when I have been stressed out and afraid, to help me when I was sick and others to gently teach me when I didn’t understand. I am so grateful for all the love and mercy He has shown me, how can I not turn around and show others the same?

Mercy in action