Challenging Narratives

Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” NASV

My husband had a conversation with someone dear to us that has inspired me to work through some thoughts I’ve kind of held on to for awhile now. I say kind of, because I’ve shared them with him but no one else.

I want to talk about grace– actually– point out a lack of the narrative of grace.

Grace is the difference between Christianity and every other religious belief.

Grace is humbling. Grace removes our efforts from the act of Salvation.

Grace should be easy to demonstrate and practice, a relaxation of criticism and fault-finding. But, in reality, grace is tough.

Grace removes blame. Grace replaces pride and self importance.

Grace removes accusations of other Christians.

We have many, many, many excuses for why it’s not first and foremost in our mindset, actions and view of others.

We look at what others do and we jump to some pretty strong conclusions about them and the condition of their soul, because of their choices that we don’t agree with.

We judge the container of their soul and think we’re in the right.

Only Jesus Saves.

Not doing the “right” “approved” things.

Not going to every church service possible and exhausting ourselves while not being ministered to or admitting what our needs are.

Not having a perfect house.

Not only reading “accepted” books or playing “accepted” games.

We don’t lose our Salvation by watching movies or shows that have garbage in them.

Our part in the Salvation process is confessing with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and Savior, and believing in our heart that He died on the cross, was buried in a borrowed tomb, rose again on the third day, and He ascended into Heaven to wait for the time to return to rule and reign on earth for 1000 years. And then– go out and share the Gospel of peace and grace.

That is our part.

Jesus makes the changes to the desires of our hearts.

He is continuously perfecting us until His return.

Allow me to clarify: I’m not talking about outright sin. Some things are not in our best interest. Some things are stumbling blocks and we know what we need to avoid in order to have the best relationship with Jesus that we can– like we should also do with others.

Before every Christian there is a measure of grace.

Christians should be so full of grace that it coats every word and deed we do.

So– why isn’t the main narrative grace?

Which narrative will you fall for? Accuser of the brethren, or grace?

I want to choose grace.

How about you?

Relationship Versus Wrongs

What do you focus on with your best friend? How about with your spouse or significant other? Your family?

Do you concentrate on what you have in common? Do you remember how they have wronged you?

Are you confident in how good things are, or are your thoughts consumed with how they just don’t measure up to your standards?

Do you tell others the positive things about them? Or do you feel justified in telling others about what you see as negative qualities?

Does how you treat them, how you talk about them to others, have any impact on that relationship?

How do they treat you, or talk about you? Does that affect how close you feel to them?

What does a healthy relationship even look like?

What about Jesus?

Do we focus on how Jesus has wronged us? How He just doesn’t meet (or mete) our standards? Do we tell everyone negative things about Jesus?

I’m pretty sure the answer is no to the last 3 questions. How do you even measure against His perfection?

So, let’s flip it around.

Does Jesus focus on how we have wronged Him? I think some people really believe He does, but Scripture tells us He throws our sins as far as the east is from the west. That there is no record of wrong.

Is He disappointed that we just don’t measure up to Him? I mean– who can, right? Scripture reminds us that Jesus is our strength, the Holy Spirit is both our Teacher and our Comforter, and that God is our Father. We have been adopted by Him, grafted into the vine of His family tree!

Does Jesus tell everyone the negative things He knows about us? No. Instead, He is our Mediator. He prays for us– He prayed for us all in the Garden of Gethsemane. He felt so much love and compassion, burdened so deeply for us then, that it caused Him to sweat His blood as He prayed! Who else has ever done that for even one of us?

And then– then He willingly died to become the final sacrifice to God, to pay for our failings, our inability to do right by God.

He became our Mediator– standing between God and the punishment for rebelling against God in our actions and in our hearts. He became our covering, the lens God now views us through.

If this is how much we are worth to Jesus, how much should we practice love, kindness, generosity– forgiveness– with our friends, spouses and loved ones?

The saying is, “You can’t pick your family.”

Jesus didn’t pick us– and yet He did! Our sins, our rebellion, against our Creator were the cause for Jesus to be abused and nailed to a cross to be murdered. There was no justification for Jesus to be killed, He did nothing wrong. We did! Jesus could have hated us all, instead. He could have focused on all we did wrong, and turned away with hatred and anger at us. He could have– but He did not. And God accepted His willingness to die the eternal death every one of us deserves. And because there was no sin found in Jesus, God raised Him back to life, and took Him up to sit next to Himself, at and as His righteous right hand. Jesus is God’s Right Hand man.

And Jesus, having done all of that for us, does not focus on what we did to cause Him to be murdered. No. Instead He has given His life to God, to help us be better. To strengthen us. To give us confidence. To free us from the death traps that have been set out for us by the enemy of God, the enemy of our souls. He sets us free as we trust in all He is, all He has done, and all that will come to pass.

Jesus has forgiven us. Jesus has forgotten our sins, all of our sins.

Shouldn’t we?

It’s no longer about sin– it’s about our relationship with Jesus.

Jesus paid it all!

All to Him I owe!

Sin had left a crimson stain,

He washed it white as snow!

Home

Home- Chris Tomlin

As a kid, when my Grandma yelled “Kids! Dinner!”, I stopped what I was doing, dropped everything, turned towards her voice and house, and raced home as fast as my legs would move me.

Before that, I was so involved in whatever I was doing or playing like “ice cream truck” with my tricycle upside down and the pedals spinning, (not sure how exactly that made it an ice cream truck, but– it was the best game to play!), or burying m&m’s and pennies hoping for very special trees to grow quickly– nothing else mattered!

Important things, right?

As I Watched the video linked above, I had this mental picture of Jesus in the distance, and then of me just freed from wrist shackles– throwing off the weight of the world that ties me to this place, taking off at a full dead-on run, pushing my legs hard to get to Jesus.

All those things I’ve been focused on asking for God to bring His Kingdom here on earth– Jesus is His Kingdom.

Jesus is His promise.

There is no one else I want to be as close to as possible, besides my husband– and even he takes a backseat to my Jesus. My Rescuer. My Holy Hero.

There is some ugliness in the world that is not going to let the healing, transformative Light and Life of Jesus into it. Ever. It will burn in that lake of fire with the enemy of God and our souls.

I want to be as close to Jesus as I possibly can be. Here on earth, in Heaven. Everywhere.

This song has reminded my spirit. There is nothing more important than closeness with Jesus.

Nothing.

No matter where I am, when I am close with Jesus– I am Home.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4 NASB

His rod and staff can only comfort me when I am close to Him. This Psalm is a picture of walking close to Jesus.

There Will Be Weeping And Gnashing Of Teeth

My stomach has been in knots lately. I avoid the “ugly” online, as much as possible. What I’ve recently seen– I can’t unsee it. I didn’t look for it, but I was still confronted by it.

It’s a reality that I can’t hide my understanding from any longer. And now I realize, I cannot pray effectively if I hide my head in the “positives” that make me feel safe and happy.

Some have had their safety and happiness stolen away from them.

Whether you follow the recent “conspiracies” or you just struggle through your day-to-day life, God is unchanging. He is unmoved from His position.

What is His position, you might ask?

Righteousness.

Justice.

Forgiveness.

Grace.

Mercy.

And– when necessary– Vengeance.

Why am I writing about this now?

Even those who don’t turn to God through the Salvation of Jesus recognize that– for some– there is a need for Justice, and even want Vengeance.

We Christians often talk about the Love of God and all those “feel good”, “warm fuzzy” things. It’s time we start recognizing there will, soon I believe, be a time God will execute His Vengeance.

I can’t even bring myself to say for those who deserve it. Because I know, if not for Jesus, we all would be in danger of it. It will be worse than the most awful thing anyone could contrive in their imagination.

“Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord.” Romans 12:19 NASB

I’ve heard of and seen some things that should just never be.

When those people– and I believe He has them in His sights– refuse to turn to Him, convinced they don’t need Him– when Repentance, Grace and Mercy are rejected, what is left?

God sees all, knows all, is everywhere at once. Nothing, no thing, is hidden from Him. He knows our thoughts. He sees us when we wake up and when we go to sleep.

It’s important for those who Trust in Him to walk in forgiveness of others and trust Him for His timing and choice in the execution of His Vengeance.

His Wrath will be seen– soon. There is no rock to hide under, no cave that is deep enough, no place in space or the air that is out of His reach. The Creator of all the Universes is greater, more powerful than everything combined. He sees into those dark places most of us do not want to look at or acknowledge.

He knows.

I pray He grants Repentance to those who are in His sight for Vengeance.

The Wrath of God is a terrible thing! Those who may very well experience that, they have no idea what is coming. No person or group of people, or event can stop it or soften it’s blow.

Repent now, seek God while He May be found! The Lord is slow to anger, quick to listen to a sincerely reverent repentant heart. Will some of them repent?

His anger has been building up slowly for some time now.

They may not believe in Him, but their unbelief cannot protect them.

Only Jesus can protect them.

“It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 10:31 NASB

We should be praying God gives those doing wicked in His sight, ears to hear and eyes to see what the Lord would say to them.

As much as I want to hate those who are purposefully involved in the ugliest of evil– I am afraid for them. Their arrogance and pride will melt away as nothing.

If only they would repent and be sincerely Saved. Not saved from their actions. Their souls rescued for Eternity, while they are held accountable to humanity.

I can say it is well with my soul. Yes, I feel a seething anger, and I know God’s judgement has to come. I can hate the actions and words of some, but I can never rejoice that the wrath of God will be like an angry lion ripping apart its prey. Hell was not made for people, and I hate that some will be tricked into it.

No one who is living has gone too far away from Salvation.

It Is Well

Unavailable

Usually I make myself available for others to talk with, to help with their online businesses, to help their friends with their online businesses…

It’s rarely convenient for me. But I value people and sincerely want to help others succeed.

I’m seeing how little that is actually valued beyond the moment it happens, so I’m stopping that part of my friendship offering.

If I kept a journal of friends and family seeking me out first to talk with and spend time with because they genuinely enjoy my company, because they take an interest in what I am interested in– it would be full of blank pages.

I have become that person that is an afterthought to everyone. I’m the convenient one to ask to buy things, or help get someone through some sort of a bind– as long as I don’t ask for the same in return.

I’m the person who has no value outside of political opinions. And if mine don’t match yours– I am valueless.

I’m the mom expected to help in the nursery or with the kids at church often, to pay my “dues” since I have kids– and if I don’t, I’m the mom everyone gets upset with.

I have been a giving person because I want to be. I can’t remember the last time I was given to. I rarely ask for advice or help– especially when I need it, because I already know I will be hard-pressed to find it.

I often say yes just because I know too well how it feels to be told no.

Well…

Now it’s going to be no.

No more helping online parties. No more sacrificing sleep to listen and be there for someone across the world. No more taking up someone else’s interests just to spend time with them.

I am right now feeling exactly how empty giving of myself has made me.

I am now unavailable. I doubt it will be noticed or that I will be missed.

Someday God will also be unavailable. Seek Him while He May be found– because instead you may find Him unavailable and at that point it will be too late.

3 fingers pointing back at myself at that reminder.

I’m A Mom

Maybe you can relate–

Do you know who I have to talk to on a daily basis? My kids— one who can on occasion be opinionated while challenging everything I say– makes me feel like I’m the stupidest person on earth because I never know what I am talking about. I have my husband, but he gets busy or involved with his own stuff and doesn’t always even hear me. He tries, but he can’t stop doing his own stuff just because I want someone to talk with and do things with.

Some days it would be nice if I had a friend who didn’t stop talking to me when I start talking about me. Who’s there for *me*, not just me for them. I don’t need problem-solving or advice, I don’t need to be ignored until it’s convenient to talk because something is needed. I need a consistent friend that does not expect me to always initiate or to give until it hurts while agreeing with everything they believe politically/religiously and then wait until they get around to getting back to me after they just drop off texting. Or gets offended and doesn’t value me enough to work things out.

I am far more isolated than most realize or care to know, I guess. But— pay no mind to my irritated rant— I’ll go back into my corner and look at the news–

That’s what I feel like saying sometimes.

I don’t know if this is common, or just me. It’s pretty much always been my life. I think if someone else stepped into my shoes, they would get back out really fast.

My life itself is really good. But that friend issue– it’s a lonely place.

Thankfully when I start to feel sorry for myself, God reminds me that He always provides what I need. I always have just who I need in my life when I need them. Then they move on or get busy with their own lives, or just step back because they don’t much care for me. I’m used to that– life goes on.

I’d be surprised if anyone really does relate.

It would be a nice surprise, though.

The Oppression of Skepticism

I was right.

God has spoken to my spirit a few times about things over the past 25 years, and I continue to find out that I heard Him correctly. Yet– when I try to step out in faith of what I know my Lord and Savior has shared with me, has led me to pray about, or has warned me about, it amazes me how my brothers and sisters in Christ— some near to my own heart– shut me down. They don’t trust me or believe that God would choose to be active in our– in my— relationship with Him.

They don’t want to hear from God– through me.

Well, I’m not letting people hold me back or push me down any longer.

They can live with their skepticism, I choose to step out in the faith of my amazing, loving, kind God Who leads me in all wisdom, Who increases my understanding, Who gives and increases my discernment.

I blame me for trusting in or relying on the opinions of those around me– for allowing myself to be gauged by people I have believed would listen to God’s Spirit for confirmation rather than skepticize– and I repent from that. Their lack of faith in God’s Spirit for confirmation and trust in my ability to discern my Shepherd’s voice is deeply hurtful.

Deeply.

I’m trusting God to guide my steps forward with new confidence because–

I was right.