Monday, February 27, 2017

If you accept Jesus, you are complete.

Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and [b]through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses. Acts 13:38-39

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

I was raised in a church tradition that never offered complete eradication of sin. Always a stain remained and sacrifices had to be made to cleanse myself.

Then I found Jesus. Unfortunately the church I joined enjoyed its own set of rules in its quest for holiness.

Did you have a gift of teaching? In order to utilize it, you first had to prove yourself. Try scrubbing bathrooms.

Were you a faithful member? Prove it. Sell what you have and give to the body.

Believe in healing but didn't receive it? Check your faith. The healer, prophet, preacher wasn't wrong, you were lacking.

Silly me followed this dictate. It bled into my perfectionist tendencies. And I lost sight of the truth of the gospel.

If you accept Jesus Christ, you are complete. 

  1. You do not have to volunteer to work in a church. 
  2. You do not have to crawl up steps on your knees. 
  3. You do not have to run around making all things right. 
  4. You do not have to fast for days on end.

If you accept Jesus Christ, you are complete.

Of course, we cannot ignore the book of James. Christ will transform us. We will serve others. We will make things right. We will demonstrate our faith by our works. However, working doesn't make us whole because it's grace that saved us.

If we fall back on the laws of Moses and man and find our justification there, then the whole of the law becomes ours to carry out. Blood sacrifices and all.

I'll choose grace.

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Monday, February 20, 2017

God's Love--True Love: 7 Attributes

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. I John 4:16

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

My husband loved me before I loved him.

God's love is greater than man's.
Don't get me wrong, from our first date, I knew Neil was a man I could marry. We shared core (and not so core) values.

  1. We loved God.
  2. We loved art.
  3. We were low-keyed and enjoyed home and nature and quiet things.
  4. He was a good-looking man with beautiful straight teeth and this head of silver hair that begged for fingers to run through it.
Guess which of the above weren't enduring values?

He wanted to spend time with me. Flowers regularly showed up at my house. Gifts were purchased as he wooed me.

When he proposed, I was shocked. It wasn't that I didn't want to spend my life with him. I needed a little more time, a little more faith, a little more courage to make that leap. 

If a human can love like Neil when someone's love wavers, then God's love is MUCH greater.

God loved us before we loved Him.

Seven Characteristics of God's Love

  1. Has no limits. There's nothing we can do or have done that will limit God's love. (Rom. 8:31-39)
  2. Has no expectations. (Rom. 5:8)
  3. Is not dependent on us.  (Jer. 1:5)
  4. Has our ultimate good in mind. It's life changing. (Rom. 8:38)
  5. Can't be earned. (Eph. 2:8-9)
  6. It's sacrificial. (Phil. 2-7)
  7. It's eternal. Nothing's ever going to separate us from his love. (Ps. 1360
Neil expected nothing from me. He loved me as I was. I never earned his love. For more than a dozen years, he's loved me through my foibles and strengths.

If a man can love so well but imperfectly, how much greater is God's perfect love? Quit trying to be perfect. Perfection will come on its own--through natural responses to God's love.

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Love--Not Perfection: What God Expects

 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

A young friend was expecting her first baby. Family prepared a baby shower on a Sunday afternoon and, of course, all those she loved were invited. This included her church family from the small congregation she attended.

The shower began, but no one from said church arrived. Someone explained they might not be able to make it because they were holding a meeting. 

Stamp, Rejected, Document, RejectA woman from the congregation had left her husband, and was going to marry her former boyfriend. On this Sunday afternoon, this church met to disfellowship her. Blacklisting a former member of their body proved more important than the celebration of life for a vibrant, dedicated believer.

Sadly, this was not the first time I'd seen the church do this--once, they "excommunicated" a man who spoke out against what he saw as wrong with the body. He was no longer a member, having left several months prior. His wife still attended faithfully. (I couldn't figure out how she, as a member, could have no fellowship with the husband she lived with). 

At least one other time, this church blacklisted a former member.

This body of believers loved to brag about how it was on the "cutting edge" of God's will. In order to keep this status it would:

  • fast regularly
  • expect perfect attendance of all members to all functions
  • expect members to adhere to every facet of its beliefs
  • strive for excellence in all things
On the surface, these are good things. However, God only expects on thing--love. 
  1. First, to love Him. After all, He created us because He wanted us. He loved us. 
  2. Next, we are to love others.
Aren't these the two greatest commandments? (Matt. 22: 36-40).

Love never fails.

Humans are sinful. They hurt us and betray their Creator.

However, God restored us through love and His bloody, torturous sacrifice of becoming human and dying on the cross. Only through love can we restore the people in our lives.

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Monday, February 6, 2017

7 Reasons To Not Compare Ourselves

"For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ" Gal. 1:10.

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

My latest glass:
My best--but can't compare to
God's glory
My sister Marianne recently resumed her stained glass construction. This doesn't bode well for my ego because everything she does is exquisite. You can guarantee her solder seams will be as straight as a computer generated line. Her cuttings and piecing, her foiling and patinas will rival Tiffany's. Color selection and design will create a work of art.

And there'll be no stupid white flux lines like the ones plaguing my finished pieces.

And that has thrown me into the comparison game once more. My work does not match hers--and only non-stop practice on my part and quitting stained glass on her end will every bring my talent up to her level.

This whirligig of comparisons destroys my joy and knocks me off the path God has chosen for me to walk. No good thing can come from it. It's stupid--see 2 Cor. 10:12).

Do you do this?

Comparisons destroy our joy. They cause us to forget that God loves us just as we are. It's not our works that bring us salvation or divine love or a coveted spot in heaven.

Instead, we must remember, God has given us enough to be pleasing to Him. Isn't that ample?

Reasons we shouldn't compare ourselves with others:

  1. Egotists do this. Do you want to be in the same category as a narcissist? (Phil. 2:3)
  2. Whose approval are you seeking--God's or man's? (Gal. 1:10)
  3. Is your calling the same as everyone else's? (Rom. 12:2)
  4. Our talents are given by God. Do we rebuke Him because we're not on the same level as Mozart or Einstein? (1 Cor. 4:7)
  5. Our jealousy causes divisions. (Jude 1:19)
  6. What are our motives? Do we wish to lord it over others as the greatest? Jesus didn't, and He is God. (Luke 22: 24-27)
  7. Our arrogance will treat others with contempt. (Luke 18: 9-14)
I have to remember--I may never rival Marianne. She'll never equal Tiffany. He can't compete with the Creator of the universe.

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Monday, January 30, 2017

The Root of Our Issues--Us

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

The root of our issue: We're unclean.
My first marriage fell apart. I'd married a man with issues--totally unaware that he'd married a woman with issues.

Our fights became furious. I'd become the bread-winner and would return from work to find my baby's lunch still on the table, the house a mess and my husband ready to go out and party--often with my girlfriends.

Of course, it's easy to pass blame, nail the dissolution of our vows at his feet. Shamefully, throughout the many years since that marriage dissolved, I never saw my role in it. However, when a marriage fails, each partner plays a part in its demise.

I no longer remember the words I'd say when one of my ex's transgressions drove me to Hades to arm myself with the tools of hell. I remember he allowed me to punch him. Cuss words laced our screaming matches. Dreams of other men filled my lonely nights.

Then, after we divorced, I met Christians who told about Christ and His redeeming love. Blind to my own sins, I struggled to think of things I did wrong. I was a good person--raised my daughter well, worked as a teacher and did a good job, took care of family and friends. Still, I needed to fill the void in my soul, and the message of salvation drew me in like an addiction (a good one--like to coffee or chocolate).

Then, knowing how lost I was, I accepted Christ.

From that moment, I changed. I recognized my sin and no longer had to search for it. I quit the behaviors that disproved my assumptions of being the perfect mother, teacher, daughter.

The Root of Our Issues

  1. We are unclean.
  2. We are blind to the fact that all have sinned (which means us) and fallen short of God's glory.
  3. No one else is to blame for our transgressions.
  4. Trying to fix it through religion, others, self or the world is only stage make-up. It hides the blemishes, but cannot make them vanish.
In my life, that Christ died for me even when I didn't realize I was a sinner, is the greatest blessing of my life.

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Monday, January 16, 2017

To Forgive=To Forget--Part 2 The How To

Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Without forgiveness, the hurts of our lives cling to us like the smoke wildfires.

We burn each time we finger the seared surface.

God knows our pain. After all, He forgave the unpardonable. Upon the cross, after brutal torture despite His innocence, Jesus said, "Forgive them Father for they know not what they do." If He forgave, so can we.


Four Ways to Achieve Forgiveness

1.               Make the decision to forgive. Alcoholics and drug addicts must admit their shortcomings in order to find sobriety. Likewise, in overcoming unforgiveness, we must decide this is something we will do. The anguish won't necessarily go away instantaneously, but over time, it will fade.

2.               Every time you replay the offense say, "I forgive." At first you'll sound like a broken record. Eventually, you'll find you're "forgiving" less and the memories will distance themselves from your life.

3.               Don't expect the perpetrator to change. You are the one who needs to be healed. Other people are responsible for their own lives.

4.               Talk to a trusted friend. This person must be a proven confident, not simply anyone who is within earshot.

5.               Talk to a counselor. Broken friendships, insults, misunderstandings and other petty things can heal by themselves. However, for the monstrous issues, you need a trained professional be it a church pastor or a psychiatrist. Do not be ashamed to reach out for help.

6.               Use your experience to heal others. We've heard of people who have started self-help groups, inspired legislation or simply have become mentors to those suffering the same heartache. By giving to others, your own sorrow can be calmed.

I've used each of the above and can attest to their efficacy. With forgiveness, the welt of a scar might remain, but the pain doesn't.

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Monday, January 9, 2017

To Forgive=To Forget--Part 1

Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Author's note: If you've experienced severe trauma like incest, rape, murder, or other egregious harms, please see a counselor. Still, the path to YOUR healing is forgiveness.

Jesus Showed the Ultimate Example

Jesus was the quintessential perfect man. Still, having done no wrong, the Jewish elite betrayed him. The Romans brutalized him. Once hung to die, they mocked him and gambled for His clothes.

How did Jesus respond? "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

If He gave such a response, how much more should we?

I'll forgive, but I'll never forget

How many times have either we said, "I'll forgive, but I'll never forget"? or heard another person speak the line? In truth,  forgiveness brings forgetfulness. I can attest to the truth of this through many crises in my life.

For example, a particular church I attended years ago had hurt me severely. For the most part, now, I can only remember the fact of the hurt. Specific details of all my wounds have been buried with Christ.

But a composite tale goes something like this: We believed in prophecy, and I'd been told repeatedly that I'd sing the song of the Lord. I'd been taking voice lessons, so I asked to join the music team. Anyone who knows my nuclear family knows the music gene hid from us from the moment of conception. However, in this case, my heart was pure. I needed to figure out how to sing in public if I'd see the word of God come to pass.

Things went well until the sound man turned off my mic.


I got mad. Talked to him, one on one. And to my mind, that was it.

One day I was called into the pastor's office. Once there, I discovered, this wasn't a friendly visit, a pat on the back, a "I'm proud of you for being such a big girl doing everything in your power to fulfill the word of the Lord."


The sound man also had been summoned, and both the pastor and he chastised me for being insulted. A few days later, the music minister kicked me off worship.

I only remember this because I use the illustration to either poke fun at myself or to explain a typical reason why this church and I weren't a good fit.

However, at that time, anger and grief and shame and indignation and all those wonderful works of the flesh rose up in me.

When you forgive--you forget

I told the Lord, "I forgive."

And clearly He spoke to me,  "If you truly forgave, then why do you keep rehashing it?"

From that point on, I began to work hard at forgiveness. 

Through time, the pain and insult dissipated.

How? You know I'm glad you asked. Next week I'll give you some ways to do just that.

In this instant, I found the wrongs done to me vanished from my memory. It's held true in my relationship with this body of believers, in forgiveness of my father, in the pardon toward dear friends who have remained friends and not become enemies. My husband, in my memory, has never done me wrong because any hurts he's caused have been forgiven.