Monday, February 29, 2016

Be Ye (Im) Perfect: We Don't Have to be Perfect

48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Mat. 5:48

This verse tormented me for years. Perfect? Not possible, not for me, but believe me, I tried.

Perfection takes a lot of work
The first church I belonged to demanded this of me. Still, no matter how much effort I put into being perfect, I never fit their mold. If I showed my emotions--I was too histrionic. Controlling my feelings made me cold. Questioning a doctrine categorized me as not having faith, but following things blindly tormented my conscience.

I would read verses like Matthew 5:48, or 1 Peter 1:16, and strive more and more to be as holy as God.

The verse found in Mt. 11: 30 stating our burden was light, the yoke easy further condemned me. I found no peace in perfectionism. The burden was too hard for me to bear.

Then I discovered I did not have to be perfect. I did not have to conform to someone's notion of a Christian woman. I just had to be me.

Not my our works
of righteousness
I discovered the scandal of grace. 

We cannot be perfect. It's not by our works of righteousness that grant us heaven, that give us serenity on earth. It's Jesus Christ.

The point of Matthew 5: 48, my tormenting scripture, is that perfection is not a human potential. Only one being ever attained God's perfection: God Himself in the form of Jesus. Ergo--Impossible for humans.

Holiness is not ours. It's His.
And the New American Standard Version of 1 Peter 1:16 says "You shall be holy; for I am holy." (emphasis mine).

And that emphasis holds the key. We are not perfect on our own--only in Jesus. You shall be because...

Of course, as we follow Jesus, we

 "shall be holy" more and more as we abide in him. However, when we die, He's not going to point out how we failed. He's going to say to us, "Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord."

Have you struggled with the weight of perfectionism? What has it done to you? Do you want to be set free? How does that happen or how have you conquered it?

Come join me as we discover how much we're loved.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Confess Your Sins: The Benefits of Confession--James 5:16-17

Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. James 5:16-17 The Message.

"No," you say. "That went out with the 20th century."
"No," you declare. "That's only for Catholics."
"No." (And with this third iteration of no, we sound like we're talking in toddler-speak.) "I'd be ashamed for people to know what I've done wrong."

And I say, no to all the above.

Confession is an integral part of the Christian experience, and essential for complete spiritual healing. 

Just don't blab your life, or problems, or sins to just anyone.

I remember one time in a small group, we were talking about difficulties we had in our Christian walk. I mentioned that the Bible had become boring to me. After years of fervently devouring the Word, over the last few years, I couldn't get into it.

A week later I received a letter from two women who attended this supposed "safe" group. They impugned my salvation because anyone who found the Bible dull could not be a Christian (I don't think they ever read Chronicles). They derided my confession, and their accusations spiraled me into an anger that made me want to leave the church I loved. 

I didn't leave--praise God.

The lesson I learned is to choose when to confess. Verse 17 of James proclaims that the prayer of a person living right is powerful. Of the two women, one came to me and repented. The other demonstrated she did not live according to the precepts of the gospel...not that she wasn't saved, just ignorant and immature.

Today I'm involved with CR (Celebrate Recovery), a group like AA that helps those struggling with addiction. In order to work with the group, I have to take part in a "Step Study." Here, we work through the twelve steps to recovery just as all addicts do.

As the steps are worked, each member must confess the areas of her life that God is working on. We know that the group is a "safe place." What's said in the group, stays in the group. Each member is treated with respect and without judgment.

The end effect is powerful. No longer are our sins hidden to be used by the enemy to torment us. With our foibles exposed, they heal.

And almost better, the bond between each of us has deepened to a respect and love that transcends our disparate lives.

Confession is, as the cliche goes, good for the soul. In order for it to be so, be sure:

  1. It's to a righteous person
  2. Be sure that person is not judgmental (and believe me, you can tell quickly by conversation whether the person judges)
  3. It's understood everything we say is confidential
  4. If not to a church leader, be sure it's reciprocal
  5. Tapestry weaving
  6. Be certain of those who lead your church. Not all who say, "Lord, Lord" (Mt. 7:21) have the precepts down right.
Our group has become a beautiful tapestry--three lives woven together by the Master Creator. The end product is more beautiful and stronger than any of our lives alone.How has confession helped (or hindered) your walk?

Next week we leave James and explore how God loves us.

Monday, February 15, 2016

What's Wrong With This Country

Scenography for the movie Greed. 1926.
We have fattened our hearts in the day of slaughter
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you.... You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you. James 5: 1-6

Do the elections scare you as much as they frighten me?

Maybe it's the fact that I've just finished reading Isaiah and Jeremiah. In the calamities of Israel and Judah, I see our nation.

My prayer is: "Lord, do not give us what we deserve."

The issue is not in the politicians. Yes, many are corrupt and ensconced in their greed

But neither do our economic problems stem from entitlements such as welfare.

We, as a nation, want something for nothing: a free college education or free health care. If it's not free, cheap will do: cheap gas, inexpensive clothing, low mortgages. 

We live in a give-me society, and we forget everything has a cost. 


Bernie Sanders cannot give us free health care. Someone needs to pay for it. Donald Trump cannot freely get rid of all immigrants. There's a cost. Hillary Clinton will not control Wall Street since they have already paid her off. Cruz, Rubio, Bush, Kasich. Not one of them will heal our nation.

But the issue isn't "them."  It's us.

To get cheap clothing, we buy materials manufactured overseas where de facto slavery runs the the sweat shops. 

Our cheap electronics are created under conditions in foreign countries that American law would not allow here at home.

We've lived luxuriously on the earth. Our lives are filled withwanton pleasure. Our hears, like our bodies have become obese--so I fear that God could well be leading us to the day of slaughter.

We need to think about Fair Trade. Under this principle, humans are paid a living wage under human working conditions. We must consider buying American made products, as well. For all of this, we will pay more. We will have less, but our lives will not be corrupted by greed that send politicians spiraling into finger-pointing wars all the while hiding their own corruption.

We have hope. 2 Chronical 7:14 says if we, as Christians, humble ourselves, if we pray--we can be healed.

For me, I pray every morning for our country, for God to give us what we need, not what we deserve. 

Ethically, I write about global equality and try to buy products judiciously. I'm only one person. We all need to change.

How can you humble yourself?

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Blessings of Despair

Certainty (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
"14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away." James 4:13

Cerebral palsy afflicted Alex. When I met him, he was three, the same age as my daughter. On this particular day, he accomplished a "miracle of God", or so my friend had proclaimed.

He stuck his tongue out.

This horrified me. Unsaved and unsure of God's absolute mercy and love, I saw Alex's affliction and could acknowledge no miracle in his life.

My own daughter, oblivious of the "workings of God" going on in the kitchen, sat on the living room floor and happily watched Mr. Rogers lead children through his peaceful neighborhood.

As I left my friends' home, I ranted against the God I did not believe in. How dare he afflict children with appalling conditions? How could my friends, people who'd become my solace during my miserable and lonely marriage, adore a Creator like this Jesus.


When my temper settled, I reflected on the fleeting nature of life, and about the length of eternity.

We live for the breadth of an eye blink. Then, like May flies or a day lily, our brief life ends. We enter eternity--and that goes on and on and on and...

You get the idea.

Alex's affliction, in the span of forever, was brief, shorter than the life span of a night-blooming cerseus. Forever, he'd be rewarded with glory.

And the effect on me?

My daughter is a bright, beautiful, normal child. Today she works well, is a good mother and wife. Like me, not a superstar, not fashion-model pretty. But Alex's plight made me see mine as richer, more glorious.

And most important: the lesson I took from Alex's life, brought me a step closer to my own salvation.

When the unthinkable happens, remember, God's direction will never take you where His grace can't sustain you.

Have there been Alexes in your life? What have they taught you?

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Hymn Battles: Conflict and Lust, James 4:1

What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. James 4:1-3

I adore my church. Being a member only since June, I find no flaw in it. It worships divinely. The teaching is solid.The people are welcoming and accepting. They follow God, walk in faith, and demonstrate true Christianity.

And they grieve.

Why,when all is so perfect?

A contingency had an argument and left. Sadly, the split is quite cliche: should we use the organ and hymns exclusively or mix it up with contemporary choruses?

Since the pastor decided to mix it up, and to take the control away from those who did not have the authority to dominate, a group of people picked up their hymnals and (if they could) their organs and went home.

The sad part is, the old order of worship had not been abolished, only updated and blended. 

I, personally, don't care for hymns--although today I've found myself singing "Blessed Assurance" all day long (no pun intended--all the day long!). During my first visit to my church, all they sang were the standard hymns, and I felt the presence of God that compelled me to worship.

I still don't like hymns. I still worship better with contemporary ballads--but when God shows up, I don't care how.

Why the musical and heart-rending drama? Lust and power and envy dominated the spirits of those who packed up and trekked to a church more to their opinions. They left in their wake a faithful, and welcoming congregation now grieving because of the animosity the fleeing have created. They mourn the loss of their family.

Silly things to fight about.

The Zika virus is destroying lives. Refugees, from the Middle East, from Africa, from Central America, cannot find refuge. People succumb to addictions. Charlatans and crooks want to run our country. And our churches bemoan their music!

Pray for what you want, for your needs, for others. God will hear--IF we pray according to his will and not to consume our answered prayers on our own egos.

Have people's lust and envy hurt you? How do you heal?

In truth, I'd love to hear of your experiences...together we can pray according to God's will.