Monday, May 29, 2017

Marriage, Moving and Salvation--A Parable

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. Col. 1:13

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

For twenty years, I parented alone.

No man visited the church I dedicated myself to, and I wasn't going to search among the unsaved for love or a father-figure for my daughter.

In my fifties, I met Neil. We married. We switched churches. Finally, we moved from New York to Tennessee.

Here no one knows me as a single mother. No one is aware of the sins I committed in my Christian walk or the missteps and misbeliefs of my life.

Here I am a mature Christian with abundant gifts. Daily friends and ministers remind me of how blessed they are by my life.

My sins have been covered.

This is a parable of salvation:

  1. Before we accept Christ, we live in sin and shame. Any single person who attends an organization filled with married people, know they are unintentionally ostracized. There was no "sin" in my singleness, but we can look at it as a metaphor. I felt alone and inadequate. With no mate, I knew (erroneously) I was  undesirable. Daily I prayed for God to cover my "shame."
  2. We become the bride of Christ. With my vows to Neil, my singleness had been erased. Just as with my vows to Jesus, all my sin had vanished.
  3. Salvation moves us from one kingdom to another.  No one knows me without my "covering." Here I'm married, and for all intents, had been married all my life. So many people enumerate my great qualities. They're impressed that I've published three books. They believe I do wonders in my mentoring of recovering addicts. They think I'm a Bible scholar. My move, like salvation, has removed my "sins of the past" and transferred me into a "kingdom of  glory."

Of course marriage and moving don't mirror the glory of salvation. But God, when we accept him as Lord and Savior, moves us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. Old things have passed away, all things have become new.

Think of the patriarchs. They all moved. Their marriages reflected the kingdom of God. Salvation doesn't care where you've been or what you've done. It creates a new creation.

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Horizontal Repentance: 3 Signs of Worldly Grief

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 2 Cor. 7:10

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

New York State has annual regents exams. Like all tests, they have strict guidelines. If a student asks directions on how to answer, teachers were instructed to say, "Read the question and do your best."

One question asked students to write a letter for a specific purpose. The instructions asked them to only write the body of the letter. However, the kids had been taught through eleven years of schooling that letters had return addresses, business addresses, salutations, and closings. For this test, we'd told them--let's round the number up to the closest guestimate--a billion times to answer this standard question like an essay: intro, body, conclusion.

While proctoring, a young woman raised her hand. I went to see her need.

"Do I use my address? They didn't give me their's" she said.

"Read the instructions." I can be trained to respond appropriately.

"But I don't have all the information..."

And around it went, until my normal teaching habits kicked into automatic responses. "No. Remember? It's just the body. Beginning, middle, end." 

Of course, my department head caught me. Turned me in for cheating. Got me written up.

Never had I been disciplined in my work. I believed my integrity had been assaulted, and I spent months (literally) in tears and sorrow.

A good friend Barry comforted me. One phrase he said knocked into me the realization about my melodrama. "Are you sorry for what you did, or that you got caught?"

Insulted, I couldn't admit to him he was correct. Not admitting it prolonged my grief.

I didn't want to cheat. Never intended to do so. I couldn't admit it then, but the grief of having a formal reprimand drove me out of my mind.

This is horizontal grief. Worldly repentance. 

Not godly.

Signs of Worldly Grief

  1. I'm sorry if... I'm sorry you... Do you cast your apology in terms of the other person disapproving. "I'm sorry if my actions offend you." "I'm sorry you didn't like that." It's not about you being wrong. It's about the other person being offended by your actions.
  2. If you weren't caught, would you be sorry or feel the grief? In my example, I knew instantly that I goofed, and I would have striven to never make the mistake again. In that sense, my grief was godly. However, even though I couldn't admit it, Barry was right. Had I not been caught, my sorrow would not have overcome me.
  3. Did it effect raw emotions only or did it prompt change? Emotions change. If you haven't given your wrongdoings to God, Satan will buffet you with them. If you've confessed and striven to change your life, then it's godly repentance.

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Monday, May 8, 2017

Strawberries and Religious Works: Three Ways Works Deceive Us

Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but the (person) who fears the Lord is to be praised. Proverbs 31:30

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

I sliced into a strawberry. The red fruit was large and perfectly formed. It lay in a container with other berries identical to it. My mouth watered with the promise of the sweetness of summers past.

Those berries had been small. My daughter, Sarah, and I would crawl along a friend's field and pick. The juice stained our fingers (and our mouths--we never deceived Louise, the owner of the field, that the berries we weighed were the only ones we took). Not able to wait until we washed the fruit, we gobbled the irregularly shaped strawberries with bits of sand still clinging to them.

This morning I dug into my huge berry-laden bowl of cereal. And the promise of the outward appearance deceived me. Strawberries had gone the way of tomatoes and become beautiful, tempting cardboard. 

That's us and our works.

Too often, I'd been deceived by the promise of ministry. I wanted to work for God and the bigger the better.

Little did I know how skewed my perception was.

Sitting on the vine soaking in the sunshine of God's Being, being rained on by His majesty and His perfect ways is what God wants of us.

Priscilla Shirer in Discerning the Voice of God says, "Often we seek to know God's direction more than we seek to know God. We bypass the relationship because we would rather have answers about us" (67).

Your works are deceiving you if:

  1. You want the BIG gifts--pastorate, missionary, teacher because of the glory they bring to you. Too many Christians are impressed by these gifts. I met a woman, typical of many Christians, who, when she learned my husband was a pastor, turned her whole attention to me. Then she discovered he'd retired. She no longer would look my way because a retired pastor held no glory. Too many want the works so they can boast.
  2. You believe God will only accept you if you work.  In April 24th's blog, we explored how works are a natural outflow of love, not a way to earn it.
  3. They interfere with sitting down and knowing God. I can cook, clean, and gift my husband, but if I don't sit in his presence and know who he is, my marriage isn't going to make it. I do the above because I know him and love him. I don't do it to earn his affection or respect.
Works, too often, are about us, not about our relationship.

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Monday, May 1, 2017

Proof of Christianity: Chronic Repentance

 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;  not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Eph. 2:8-9

By: Carol McClain @carol_mcclain

Newly divorced with a young child, I started life over again in Malone, a tiny town in Northern New York. Here I met some lovely people who attended a charismatic church. One woman, Colleen, befriended me as she witnessed to me, and the Holy Spirit began His final work in bringing me to salvation.

One thing Colleen told me was that we'd all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We needed to repent.

In my naive mind, I examined my conscience and struggled to discover my sins. Somewhere, back a week or two prior, I may have cursed. Once, perhaps, I gossiped. After a quick prayer, I resumed my normal life.

One day I realized God is real. Christianity is true. I needed to be saved.

Suddenly the truth of my life opened up to me, and I saw my true spiritual state. When the Bible said to pray continually, I knew why--we had to cover the chronic sin in our lives.

Matt Chandler in Recovering Redemption says, "The proof of Christianity isn't perfection. In fact, one of the key ways you can tell you're saved--as backward as this logic may feel or sound--is when your faith continually leads you toward repentance, and Jesus continually brings about change."

Proof of Christianity

  1. We understand God is gracious--not cruel. He doesn't call us sinners to degrade us. It's the truth in love. As a mother, I'd correct my daughter, not to be mean--although I'd never convince her that kindness led me to correct her. My correction occured to improve her life.
  2. God doesn't give us more than we can bear--even though it doesn't always appear that way. Many people face horrible circumstances--death of loved ones, disease, loss. However, God's grace always gets us through. He always provides a way to carry our burdens.
  3. We don't see our sin until our character is capable of dealing with it. In my life, I'll grow like a toddler. Parents see a child putting on a belly and know their baby is about to grow.  My "belly" is contentment in my character. I look at my life and know I've got it all together. At that point, I know growth is coming, and when it does, I don't believe I'll ever be good.
  4. Every day, we improve. Growth is never observable in the day to day. We don't see a tomato plant grow its blossom. One morning, through, a yellow flower appears on it. That's us. Slowly, our sins fade. We mature and produce the fruit of the spirit. As we look back over our lives, the changes for the good amaze us.

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