grace

Day 24: Not yet perfect

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

Have some of you noticed that we are not yet perfect? (No great surprise, right?) And are you ready to make the accusation that since people like me, who go through Christ in order to get things right with God, aren’t perfectly virtuous, Christ must therefore be an accessory to sin? The accusation is frivolous. If I was “trying to be good,” I would be rebuilding the same old barn that I tore down. I would be acting as a charlatan.
— Galatians 2:17-18 The Message

I feel this sentiment.  Have you noticed that I'm not perfect yet?  (If you're not sure, just ask my kids.)  Is it a surprise to anyone that I'm not perfect yet?  I've been a Christian for 27 years now.  Shouldn't I be getting closer to perfect?

We are sanctified as Christians, but we will never be perfect here on earth.  Oh for that glory in Heaven!  We all long for it, especially on Mondays.

I'm still sinning up a storm in my life.  (Again, just ask my kids.)  Is Christ an accessory to that sin?  Did Christ aid and abed my sin?

The English Standard Version of the Bible phrases the question like this, "Is Christ then a servant of sin?"

In either case, Paul says this, "Certainly not!"  Christ is neither an accessory to my sin or a servant of sin.

The sin has been dealt with, once and for all.  He finished that wrath-appeasing on the cross.  He paid the wages of those sins when He died that death.  He brought us forgiveness from those sins when He rose from the dead.

Christ is not an accessory to your sins.  Christ is not an accessory to your friends' sins.

Our goal cannot be to just have good behavior, and if you are a teacher, your goal cannot be just teaching and expecting good behavior.

Paul says that "trying to be good" would be rebuilding religion that the Jews had before Christ came.

Jesus is greater than religion.

Paul says that if he were to promote "being good" that he would be a charlatan, a fraud.  The ESV phrases it like this, "For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor."

I am trying to hold myself to the same standard as Paul.  I am trying to live in grace and truth without striving to define myself by my good behavior.  I am trying to teach heart changes when I teach God's Word because behavior changes save no one.

 

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I like to include a song with each blog post.  Here's one for you.

Day 21: Reputation

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

I have a really bad habit that I am trying to break.  My bad habit is caring what others think of me.

This sentence from The Message version of the Bible is the pivotal sentence that began this series.

My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God.
— Galatians 2:20 The Message

How much of my life has been spent trying to have the good opinion of others?  Almost all of it.  I wanted my mom, dad, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins’ good opinions.  I wanted teachers’ good opinions.  I wanted friends’ good opinions.  I wanted pastors’ and youth pastors’ good opinions.  I wanted college professors’ good opinions.

If I am honest it was the most important thing to me growing up.

As a young mom, I would do anything to have the good opinion of other moms I met in our home school play and learning groups.

I had a tendency to have conversations that were just back and forth agreements of something we both thought was good or bad.

“We don’t let the kids watch THAT show either.”

“Oh, I would never give my kids that to eat either.”

“Yes.  We do that too.”

I wanted their good opinion, and I didn’t realize how much I was making my acceptable behavior become my focus.

My ego, or my sense of self-worth, was wrapped up in how good I could appear.  If it sounded like I had done something my friends might not approve of, I was sure to throw disclaimers and corrections around like I was afraid of losing an important job.

“Oh.  We didn’t KNOW it was going to have all that cursing in it when we watched it.  I wouldn’t watch it again.”

“We did this, but we didn’t do THAT.”

When I was getting my self-worth from my behavior, I was negating what Jesus did to bring me the best self-worth ever, righteousness through the grace of God.  Being right with God is the best self-worth, and Jesus died to give it to me.

So whenever some shade of “unacceptable in some people’s eyes” or iffy behavior gets thrown my way, I no longer duck and run for cover under my disclaimers and corrections.

It isn’t about me.

It is about Jesus and what He has done.

Let people think whatever they would like about me.  What is important to me is that they have a correct view of Jesus.  Am I working as hard to make sure everyone I encounter knows who Jesus truly is?

Living a life that is worried most about appearing good and following rules can actually do huge detriment to your relationship with Christ.

I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.
— Galatians 5:4-6 The Message

God knows our failings, our actual failings, not just perceived missteps.  When we live a life trying to obey “fence laws” and not worried about our real relationship with Christ, we can lose sight of His grace and mercy.  We can slowly lose our grip on faith, as we hold so strongly onto our reputation.  We can lose sight of loving others, as we practice judging ourselves and others by actions and perceived actions.

Actually trying not to sin and obeying God are two things we should do as Christians.  Those things are a big part of your one-on-one relationship with God.  You take those things to Him in daily prayer, knowing that we have already been made right with God, then that relationship will be more satisfying than any earthly relationship could be.

Give up trying to gain approval from others.

Live in the freedom and self-worth that Christ offers.

 

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I like to include a song with each blog post.  I wanted to include a certain Joan Jett song here, but I'll be nice.  This song actually is really fitting.  Trying hard is just like a black hole.

Day 19: Searched and known

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

God searches our heart successfully.

That is something I think we don’t have the capability to do on our own.  We can try to search our heart, but we can’t be objective.  Our memories are so subjective and easily altered by suggestion.  Hindsight is prejudicial.  Our actions and feelings aren’t cold hard facts.  We cannot be open-minded about our past or future.

The Bible tells us that God searches our heart.  I think the verb use here might be misleading.  God doesn’t stop what He is doing to preform this action.  It is an effortless knowing of our heart, a heart He created.

God doesn’t have to pull our file, remind himself of which human He is considering, make pie charts, or go through analysis.  God just knows.

I the Lord search the heart
    and test the mind,
to give every man according to his ways,
    according to the fruit of his deeds.
— Jeremiah 17:10 ESV

And as Psalms 139 tells us, the Lord has searched us and knows us.

To try to search your own heart is futile, and I promise you this, you will not live up to the standard set by Jesus.  We will be disappointed in ourselves every time.

Yes, we do our best to avoid the snares of sin.  Yes, we please God by worshipping Him and keeping His commands.  Yes, we obey God and join Him in good works here on earth.

If we try to search our heart and see how “clean” it is or how “pure” our motives are, we are going to not only fail to be objective, but we will be discouraged at how we measure up.

King David was the man called by God, “a man after my own heart, who will do all my will.”  How is it possible that God would say these things, knowing how David failed so many times?  It is possible because God knew David, God created David, and God saw David’s repentance.

By our standards, King David was a hot mess, but God saw something different.

By your standards, you might feel like the hottest of messes, but let God do the searching.  Let Jesus do the justifying.  Love God the best you can, and stop trying so hard.

God loves you with a love that is unmeasurable.  He would be saddened to hear how you talk about yourself.  Jesus died for the sins that you still let rule your life. 

For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.
— Acts 13:36-39 ESV

 

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I like to include a song with each blog post.  Here you go.

Day 12: Grace upon Grace

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
— John 1:16 ESV

Since we are talking about grace, I’m going to let you practice grace.  I’m going to tell you my new favorite tv show, and I know it will exercise your grace muscles because: 1. It was brought up in my son’s Sunday school class as a bad idea this week.  And 2.  I don’t even think my tv friends think it is good.

I’m sorry I can’t quit watching it.  I’ve even watched some of the episodes multiple times, something I rarely do.

It is the new NBC show The Good Place.

Stop it.  I heard you groan.  That’s not nice.

If you haven’t heard of this tv gem, let me tell you about it.  The premise is this, a women dies and finds herself in an office where she is told that she has been good enough in her life on Earth to end up in “the good place” instead of “the bad place.”  In the show, there is a point system that adds or subtracts points (or fractions of points) for every single action you have done in your life.  The problem is that there has been a mistake and this woman who finds herself in “the good place” is actually an awful person who doesn’t deserve to be there.  Almost everyone who has ever lived ended up in the bad place, for example, the only president who made it to “the good place” was Lincoln.  The people who have made it to “the good place” are annoyingly good, and this woman obviously doesn’t fit in.  Comedy ensues.  You get the picture.

I also love tv fake cursing.  Now we have something to add to our Battlestar Galactica's fracking.  If you can't laugh at fake tv cursing, what can you laugh at? 

I also love tv fake cursing.  Now we have something to add to our Battlestar Galactica's fracking.  If you can't laugh at fake tv cursing, what can you laugh at? 

Usually I hate shows or movies that have bad theology laced into their plots.  I cannot tell you how mad I was leaving the theater after the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie End of Days.  I just looked at the Rotten Tomato score, and it is 11%.  I think 11% is too high.

For some reason this show has hit me differently.  I think I know why.  The point system from the tv show isn’t much different from what most humans feel like would be a fair system of eternal judgement.  We’ve all heard the scale system of measuring our good and bad actions described one way or another.  It sounds fair right?  If our good outweighs our bad, Heaven!  And vise versa.

The thing about this weight system and the point system on the show is that it actually isn’t fair.  What about people who live longer and have more of a chance to rack up more points?  What about people who have bad parents, who aren’t taught good from bad?  What about people who have only bad influences in their lives?  What about criminals who decide to change their life and begin to do good?

The show, whether it intends to or not, is showing how unfair the “fair” point system actually is.  What about real, honest-to-goodness, truth-from-the-good-book theology?  It shows itself superior to this man-made point system.

Why?

Grace!

Jesus came and died for you and me, not because we deserved it, but because He loved us.

Through His death on the cross and our accepting of that free gift, we are extended that beautiful gift of grace.

God offers us something better than the frozen yogurt laden land that is the tv version of after life perfection.

God offers us a place in His house, His perfect eternity, Heaven.  Grace means we do not deserve this.  Mercy means He withholds the punishment we do deserve.

We have been offered grace, because no matter how hard we try, we will never rack up enough points to be considered “good.”

We have been offered grace because He loves us.

We love God back, because how could we not?  He loved us first.  And how we show love for others is offering them grace as much as humanly possible.

So go ahead and practice your grace out.  I’m going to keep watching that silly, bad theology tv show because it is escapism at its finest, and because they are proving how much we need grace even more than we need frozen yogurt that taste like a full charged cell phone.  (That is from the show.  See?  I told you it was funny.)

 

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I like to share a song with each blog post.  This one is a little serious for such a silly post, but whatevs.

Day 11: Lure of Legalism

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

As I think back to my early days of Christianity, I was just a young teenager transitioning from middle school to high school.

I did thinks like stop listening to shady New Kids on the Block, took all Joey McIntyre’s pictures off my wall, and I start listening to K-LOV.  I bought Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, and David Meece cassette tapes.

I wanted to look, sound, talk, and walk Christian in my school.

I began to judge every single thing I was exposed to.  Was this movie ok to watch?  Was this tv show clean enough?  What is clean enough?

This was a drastic change, especially since I had grown up in a non-Christian home and my dad was still not a Christian.  I had not only watched Poltergeist as a kindergardener (I’m sure my mom loves that I keep bringing that up), but I attended a sleepover in elementary school where we marathoned the Poltergeist series, once they had made a few of those silly movies.

This shift in behavior and media consumption makes sense, and it is probably very common among teen converts.  I don’t even think this shift was wrong.  I was trying to be more like Christ, and I know it was good for me to have positive influences on that stage of my life as a baby Christian.

What was wrong was the attitude of legalism that develops after behavior becomes such a big value.

Legalism feels good.

It feels right.

It feels true.

The reason it feels good, right, and true is because living a morally good life, you are basing your decisions on the truth of the Word of God.  You’re right there in the truth, snuggled up and feeling right with God.

We are called to live in this truth.  The problem comes when we make enemies of the world, withdrawn from it.  The world is bad, wrong, and false, and I’ll just be over here being good, right, and true.

I know this is a big idea, and it is an aside of this topic I’m covering today and the topic I am covering as a whole.  Let me just say that I believe we are called to go into all the world and proclaim Christ, and we cannot do that if we are afraid to be around non-Christians or afraid to influence the culture we live in.

Being drawn into legalism is like quicksand, slowly debilitating and hard to get out of.  We begin by just judging the world, but we don’t stop there.  We start judging each other.  “Is she acting Christ-like?”  “Is he doing that?  What about his witness?”

I know I had those thoughts.  I know I still have those thoughts.  I still get drawn into that judgy place all the time.  It just feels so safe, good, right, and true in my judgy little den, and being in the world feels so bare, raw, and exposed.

Yesterday I shared how I assumed people with big mistake testimonies had more love for Christ.  Today I want to tell you another myth I had about Christians with big mistake testimonies.  I believed they didn’t have the lure to legalism that I had.

A few months ago I read a memoir by the Christian rapper Lacrae called Unashamed.  (If you haven’t read it, why are you reading my silly blog?  Stop reading, and read his words.)

In his book, I was surprised to learn that he had a period where he got caught up in legalism after converting to Christianity in college.  Here was this guy who had a sin-rap-sheet that makes me blush, and Jesus had forgiven it all.  He was thankful, but he wrote in his book about how he gravitated to extreme good behavior and pride over his extreme good behavior.  He broke every cd he owned and made a tower out of the broken cases in his dorm room.  The tower became something he had pride over.  He bragged about how Christian he was, when friends came to his dorm room.

I was flabbergasted.  I thought that only happened to good girls like me.

I was wrong.

Legalism can happen to anyone, and it is a struggle we will fight our whole lives.

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
— Galatians 5:13-15 ESV
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.
— Romans 14:1-3 ESV

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Don't let paper tigers keep you on the sidelines.

Day 10: Big Mistake Testimonies

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

My testimony isn’t full of big, bad mistakes.  I surrendered my life to the Lord at 12 years of age.  I came to know Him at such a young age, God spared me from some real hurts and consequences of sins.

I became a Christian, and my good-girl-ness transferred into wanting to do the Jesus following right.  I wanted to know and follow all the rules.

At youth-group age, the church parades every evangelist with a rough past in front of you.  “If they can rip a phone book and tell about their past, we need those guys to speak to our kids.”

As a good girl, I began to think my testimony was sup-par, but I was too good to sew any wild seeds to beef it up.

As an adult, I wonder if the Christians who came to God with a rap sheet list of THOSE sins had an easier time not feeling like they have to work hard to earn God’s approval.  Are they like the woman who poured out her perfume on Jesus?  Do they love Jesus more?

One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table.  And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.’ And Jesus answering said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ And he answered, ‘Say it, Teacher.’
‘A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?’ Simon answered, ‘The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.’ And he said to him, ‘You have judged rightly.’  Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.’  And he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’  Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this, who even forgives sins?’  And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’
— Luke 7:36-50 ESV

I read this story and I wonder why I can’t really relate to the woman. 

I am much more likely to relate to the Pharisee.  I would invite Jesus over for dinner.  I would feel awkward if a woman crashed my dinner party and poured perfume on my guest’s feet.

 

Does this mean I love Jesus less?

Does this mean I need to get my heart right with God?

 

I know we say in church that we need to not dwell on our past sins.  It is true that God erases those babies.  He ties them with rocks and drops them into the deep dark sea, not to bring them up again.

In church we say that if they are brought to our mind, it is the devil trying to shame us.  It is probably true.

I read this story, and I wonder if maybe I DO need to be reminded of my sins.  I get so caught up in the good that I am doing for Him, and I am constantly reminded, by the world around me, of all the sins I’m not committing.

I start to think of myself as good.  That isn’t wrong.  But good turns into holy in my mind, and that is wrong.

I don’t need to dwell hard to pull up one pretty awful sin from my recent thought life.  I pull it to the front of my brain.

Go ahead, you can do that too.

That sin might be minor in the scope of life going on around us.  It might even be minor in our life.

The thing is that sin, that thought you had, is toxic.  It is poison.  It is harmful to you and everyone around you.  It has stained your whole fabric of being, and you aren’t even a little bit holy after just that one thought.

Let’s picture that sin as a Pokemon card.  (According to my Christian friends, those are pretty evil.  I think it will do the trick.)

Now picture handing that evil, toxic, poisonous thought personified as a card to Jesus.

What does He do with it?

He dies a horrific death to nullify it.

How grateful are we?

I think even the best good girls (and guys) can get grateful when we feel the grace and mercy that Jesus has to offer.

 

 

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I like to include a song with each blog post.  Here you go.

Day 9: Appeased

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
— Romans 3:21-26 ESV

I promised I was going to talk about Jesus's part in the avoiding paper tigers and pleasing, not impressing, God.  Here we go.  Let's discuss those big churchy words in this verse above.

There is a difference between atonement and propitiation.

Atonement happens when God skips over sin, it isn’t punished because blood has covered it.  This happened with animal sacrifice, and the passover is a perfect picture of atonement.  The Jews placed the lamb’s blood over their door posts, and the angel of death passed over their house.

Propitiation is noun meaning that God has been appeased.  He has been placated or satisfied.  The demands have been met.

The act of atoning for sins was done over and over by the Jewish people on the Day of Atonement.  It was not a permanent solution until Jesus died on the cross.  He not only atoned for our sins on the cross, but He was the propitiation for our sin.  God was satisfied.  It was finished.  I like how The Message version of verse 21 says, “Something new has been added.”  Jesus became both atonement and propitiation.

Romans says that God is the just and the justifier of anyone who has faith in Jesus Christ.  God has done this for us.  This promise of being justified can be counted on.  As The Message version of Romans 3, verse 4, says, “God keeps his word even when the whole world is lying through its teeth.”

How do we deserve this gift of atonement and propitiation?  What must we do?

It is a free gift.   Let me say that again.  F R E E   G I F T.

We cannot earn this gift; we cannot deserve this gift.  If we could, it wouldn’t be a gift.  As verse 24 says, we “are justified by his grace as a gift”  The very word grace means received something that we do not deserve.  It is unmerited.

We get saved.  We are born again.  We feel the grace was over us.  Then something happens.  We continue living as mortal humans.  There are days when we feel so sinful that we don’t think propitiation could have possibly been made for us.  The lie is so easily believed.  It feels like that rightness with God wasn’t real and true.

Then there are days when we think we can live up to our title Christian.  We try so hard to make God happy, serving in church roles, going on mission trips, avoiding the big sins, not watching those TV-MA shows.  We’ve got this God.  We are good Christians.  We forget about our gift.  Pride creeps in.

My father-in-law use to say that if pride smelled like boozy breath or cigarette smoke, the church would be an awfully smelly place.

Either way, we remain sinners.  Our sin does not continue to need new atonement because propitiation has been made.

Trying hard to be good, thinking that we are taking some kind of load off of that heavy burden Christ carried at the cross, is futile.

Let God be God; only He could straighten out the mess of sin once and for all.

Praise the Lord for sending His son to make the final, perfect sacrifice for atone for our sins, once and for all!

 

 

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I like to include a song with each blog post.  Worship God with me.

Look how amazing God is.  I found this song this morning, and the testimony of writing this song goes right along with what I am writing in this series.  Praise the Lord for His Truth!

Day 8: Guest Post

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

Today I'm turning my blog over to the capable hands of my church & home school friend Cassie Haney.  Cassie, her husband, and her five extremely adorable children just moved to Guadalajara, Mexico as YWAM missionaries about 6 months ago.  A few weeks ago, the Haney family came to visit us at our church, where we will always consider them members, and gave a small report on their missionary efforts.  Cassie's husband Luke spoke about what he had learned on the mission field.  To my surprise, he began to say some of the exact things I had been planning on writing in this series.  I knew I needed to ask them to be a piece of this series.  Cassie graciously wrote these encouraging words for you and me:


As much as I wish it wasn’t true, many years of my life in childhood and as an adult have been spent fearing paper tigers. I was a huge people pleaser, parent pleaser, teacher pleaser, youth minister pleaser, coach pleaser, friend pleaser, put on a happy face, “everything’s perfect here I don’t need any help from you but I can help you if you need me” type of girl. This attitude served me well in my youth, I did well in school, had lots of friends, and my parents were generally happy with my behavior. However, these traits began to feel more like chains as I progressed into adulthood. I became a secret keeper (a.k.a. liar at times), because I was scared to bring to light the darkness that was in my house. I was a pretender, going on for many years as if I didn’t have any skeletons in my closet. I was an enforcer, requiring my children to uphold this pretend world I had created. The truth was that I was always afraid. I felt incredibly guilty about who I was, and how I was behaving. I knew I was far from God. The scariest part of it all, was the reality that I didn’t know my way back to Him, and if it depended on me, I was toast. 

At that time, with nothing to offer, no good deeds in my pocket, my family life was a mess, my heart was hard, my parenting was ugly . . . I had literally nothing going for me spiritually . . . that was when I cried out to God. 

 

Jesus saved me. 

Jesus saved my marriage.

Jesus saved my family.

 

He is no paper tiger, He is the LION OF JUDAH! 

 

When He moves, it is undeniable. When He creates, it is undestroyable. When He saves, there is no vulnerability. When He loves, there is no pride left in me. There is power even in the mention of His name. 

Wow.

My God pulled me up out of the slimy pit, I was rescued from myself . . . not because of my redeeming character qualities, or my good deeds, or my positive attitude. All glory to Him. 

Because of the way He rescued me, I understand that it simply doesn’t matter very much who I am or what I do . . . as long as I’m with Him. I don’t need to be “happy”, or “good”, or “cheerful” as if He needs me to be that way. He doesn’t need me. I hope that I would never bow my knee and serve a “god” who needed something from me. If He needed me, then I would be the god. NO! I need Him, He is worthy, He is Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior! If I am happy, good, or cheerful it is because He loved me first, not because I’m doing Him a favor.

Jonah wasn’t “good”. He didn’t cheerfully fullfil is Christian duty by happily going about with the “joy of the Lord” on him in service to God. He was no people pleaser. God used angry, spiteful, bitter Jonah . . . because God chose Jonah. God gave Jonah what he needed because God had what Jonah needed. Jonah didn’t have it . . . but God could use Jonah because God is more than able to account for our shortcomings. 

So why are we prone to make God so little and paper tigers so big in our hearts? Why do we let fear of men override fear of God. Why do we believe that the physical world is more real than the spiritual? Why do we allow ourselves to be slaves?? We are free, under the care and grace of our loving Father and Savior, the LION of Judah, the worthy one, Jesus Christ. I encourage you to bow your knee, look up, and find salvation!

-Cassie Haney



I'd like to thank Cassie for contributing this to the series.  I know Cassie well enough to know that every single word of this is true and sincere.  I would encourage you to read through Cassie's blog on a day you need a pick-me-up.  She has a brightness about her that brings joy to my life.  Mexico is blessed to have her. 

I would like to give you, the reader, an opportunity to support missions this very minute.  I watched the Haney family sell everything they owned to move to Mexico and begin this chapter in their lives.  Luke left a profitable optometry business that he had begun to go into this mission field.  Selling their possessions covered this half year they have spent in training, and now they are raising support to continue their mission in Mexico.

God might be prompting you to financially support their mission, either a one time gift or monthly.  Click here to find out how to do that.

 

 

Click to return to series table of contents.

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

Table of Contents:

Day 1:  Intro (below the photo links for the other days)

Please click a photo for each day to read more. 

Day 1: Intro

This Write 31 Days series I’m going to share with you about my dysfunctional relationship I had with God, and how I’m trying to grow into a better one.  I’ve discovered that after about 27 years of being a Christian, I had some bad theology I was living out.  This past year, I learned some things about my God and about myself the hard way, by falling on my face, completely failing, coming to the end of myself.

Here was my number one problem.  I thought I could impress God by being good and doing good.

Turns out, that idea doesn’t line up with scripture.  In fact, scripture tells us that trying to be good enough for God to be impressed is impossible and counterproductive.

This isn’t the message I got as a young person trying to live a Christian life.  I was told over and over how important reigning in my behavior was.  I was told over and over that I should let go of trying to please people and instead care only about what God thinks of me, which I subconscious interpreted as I had to earn my acceptance by God.

I have been working my head off serving in ministry, and I felt like God would be disappointed in me if I didn't do well.  And I am pretty sure that I thought God would be impressed with all I was doing for Him.

Even as I write out these statements, all of these ideas feel so very unsettled in my mind and heart.  When I lined out what I am going to write about for the next 31 days, most of my outline consisted of questions.

I’m going to attempt to write through these questions, and maybe by the end of these 31 days, our journey will take us to a much clearer place, a truer understanding of the God who created and loves us, a sounder theology, a humbler position, no longer driven to earn God’s approval or love, and no longer driven to impress God.

The message version says that when we are intimidated into observing traditions instead of realizing that we are heirs and children of Christ, we are subjecting ourselves to fearing paper tigers.

By the end of this series, I hope we will be fearlessly secure in our identity in Christ.

But now that you know the real God—or rather since God knows you—how can you possibly subject yourselves again to those paper tigers?
— Galatians 4:9 The Message

***Special thank you to my awesome son Andrew for making the origami for me.

 

I like to share a song on each of my blog posts because music makes life more fun.

10 phrases Jen Hatmaker coined in her book For the Love & you need to know:

This post is part of Jen Hatmaker’s “For the Love” Blog Tour which I am delighted to be a part of along with many other inspiring bloggers.  To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE.

I’ve had Jen Hatmaker’s new book For the Love for a couple weeks now, and I love every grace drenched word of it.

The title For the Love is a pop-culture phrase of a title.  Although Jen can’t claim credit for coining it, there are a few words and phrases that just might become part of your conversations at core group or post-service sometime soon.

It was very apparent as I read that few new words and phrases just popped.  I started noticed that many of my social media friends were already using these new phrases in FaceBook posts, as hashtags, or even writing them across memes.

This week on NPR I heard Ilan Stavans, author of the new book Quixote: The Novel and the World, say “If a writer doesn't do anything but give a new word to his language and from there maybe to other languages, I think that writer redefines the world.”

Well, JH, you’re redefining my world for sure!

Here’s a little guide to get you caught up on your JH lingo.

 

  1. Off the beam - stuff that isn’t life giving, stuff that should be delegated or dropped.

How JH used it:

 

Well, here’s how I’m going to us this in my life:

Did see the mulit-colored heart shaped crayons on Pinterest?  I’m not making that kitchen mess. I’m off the beam.

Besides, Haven't you seen this picture on PinterestFail.com?

2.  Haitian mom true - a filter to weed out non-truths that should not be ascribed to God.

How JH used it:

Me: 

I’m not sure about that because that’s not Haitian mom true.

3.  LAP - the fashion tragedy known as Leggings-As-Pants

How JH used it:

Me: 

You can’t wear those LAPs to school with out a dress or long shirt.

 

4.  TAL / TAP - the crisis known as Tights-As-Leggings or Tights-As-Pants

How JH used it:

Me: 

Oh my, I just saw a woman at Wal-Mart wearing TAP.  I wouldn’t even wear TAL.

 

5.  Horsecrappery - The nonsense advertisers like to sell us with their clearly false advertising.

How JH used it:

Me: 

That air brush make up is horsecrappery.  I don’t want to SEE what our bathroom would look like after my daughter “erases away her imperfections.” 

 

6.  Spicy Family - loud families that love obnoxious humor and sarcasm and don’t do precious and gentle well.

How JH used it:

Me: 

Hide the breakables, that Spicy Family is bringing their kids to the party.

 

7.  WWAVD - What would Ann Voskamp do?

How JH used it:

Me: 

It’s Easter morning.  Why can’t we get just one sweet sibling photo?  WWAVD?  But we don't have a bunny.

 

8.  Headphones with No Music - A tool for introverts to let others know they are feeling an aversion to words.

How JH used it: 

Me: 

When I’ve home schooled my kids for half a day, and I need a quiet lunch break so that I can finish out the rest of the "talking at them" school day, I might put on Headphones with No Music.

 

9.  Sandwich dolphins - taking kids plates or bento boxes and making them into mini works of art, basically the damage Pinterest has done to lunch and our mom-esteem.

How JH used it:

Me: 

I know you’re hungry and it’s lunchtime.  No one is busting out the Sandwich Dolphins.  Just warm up those frozen chicken nuggets or put some P&J on a piece of bread.  Can’t you see I’ve got headphones on? (see #8)

 

10.  Supper Club - A fun thing for several couples to do one night a month, rotating houses, with serious food and no kids.

How JH used it: 

Me: 

Anyone want to start a Supper Club and invite me to join?  Email me the e-vite!

 

Now that you’ve had that JH Lingo lesson, put down your sandwich dolphin, take off those LAPs, and think about WWAVD.  She would get online and order herself a copy of Jen Hatmaker’s new book For the Love, because it definitely isn’t horsecrappery.  It’s Haitian mom true & good.

Gum & grace

What is the most despicable thing I’ve ever done?  Sometimes I ask myself that question.  My answer involves an unprovoked assault with gum as my weapon.  Remembering this story reminds me of my human nature, my selfish heart, and the jealousy that can creep in and blacken our hearts so quickly.

It was summer, and I was around 8 years old.  I should have been happy about the day of swimming at my aunt’s house that lay ahead.  Instead I was to preoccupied with the spot I’d been placed.

The front seat was such a coveted position when you are 8.  There she was, my older cousin, with her grown-up way of talking and her long blond curly hair falling past her shoulders.  From my position in the back seat, that’s what I saw.  She was chatting with my mom, who was driving us through the bank drive-thru, talking like peers, her hair bobbing with the movement of her mouth.

There I was in the back seat, eternally 2 years younger than my cousin.  Always behind.

I don’t remember thinking about it.  If I had, I wouldn’t have done it.

I took the wad of gum from my mouth and shoved it into that thick blond hair just like that.

Immediately regret filled my body from the tip of my pony tailed head down to the flip-flop wearing toes.

I had no excuse for what I’d done.  But it was clear then, just as it is clear now, I did it out of jealousy.  Jealousy for that long curly blond hair, her grown up actions, and her possession of the front seat.  It was all too much for me.  She had things that I wanted, and making her suffer seemed like a good idea.

There was definitely some suffering that day, and I didn’t enjoy any of it.  Phases of home remedies were tried, peanut butter, ice, combs, soap, and water all with peppers of “ouch” and “owww” and glares from my cousin.

As adults, we can hide how dark our selfish desires are.  We can control our actions out of a different kind of selfish motive, the motive to look like a good person.

I wouldn’t stick gum in anyone’s hair now because I would look insane.

The truth is that I’ve still got those dark thoughts, covetous feelings, and a heart that isn’t always pure.

This reminder of my 8 year old act of pure terror onto my cousin’s head of hair reminds me of my nature to sin.  Remembering my nature helps me to give grace when others show their sin nature.

I see others commit a certain sin, and I think, “Well!  I would never!”

I stop myself.  I remind myself that I don’t get to rank sins into a list from kinda bad to horrendous.  I remind myself that God is the One offended and the One who has made the plan to deal with sin.

I get off my high horse and think about the state of my own heart.

I am a pretty good person, but it isn’t because of any motive or action on my part.  I’m made good by the source of goodness.  The minute I try to claim that goodness as my own, I’ve got some pride to confess and some humility to beg for.

The book of James put all of these ideas into better format than I ever could.

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?  You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet 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 wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us’? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?
— James 4:1-12 ESV

Fighting, coveting, judgement, and pride are the mark of love for the world.  The world tells us to fight for the best seat, to climb the ladder, work hard, defend what is yours, and to appear to be “good.”  

God is jealous for our hearts.  He is our Bridegroom, and we deserve the scarlet letter of adultery when we love the way the world works instead of drawing near to God.  We have the promise of cleansing, grace, and humility when we ask for those gifts.  

Oh, how He loves us!  He doesn’t expect us to accomplish “good” on our own.  He yearns to give us the grace we need.  All we have to do is draw near and ask.

James says, “Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.”  He is saying to remember the gravity of sin and who we are with His mercy.  

I remember who I was.  I was a jerky little kid that will stick gum in your hair if you had something I want.  That’s who I am without God.  It might be a funny story, but in my heart, I mourn for how ugly I am without Him.

So today I remind you to remember, mourn, draw near to God, and ask for grace.

I like to post a song with each blog post.  This cover song seemed appropriate - in an irony sort of way.  Texas musician Ben Kweller has been a favorite of mine so long that he feels like an old friend.  Now that I think about it, I know all of Ben's family members' names & everywhere he's lived.  If anyone would be justified in issuing a restraining order against me - it would be my "friend" BK.  Please don't do it, Ben.  I'm harmless.