Suffering and Heaven

18920650_10158894564500074_8516742202078951748_nYesterday I took just Gabe out shopping.  I don’t often get to spend alone time with him and I was reminded what an amazing kid he is.  He has such a tender soul.  He wants to run an orphanage when he grows up… but he also wants to drive a Ferrari, so… 😉

We had a fun time, just the two of us.  On the way home he kept asking me about Heaven and what it’ll be like when Jesus comes back.

I explained to him that Jesus will appear in the sky with great glory, riding the clouds.  That every eye will see him, even those that pierced him.  That we will rise to meet him and be changed, to be like him.  That there will be no more sickness, death, pain…

I got choked up and so did he.  He said, “Mom, I can see him coming.”  I said, “honey that’s the Holy Spirit showing you that it’s true.”

You see, just the day before he had been in a lot of pain.  In between tears and sobs he had asked, “if God loves me, why am I suffering so much?”

The conversation, and the sweet presence of God, was something we both desperately needed.  Something that I need more of.

In my own suffering I tend to turn away.  I feel like I can’t take anymore disappointment at times, without losing hold of my faith.  But yesterday, it was like He peeled back the curtain obscuring eternity and gave us both a glimpse of our future and the end of suffering.  I felt a glimpse of the eternity and wonder awaiting us, and looking over at Gabe’s tear-filled eyes, I know he did too.

I know that Gabriel is being molded in ways I can’t even begin to comprehend.  I know he has a huge call on his life.  Even at the age of 8, there is a level of tenderness, empathy and hunger for knowledge of God that is amazing…. probably as the result of all the suffering he’s had to endure.

We can got lost in the hardships we face but we need to remember that life here is short and eternity is long.  We can’t choose the trials but we can choose how we face them.  Our God loves us.

 

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Finding Grace

I haven’t blogged much lately.  My kids were on spring break last week and this previous week I’ve felt honestly like I was doing more stumbling than following after Jesus.  So, amidst the feelings of unworthiness and self-condemnation I felt God leading me back to grace.

The very definition of grace is un-merited favor.

The image I got was like this- imagine you are a young dumb kid and your dad borrowed you the family car.  Through a stream of bad decisions and coincidence the car ends up wrapped around a tree and you end up in a cell.  You know you need to call your dad.  He is probably worried sick and you need someone to bail you out.  Your dad seems calm on the phone but you dread the drive home.  You walk out of the cell with your stomach in knots.  But as soon as you see your dad he quickly embraces you.  “We’ll talk about this tomorrow son, but for now I am just glad that you are alright.  I love you.”

Every day we are that kid in some way.  It may be our offense is a parking ticket or a full-on felony.  We need rescue.  We need ‘bail-money’.  We need grace.

Perhaps the biggest trap for heartfelt Christians is the performance track.  We desperately love God and want to please him and somewhere along the line we get hyper focused on our performance, the ‘do’ and start to lose our way.

“You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Galatians 3:4

There is something scary and vulnerable about resting in the saving grace provided at the cross.  Virtually all religion is man’s solution to the sin problem, trying to get good through works.  The Gospel is radically different.  It is more of a resting, a trusting, a following… if you are feeling more ‘driven’ than ‘led’ or hopeless at your inability to be a ‘good’ Christian, you may have gotten on a performance track and left grace behind.

Just resting in grace doesn’t feel right to our flesh.  We want to add our good works to the mix.  Our best righteousness.  In reality it is like tossing mud into a pristine pool.  We either end up with a Pharisee mindset or feeling like a lesser-than worm of a Christian.  Neither is healthy.

Grace keeps pride at bay and joy high.  When we realize we aren’t saving no-body- let alone our own sorry necks; and that Heaven is going to be FULL of people who don’t deserve to be there….we can all breathe a huge sigh of relief.  God saves us.  Period.  At our best.  At our worst.  Every day.  His love and grace conquers the huge gap between perfect him and hopelessly sinful us.  Even if we could inch and scoot closer we would still be infinitely far; light years, from the holiness of God.  It was so hopeless only a miracle could be done.  And it was.  20150411_145654

I know, as a deeply flawed human being- some days there will be more stumbling than overcoming.  Some days I’ll need more than my fair share of grace and forgiveness.  It is difficult to wrap our minds around the Gospel fact that ‘where sin increased, grace abounded all the more…’ (Romans 5:20)

The love of God doesn’t just rescue us once, at salvation.  No, it rescues us day in and day out every day of our lives.  It is that loving Father, showing up at the jail, bail money in hand.

That kind of love captures our human hearts like nothing else.  Grace changes us like nothing else.

“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Galatians 2:21

My prayer, for myself and everyone reading this- that we would let the love and grace of God wash over us afresh.  In the face of hardships and our personal failures, he loves us…with an everlasting love.  He is our Father and he will never leave nor forsake us.

It’s Not What You Do

Hands_of_God_and_Adam…it’s who you pursue.

“You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes.” Number 15:39

I’ve been reading though Leviticus and Numbers and honestly, it is a bit mind-numbing.  Life under the law was harsh.  I am so glad to be living under the law of grace. (Romans 6:14) I am so glad Jesus fulfilled the righteous demands of the law that we never could. (Matthew 5:17)

If there is proof that man can not attain righteousness on his own there is the entire Old Testament.  We just can’t make ourselves be good.  No matter how hard we try.

Paul voiced the constant inner struggle of so many; So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;  but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.  What a wretched man I am!” Romans 7:21-24

It is almost as though the harder we try, the harder it gets.  Maybe because we are set up for failure?  Maybe because God wants us to fail enough in our own efforts so that we ‘would seek God, grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us…’ (Acts 17:27)  Maybe in order for us to reach out for God, we need to realize we are in the dark.  That we have failed even our own moral standards.  That we desperately need saving.

Let’s define salvation.  For most it means ultimately ending up in Heaven, right?  But it is so much more than that.  Salvation in my mind starts and ends with relationship.  In a powerful illustration Jesus rejected the religious from Heaven, “‘I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:23)  It is startling.  Many are religious and believe they are Heaven bound but they will hear those words on judgment day.

So how can you be assured of salvation?

Do you know him?  Do you know why he died for you?  ” For the joy set before him he endured the cross…” Hebrews 12:2  Do you know that WE were that joy?  He died so that we could know him.  God doesn’t need us in any way.  Yet he wants us, he created you and me so that we might search and find him, and enter in a eternal relationship with him.

Salvation starts as we enter into that relationship, that covenant.  Just like a marriage.  I love my husband and I am exclusively devoted to him for life.  How much more so should we be devoted to Christ?  I know my marriage wouldn’t work if I only saw Tim one hour a week and forgot about him the rest of the time.  Like in a marriage, a neglected relationship will fail.  Jesus wants your heart.  He wants your trust.  He wants to speak to you, to show himself to be your good shepherd, helping you navigate safely through this dark world…and yes, to bring you safely into his kingdom some day.

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:13

You can know that you have this eternal life.  Paul said, “That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12  Paul wasn’t going to get discouraged because he really knew Jesus.


Much of Jesus’ ministry was investing in his team of rag-tag disciples.  He could have passed information on any other way, but he did it through relationship.  “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15

Jesus wants to be your Savior, your Lord, and your friend.  How about having a best friend that is all powerful, will never leave, and will always act on your best behalf?  Forget rules and traditions of men.  A day to day relationship with Jesus Christ is the only way to true life change, true peace, and assurance of salvation.

The Bible instructs us to ‘pray without ceasing’.  Which really means that you are always talking to God (not out loud in public or people might look at you funny!) and walking by faith.  It’s a blessing and a privilege.  I thank Him for his presence in my life daily.  He is my best friend, my everything.  He wants to be that to you too.

Referencing back to the opening scripture- the Israelites needed constant reminders to not go astray.  Religion isn’t enough to satisfy our hearts- so prone to wander.  Only relationship can.  I know personally that when you experience how awesome and wonderful it is to walk closely with the Creator of the Universe- you wouldn’t trade it for anything.  Those other things lose their appeal.  Grace is powerful because it transforms us from the inside out.  Grace says ‘ditch your guilt and walk in freedom’.  Grace freely pardons.  Grace allows us to make mistakes.  Religion is a harsh task-master.  Grace allows us to enter boldly into God’s presence, as his friends.  Let’s accept that gift today as freely as God gives it.