Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The "W"

"You are only as good as your last game. It is all about the W." This statement was said to me many times by someone I knew that had been a professional basketball player. The damage done to his knees after years of playing had taken him out of the game in his early thirties. At one time his name had been known by many and now he is remembered by only a few.

And it was the statement that kept coming to mind as I read Ezekiel chapter 18.

"When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity, and dies in it, it is because of the iniquity which he has done that he dies.

Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness which he committed, and does what is lawful and right, he preserves himself alive.

Because he considers and turns away from all the transgressions which he committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die.

Yet the house of Israel says, 'The way of the Lord is not fair.' O house of Israel, is it not my ways which are fair, and your ways which are not fair?

Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, says the Lord God. Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin.

Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel?

For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies, says the Lord God. Therefore turn and live!" 
Ezekiel 18: 26-28

Funny the things that God uses to teach us. I am not a sports fanatic. Not even close. I don't watch sports on my own accord, but will if someone else is interested. But I have watched many a basketball game because my youngest loved to play. And I, being his mother, loved to watch because he loved it. And so my knowledge of basketball made it so I could get to know a pro-ball player. The one who would say you were only as good as your last win. 

What he was saying is that as long as you won, your fans loved you. Winning put you on top. You became idolized. But the minute you start losing, you fast became a nobody. Those fans that would flock for your autograph would no longer seek you out. You would very quickly lose the fascination and glory you received from the watching public. 

At the time he said this, I thought it a very good lesson to take to heart. Never did I ever think that God would apply it to how He sees things. 

In Ezekiel chapter 18, God is letting us know how he views our actions. He really doesn't care or even look at how many things you did correctly in your past or how many evil things you did. He does not keep a score card to see which action out ways the other. He only cares about the current state of your heart. Where are you at this very moment? Was your very last action, thought or deed a "W" or an "L"?  

Through Ezekiel He says that we can cast away all the wrongs we have done. Dispose of them. Completely. We can do this He says by getting a new heart and a new spirit. How do we do this? 

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."
2 Corinthians 5:17

How cool is this? No matter what you have done in the past, no matter what your thoughts or actions, once you are in Christ, it is all gone. You become a new creation with a new spirit and and a new heart. The old you is wiped away. 

It is so sad that many of us Christians, me included many times, have trouble believing this. We condemn ourselves for our past actions. We condemn others for theirs because we so want them to pay for being "bad". The last thing we want as humans is for someone "to get away with it" scott free. That just isn't fair, is it? Ah, this is exactly how the house of Israel was feeling when Ezekiel delivered the words of the Sovereign Lord. Us humans don't change much, do we? 
What the one who is the epitome of love is saying is, "Really? Who is not being fair? Me or you?" Think about it. The Holy Father says over and over and over again that He does not want anyone to die. Why, then do we want to be such harsh judges against one another and ourselves? Why do we keep picking up the heavy chains and burdens and keep carrying them around? We just keep carrying around stinky, rotting trash. 

The One who laid the foundations of this earth and knows firsthand its measurements and laid its cornerstone, the One who loves you with the love of a dear father, a friend, and a beloved husband, He only looks at this very moment. Where are you right now? What heart do you have at this very moment? An old one? Or have you traded it in for a new one, beloved? 

Friday, August 7, 2009

We Are Allowed Choices

Yep. Allowed choices. Don't you think that God could have created beings without choices? Then there would have never been sin. We wouldn't have to worry. We would be ... robots. 

And the love and relationship that God is wanting from us would not be true love. You cannot demand that someone truly love you. That is a choice each individual has to make for himself and has to come from the heart.

This morning I awoke to something that re-opened a very old wound. Satan filleted that wound open with such precision. He knew exactly where it was. He knew the correct and most painful way to slice. The little girl inside me was devastated. 

But at the same time, God had prepared healing salve and love for me. Already there were sitting before me acts of love and encouragement from friends. No one knew or knows about the other, but they were rallying around with words of love and encouragement in God's perfect timing. Amazing. Perfectly and totally amazing.

Now my choice was right there before me. I could have dwelt on the hurt. Decided that the hurt was more important and done the "poor little me" trip (which I know so very well) or I could focus on the love that God was flowing down on me from such wonderful people. 

Satan was right there telling me how I deserved to feel sorry for myself. Look what I was going through. Poor little me. After such a thing, didn't I deserve some sympathy? Everyone would understand. You deserve to wallow in the ... what? Pig sty? The mud? I can't think of anything that someone wallows in that is "pretty" or "nice" or positive. 

God was standing there. Really saying nothing and yet saying everything through His people, His friends, His loved ones. It was right there for me to grasp. So I climbed up in the palm of His hand and on my knees cried. I mean, bawled my eyes out. Not feeling sorry for myself, but for the release of pain when I gave it to Him and the thankfulness for the healing He had already provided. So joyful that I am so tightly held by Him and his Holy Love.

At the beginning of the book of Ezekiel, Ezekiel is informed that he is being asked to do something that is unpleasant at best. God asks him to witness to the rebellious house of Israel. He is told in no uncertain terms that it will not be the best of times. 

"And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you dwell among scorpions; do not be afraid of their words or dismayed by their looks, though they are a rebellious house."   Ezekiel 2:6

This makes me want to rush right in there ... not! Hey, who else would like to sign up for this gig? Would you like to go in where you are surrounded with briers and thorns and you get to dwell among scorpions. I don't know about you guys, but I am not a very big fan of scorpions at all.

But you know what? You cannot escape the pain and hardship of life on this little planet no matter how much you try. I have known some very, very wealthy people and some very, very poor. They all had sorrows, hurts and pain. They all struggled somehow, somewhere. The pain part is promised. 

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." John 16:33

As for me and my house, I choose the side that has already won. 

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What Lie Are You Listening To?

Last night at church was really interesting. There was a lot of input and discussions. And a lot of transparency in the people there. How refreshing that someone can stand before a group of people that consisted of all ages and say, "I just don't get it. How do you do that?"

He was talking about avoiding sin and becoming the man that God has planned for him to be. After thinking (and praying) about the things that were said, I began to realize that when we sin we have tricked ourselves or allowed ourselves to be tricked into believing a lie. And it seems if you stop and identify the lie, call it what it is, then its power is removed.

You see, growing up the church that I did, I was told what not to do ... a lot! Don't have fun on Sunday because that is a sin. Don't play cards because that is a sin. Don't dance because that is a sin. And on and on and on. There were a bunch of "don'ts" but very few "do's". And by the way, Jesus loves you, but you better not sin. And you better be perfect when you come to church, in your dress, in your manner and the way you pray. It seemed wrong and cold to me when I was growing up, but I was just a kid. What did I know? And this was a huge church full of well-to-do people. Surely they knew what was correct. I now know that they really didn't know much of anything about Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit. They lived their own lie.

You get saved, then what? You are supposed to be developing a relationship with Jesus Christ. Yes, you have to spend time with him to get to know him. But you also have to spend time with him to know the truth and who you are. Much of my sins happen when I am not realizing truth and falling for a lie.

One of the tricky things that lies do is make us feel like we HAVE to have something in order to survive. That we cannot go on one more day without whatever or doing whatever. The first one happened right in the Garden of Eden. Eve, with outside influences, decides that she just has to have that forbidden fruit to exist any longer. She needed it. She would become wise. She would be like God. So she ate it. Did she become like God? No. Did she really need to eat that fruit? No. Did it make her life better? I don't think so. In fact it made things worse. Why in the world did she do that?

When we come to temptations or if we have done things that we know we shouldn't, have you ever asked yourself why? Why does an alcoholic, after being sober for months, walk into a bar and take a drink? Knowing full well what the outcome will be. Because he deserves it? Really? Because he is looking for excitement and fun? Fun? Have you seen a drunk alcoholic? They are in no way having fun. Excitement? Maybe. If you like the kind of excitement of not knowing what a fool you made of yourself, how many insults you have hurled and speaking of hurling ... how many times did you do that in the toilet? Or did you even make it to the toilet? Yep, true excitement. Or is it to escape? Or to better handle things? Trouble is that when you run away from things they only get worse, never better. You are not handling them.

All of the above can be applied to just about any sin.

But here is the truth. We are loved by the Living Creator of this world more deeply than we could ever imagine. He already knows what we did or what we were thinking about doing. And he still loves us.

You want excitement? You want an adrenaline rush? Work for the Lord God. I can testify your life will never be boring. My God is not a boring God. You will then be entering into warfare. You will constantly be learning and growing. Constantly challenged. And he is a God that loves music, good times and laughter. He will sing with you and dance with you.

Do you want what you deserve? Through Jesus Christ you have more than you deserve. With that you have a Father that wants to give you his very best. With Jesus you have guidance through the perils of the world. With him you have comfort and healing. With Jesus you have joy, not just happiness that is fleeting. With Jesus you have peace.

Are you afraid to face things? Ah, with the relationship comes the Holy Spirit. The comforter so that you can face anything. The one that will remove fear. No more running. No more hiding.

So instead of heading off where our brain or emotions are telling us to, maybe we should stop a sec and ask "why do I really want to go there? What is broken in my thinking?" If God said there was another way, then try that. Test him out and see what happens. Then you are off on a truly great adventure.

Now you can truly live. Now you are allowing yourself to be loved.