He is Just – so it’s not up to me to stay forgiven.

He is Just – so it’s not up to me to stay forgiven.

“For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great.”  Psalm 25:11

I’ve done more personal posts lately, but today I want to dive deep into a spring of theological truth that is thirst-quenching, life-giving, and crucial to our life with Jesus. It changes our everyday outlook on life. 

It is this: 

Christian, He has pardoned you for His name’s sake.  Not for your name’s sake.  Not only is He faithful to pardon us, because He cannot deny himself (2 Timothy 2:13), but He is JustHave you thought about how it is God’s justice that secures your forgiveness?  

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to cleanse us for all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Jesus bore the weight of all our sin on the cross; therefore, it would not be just to Jesus if our current sins were left under the crushing weight of the law and of guilt.

Even David, looking forward to Christ, was able to walk in the foretold, coming faithfulness of Christ:

“Prove me O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind.  For your steadfast love is ever before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.” (Psalm 26: 2-3)

It’s a reminder we don’t walk in our own faithfulness. We are not saved by our own goodness.  If we were, then we would be living by the flesh – as if my own penance and guilt could make a way for my forgiveness! But, no!  We have a great high priest who is seated at the right hand of God, always interceding for us.  (Hebrews 4:14-16)

“Who will bring any charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is there to condemn us?  For Christ Jesus, who dies, and more than that was raised to life, is at the right hand of God – and He is interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:33-35)

Am I saying that “no one can speak to you about your sin or ask you hard questions?”  Absolutely not! (Romans 6:1-4)  Far from it!  Because we KNOW that we are covered and hidden in Christ, that justice has been satisfied, we are free to walk in the light with others.  We are free to struggle with our besetting sin.  We are free to be courageous, bold, and even get things wrong.  

For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, whose through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve a living God. (Hebrews 9:13-14)

I am proposing that often times we don’t live in a state of awareness of our sin and desperation enough.  When we don’t live in that awareness, we think we can be our own savior.  Even David said – “prove me and try me.” Because his hope was in the forthcoming justice of Christ, he could be honest about his sin, rather than hide it. A place of brokenness is the most beautiful place for us because we are relying on grace, justice, and our faithful high priest instead of ourselves.  

How often do you carry around guilt for your sin, waiting until you “do better next time” to accept God’s forgiveness and Christ’s righteousness on your behalf?  That’s a false gospel, friend!  

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. O foolish Galatians! Who bewitched you? …Did you receive the Spirit by 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 2:20-3:4)

You were once in a courtroom, and the Judge stepped down and called you his son or daughter because Christ’s righteousness speaks for you.  Get out of the courtroom of your own making of fear, condemnation, and cursing.  Because it is for freedom He has set you free – to proclaim the good news to the captives of His recusing, redeeming, steadfast, and just love.  Christ did NOT die for nothing! His forgiveness over you, if you belong to Him, isn’t only merciful, but it is just – to Christ.

It’s not up to me to stay forgiven!  It’s up to Him and since He has been proven faithful and just I get to live in and live out of the power of His just forgiveness!

when it’s silent.

when it’s silent.

Silent Saturday. I didn’t coin this term; I read it a couple different places and Ryan and I felt the weight of it.  Silent Saturday. Jesus’ body is in the grave. He is buried.  Friday night’s despair, agony, fear, and grief rolls steadily into a silent Saturday – a place of darkness, waiting, and apparent hopelessness for Jesus’ friends and followers.  For them, it was the Sabbath and they couldn’t do anything.

Since we know the end, sometimes it’s easy for us to skip quickly past this place of grief, darkness, and silence.  Yes, we will sit for a moment in the horror of Friday…yet we often jump quickly to the victory and celebration of Sunday.  While we should and will celebrate greatly, what would it look like to sit in the depths of darkness and silence with Jesus’ friends

Life is like this right?  The shadow doesn’t immediately pass and turn into victory.  The darkness hovers before the triumph.  And we don’t always feel the purpose of sitting in the silence.

For Jesus’ friends, every light seemed to be extinguished.  In Luke 23 and John 19 we find Joseph and Nicodemus burying Jesus. Think about that for a moment. Physically and literally these members of the Sanhedrin, wealthy men, are getting blood on them, transporting and gently wrapping their Lord’s body up, giving him a proper and beautiful burial.  They are giving greatly and forsaking their titles because it would have been disgraceful, as a member of the Sanhedrin, to associate with Jesus. They gave substantially out of their means to properly bury Jesus. They loved him and their love resulted in courage and action…their belief in him led them to lovingly care for him. 

They grieved hard, I imagine, and Saturday was likely lonely and silent for them after they completed Friday nights painstaking and horrific task of burying the Son of God’s lifeless body – cold and stiff. Like Jesus’ friends, we will sometimes sit in the darkness. We will listen to the silence. We will weep over the unknown and the brokenness. We can do this because we trust in Jesus. 

Through the prophet, Isaiah God says to us in Isaiah 45 and 42

I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, that you may know that it is I the Lord, the God of Isreal, who call you by name…I call you by name. I will lead the blind in a way they do not know, in paths they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light…These are the things I do and I do not forsake them.” 

(Isaiah 45:3, 42:16)

Your darkness may be dark. Your silence may be deafening. Those are true and real and need to be admitted and grieved. Because, when we know the depths of darkness, we love the glory and beauty of the light all the more clearly. Jesus knew the darkness and it’s because of this we get to know the light. Don’t roll past your Savior’s death without being silent, without feeling the pain. Don’t ignore the shadows that are won’t move in your own heart and life. The light and victory are all the more beautiful when we grieve and acknowledge them. I’ll leave you with some words Paul wrote about what Jesus accomplished in the darkness and silence of Saturday:

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. HE disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him. (Colossians 2:13-14)

Embrace the treasures of darkness and let your Savior lead you to the light of His triumph over death this weekend, friends.

Ryan and I did part of this as a short, 10-minute video devotional for our church – check it out here!

You can also check out our livestream service here!

even if…

even if…

“Sometimes God permits what He hates to accomplish what He loves.”

Joni Eareckson-Tada

Guilty confession: I sometimes live in a fake future; a future of my own projection where God is not present, sovereign, or good. Maybe you can relate?  We don’t say it exactly like that, but anytime we project thoughts, emotions, and turmoil into the future— where God hasn’t given us grace to live yet— we are imagining a fake future where He is not God.  

For me, because I have Multiple Sclerosis, living in this fake future can happen when my nervous system stops sending signals to lift my foot while on a hike, or when there’s a pandemic, or just on a normal Tuesday morning … The pervasive thoughts of this fake future can come in and steal my joy, robbing me of the beauty of the present moment anytime that I stop preaching the gospel to my oh-so-prone-to-wander heart.  

Well, as it turns out, that fake future is a bad place to live. Not only is it gut-wrenching, but it is simply not true. It’s a bold lie that Satan, my flesh, and the world tempt me to live in.  Anytime those three are in cahoots together, say during a pandemic, my fake future is all the grimmer.  And if I live there, I will self-protect, self-preserve, and ultimately self-serve, forgetting about God and others in the present.  This pretend future becomes ridden with the stench of self – what Jesus came to rescue me from!  This future is an awful place where I am the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good and all-wise one… except, since I’m not those things, it is a place of great fear – a place where God is not present.  

During our livestream worship gathering last week, we sang Sovereign Over Us and I was convicted that I’m not living as the song declares:

“There is strength within the sorrow
There is beauty in our tears
And You meet us in our mourning
With a love that casts out fear
You are working in our waiting
You’re sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding
You’re teaching us to trust

Your plans are still to prosper
You have not forgotten us
You’re with us in the fire and the flood
You’re faithful forever – perfect in love
You are sovereign over us.”[1]

In my broken, immunosuppressed body (that fights against my nervous system), I can choose to worship God no matter what. In brokenness, I can worship more deeply, fully, and beautifully. Yet, as I stood singing, my heart was unsettled and restless. “You have to be careful!” my mind shouted. 

This is very true. The ramifications of getting sick while I have less B-cells to fight it off (taking forever to get over sickness and incurring permanent damage resulting from white blood cells attacking the covering of my nervous system) are very real. Yet, I can choose whether or not to abide safely in Jesus with this knowledge. My outward actions probably need to remain the same – safe and cautious – but my heart needs a heavy dose of the truth, stability, and safety found only in the One who is faithful forever, perfect in love, and sovereign over us. 

The reality is that even if I get sick, and even if my broken white blood cells go rogue and attack my nervous system, and even if my foot and leg (or eye, or hands, or bladder or whatever) stop working permanently, He is still sovereign over even that. Even if I am more permanently damaged, to God be the glory forever because that is what He has planned for me to love Him more deeply and proclaim Him more fully. 

Nothing can touch us, as children of God, without God’s permission. Remember Job? Satan had to ASK God for permission to take Job’s stuff, make him sick, allow his kids to die, and more. The book of Job is 42 chapters long, but the story could have been told in merely 6. There are 36 chapters devoted to allowing us to walk with Job through his questions, anguish, and pain. While knowing God is sovereign doesn’t take away the difficulty, or the grief, or the sitting in pain and suffering for a time, it does put those feelings in perspective with the eternal glory that outweighs it all (2 Corinthians 4:17). 

I’m thankful for the words of another song, He will Hold Me Fast, that reminds me of the truth: “When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast.”[2] His grip is stronger than my lack of faith. This is encouraging to me as I am bluntly, yet kindly, reminded of my own lack of faith in who God says He is and who He has proven to be, time and time (and time) again. 

This body is what God has given me to worship Him in. Broken, and hurting, and not always working right – it is where my soul lives. And, I can worship Him in my present reality: In my strong faith or my lack of faith; in my fears and insecurities or my deep and abiding trust. This is the body, the season, and the place in which He has called me to live, move, breath, and worship. So, I will trust that I am held fast by a sovereign God who is always good, loving, faithful, and in charge. 

And when I forget, I will repent and believe again (and again) … with this body that will one day – on the day of God’s choosing – finally and forever be made perfect. 


[1] Sovereign Over Us | Aaron Keyes. Bryan Brown, Jack Mooring

[2] He Will Hold Me Fast | Ada Habershon & Matt Merker

*I am grateful to have this article appear in enCourage!

the biggest sinner in the room

the biggest sinner in the room

This week I have an audio for you (yay!).  The was recorded at my church, New City during a congregational prayer time.  But if you prefer to read, here’s a transcript, but I hope you’ll listen in here as well!  

There’s this truth from Luke chapter 7 that’s been resounding in my heart and mind lately.  It’s a time when a Pharisee, a teacher of the law, had Jesus over for dinner when a woman interrupts the dinner to anoint Jesus’ feet with her tears and perfume.

The people in the room knew who she was – she was a sinner of the more obvious kind.  But the woman knows who she is too – and that’s why she came. 

Jesus, knowing the Pharisee’s harsh thoughts about the woman, responds to the situation and his unspoken words by saying:

“He who is forgiven much loves much, but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”  

The truth is, we all need to be forgiven much, but it’s our awareness of this that makes our love for Jesus either grow or shrink.  

This makes me wonder where I minimize the cross. 

Where do I shrink the cross by not admitting that my sin is as evil, and big, harmful, and horrible, as it is? 

How often do I think someone else’s sin just couldn’t be forgiven, but mine, well, mine’s not so bad so it can be forgiven? 

When we shrink the magnitude of our sin, we internally minimize our need for the cross and the power of Jesus’ blood over us.

When we minimize our wonder and awe at His love, we shrink His holiness and perfection and justice and in doing so, we shrink His unrestrained mercy, love, and grace.  

We shrink the cross.

But!

 Because of His cross, I can be the biggest sinner in the room and admit it because his mercy, his grace, His cross is bigger than my sin.  

I can repent because I know I am hidden in Christ. I know His blood on the cross was enough to cover me. I know He delights in freeing me to walk in the light of forgiveness as His child.  

I can say, I’m worse than I thought I was at first, but it’s okay because I’m far more loved than I ever thought imaginable because His grace is bigger and the cross looms larger in my life.  

Will we let these truth lead us – lead us straight to the cross?  Lead us to admitting our sin and need for Jesus more freely?  Repenting more often – even when it hurts?  

Do you know, in Christ, that:

You are fully known.

You are dearly loved.

You are fully forgiven.

May the cross loom large in our hearts and minds and life, because we know we are desperate sinners, and even in our admitting it and fighting for repentance, we are loved more deeply that we ever dared imagined.

*I’m deeply indebted to many for the illustration of “the cross chart“, but specifically, my grace-filled and adoring husband (!!), Sonship, Parakaleo, and my friend, Kristy, whose husband who posted it in the link above!

learning to die well

learning to die well

I love Autumn. I love it for many reasons, but this year in particular, I’ve identified with the dying that autumn shows us in a way I hadn’t recognized in the past. The beauty of autumn is literally in it’s dying. A woman at the library today stopped her car in middle of the road to get out and take photos of the splendor of yellow, orange, and red the trees held in their dying. No one was mad at her for stopping in the middle of the road, we all smiled and stared in wonder as well.

I hope I can die like the trees in Autumn. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who would argue the beauty of the leaves as they “change color”. I delved a little deeper into what’s happening with the leaves in the Fall to make sure I wasn’t leading my kids astray with my simple knowledge, and learned that as chlorophyll stops being produced because of the lack of sunlight, the green color that usually COVERS UP the true color of the leaves lessens so that you eventually see what was underneath all along (gardeningknowhow.com). I was amazed at the simple and profound statement.

The color was technically there all along, just unseen until circumstance of growing darkness brought it out for us to witness.

And my heart cries out, “oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” (romans 11:33) as this perfectly parallels our human existence. How do we die? And not just physically. How do we die every day to ourselves? How do we die when circumstances are really hard and feel unbearable? How do we die to ourselves as we trust the Creator more than our wayward feelings about what’s happening in the moment? As Elizabeth Elliot always reminds me,

“The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.”

Maybe this has been so poignant to me because I have felt the season of death the past few months. Nothing happened really; nothing changed in my diagnosis or physical or cognitive ability because of multiple sclerosis, but it’s felt more like dying to self than that diagnosis did. A friend asked several weeks ago about what fruitfulness I saw in my life or around me and I just had to answer with an honest, “I don’t know. It just feels like death right now. I see no fruit.” Now, it wasn’t totally true that I saw no fruit anywhere around me, but my over arching emotion and spiritual place at the time felt like death, or maybe I could call it pruning, or even Autumn. And instead of running away, like I’m hard-wired to do (ask my mom about all those times I attempted to run away as a kid), I’ve slowly, and painfully, made the shift to abide – to stay, to dig in .…

Dig in to the multitude of times I have had to repent and humbly acknowledge my haste in word or emotion; dig in and reconcile on many different occasions, be it for myself or my child with her friends; dig in and come to terms with my limitations in things I thought I had control over or was good at; dig in and admit that I do not have the right answer, or the words to pray, or even strength to lead where I think I’m called to lead; dig in and admit my weakness. It’s a slow dying to self.

But Autumn! The gift God gives of Autumn gives me hope!

Autumn is a paradox of death and planting.   Of true colors being revealed as the cover up is no longer produced. Silently, seeds are being sown.  Like Jesus tell us,  “…unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)  And I declare with Pete Scazerro, 

“Lord, forgive me for fighting the ‘deaths’ you send into my life in order to plant something new.”

You may or may not be spiritually, mentally, emotionally in the season of autumn.  I agree with Scazerro who says that the seasons happen to us – we can’t control them.  They have much to teach us.  But regardless of where you are, may you, as well as I, abide in the Source, sending out our roots to steams of living water – Jesus; not the dry streams of our own making. May we die well,  wait well, and grow well, knowing that there is beauty and purpose in each season.

No season is ever a waste for a child of the Most High King.

treasures in darkness

treasures in darkness

(update: 3-21-19)

This is a continuation of a previous blog post, where I talk about my tendency to make my own way, and light my own fires. Maybe you, along with me, can acknowledge where we’ve tried to light our own fire and make our own way apart from the Lord. In His mercy, he reveals to us where we live in unbelief, act like our circumstances didn’t first pass through His hands, and we try to save ourselves. It is a deep, slow work, this adventure of Him putting out the fires we make, watching for His light, and letting it shine through our brokenness.

You know by now that we don’t always sit in the sunshine with the birds singing gracefully around us. There’s a purpose in this. There’s a purpose in the darkness – it’s never wasted. Sometimes we sit in the dark because God’s mercy has let the flames of our own self sufficiency burn out, but often times we may find ourselves sitting in the darkness and don’t know why.

D. Martin Lloyd Jones reminds me that often times a child of God is called to keep journeying forward although it is dark:

the child of light is sometimes found walking in darkness but he goes on walking. He does not sit down and commiserate with himself – that is the thing – the child of light walking in darkness. He does not see the face of the Lord at this point, but He knows that He is there; so he goes on.” (Spiritual Depression)

Nevertheless, He calls us to treasures in the darkness – in not knowing the perfect answer, in not at all understanding why this is happening, in not being able to see or fix the future, or fix today for all our apparent hard work, planning, and control.

And yet, there’s a treasure here, as Isaiah says,

“I will give you treasures of darkness and the hoards in the secret places, that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.” (Is. 45:3)

Treasure. My heart thrills at that word. And I wonder, “what is the treasure?” And then I see Isaiah 42:16-18,

“And I will lead the blind in a way they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are things I do, and I do not forsake them.”

Maybe the treasure is the closeness of the Guide. Maybe it’s seeing Him more clearly working miracles in our own hearts and around us. Maybe it’s the unshakable knowledge that even in the darkness we’re not forsaken.

My friend told me once she took her kids into a dark closet and tried to cover up any places where light could come in. She told them although it seemed scary, they were going to sit in complete darkness to wait and watch…and then slowly it happened, the slightest glimmers of light peaking through the crevices of the door. Their eyes sought out the light, and as they watched and waited, slowly they began to see it.

There’s always a glimmer of light if you are really looking. Jesus is light and He never will leave us or forsake us. Listen to what the prophet Micah declares in foretelling the promise of Christ:

“Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light unto me.” (micah 7:8)

Because, the darkness isn’t dark to Him.

The darkness didn’t overcome Him.

The darkness will not overcome His light.

He came into the world and He extinguishes the flames of our own making and tells us that He is with us. (John 1)

The light of the world, who is all sufficient in love and strength and power is the One who enlightens the eyes of our hearts to the hope He has called us to. (Ephesians 1)

If you’re sitting in darkness, for whatever the reason, keep looking, watching, waiting, and walking. There is a treasure hidden there.

I’ll leave you with a favorite quote from Vaneetha Risner:

“I see that God has answered some prayers with a resounding yes in jaw dropping, inexplicable ways.  I remember those answers with gratitude and awe.  But the answers of ‘wait’ and ‘no’ have done a far deeper work in my soul.  They have kept me connected to the Giver and not his gifts.  They have forced me to seek Him.  And in seeking Him, I have found a supernatural joy beyond all comparison.  A joy not based on my circumstances.  Not based on my deliverance.  Simply based on His tender presence.” 

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