Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Give me a Break...

Zip through a couple of days that I'd label unsuccessful and the idea of making any more decisions almost seems overwhelming.  What book should we study next? Where do you want to meet tomorrow? What time? Do you want one cookie or two? What kind of hot tea do you want? Seriously. I can't go there right now.

Aaron sighed, "I'm tired of making decisions." No joke. Give me a drawing pad and take away my license; I've decided to be a kid again. As one of my friends says, "This adulting thing stinks."

After dealing with mouthy kids and frustrating technology and leaky faucets and worn-down appliances and wondering, what am I going to need to fix next, we drive up to Ozark to purchase a used van. We'd already test-driven it and--we thought--fully assessed the pros/cons. Unfortunately, the van barely made it out of the drive-way before not one, but two squeaks started assailing our ears. Really? Where was this cacophonous concert when we drove it last week?

We pull into Aldi to buy our weekly groceries and think, "Oh, well...hopefully the mechanic can figure this junk out without it costing too much." Still, I'm feeling a little bit like someone handed me a shiny red balloon and then popped it.

After loading the groceries into the back of the Honda, Aaron gets the kids buckled and then turns the key. Nothing. Nada. Dead.

We give each other a look and wonder, can we laugh about this? Because if we don't, I think I might cry. It's not the van; it's not even the money. It's just the one. more. thing. One more detail. One more call. One more task on my list. One more thing to process and act on. Where's the cruise control on life when you need it?

I follow Aaron and the kids home in our seemingly more reliable '99 Dodge Caravan. Okay, why did we feel the need to buy another vehicle? My natural tendency is to fume, but I know what I've got to do: pray. Just leave it with me, Kristin. Talk to me about how you feel. Ask me for perspective. 

So I do, but I feel tired and distracted and empty--soul fatigue. His patience astounds me. Somehow I hear His whisper: worship me. Thank me. 
I'd love to say I jumped into gratitude with enthusiasm, but truthfully, my words came more as a sacrifice than anything else. At least, at first.

I love learning new worship songs, but the choruses that return to my mind are ones I heard growing up. When I need to sing to an audience of one, I pull from that repertoire.
I started singing a song that I haven't heard for probably two decades: let me take you back to Hosanna's praise. It's Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart. Henry Smith wrote the song in the 70's, in the midst of dealing with joblessness and a disease that eventually left him blind. The song itself contains simple lyrics and a repetitious chorus:

                  Give thanks with a grateful heart,
                  Give thanks to the Holy One.
                  Give thanks because He's given Jesus Christ, His Son.

Though I kept singing, the last line snagged and stuck. I don't worship Him just when He gives me obedient kids, reliable vehicles, a healthy body, or stable relationships. I praise Him because He's given me a Savior. And if that's it, it's more than enough.

I was talking to my mom tonight, asking her if she'd help me get the van into the auto shop, and she reminded me of something that has quickly become one of her catch phrases: "It's just stuff."

It all breaks down, crumbles by mold, moth, and decay. But, what He's already given us in Christ is secured for all of eternity. With that gift, how can I say anything but thank you? Maybe your stressers carry a heavier weight: cancer, divorce, rebellion. Maybe it's not just a car or house that's broken down, but a marriage...a spirit of hope. I know what it feels like to give up too, but He doesn't reciprocate. Remember, that He makes all things new. What He touches doesn't stay the same. He has put His imprint on us and sealed us for all eternity.

"He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." 2 Cor. 1:21-22

And I am "justified by His grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ." Romans 3:24

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
1 Peter 1:3–5

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Make Me Brave

Sunday after services, our kids are dismissed with their homework (God-time sheets) and an unusual "token" to overcome: a sucker. But not just any candy. This lollipop possesses bugs (yes, dead crusty insects) in this see-through yellow sugar encasement. Now, I'm not an overly cautious person; I've done some rather crazy things in my life: jumping out of a plane comes to mind. Even so, the whole psych-up motivational activities that seem to thrive in youth groups rarely carry any significant change over into real-life experiences. Instead, let's challenge people to act in a way that ripples out into eternity. Talk to a new neighbor and invite them to church. Call a grieving widow and take her to lunch. Visit the elderly and broken-down. Encourage the depressed. Forgive and love the angry. Invite the outcast. 

Our culture seems to translate bravery as a concoction of danger, adrenaline and stupidity. Christ-following courage does require us to overcome our fears, but we do so because of His purposes, not our own glory. When He asks us to be brave and take risks, we understand that we aren't exempt from danger--quite the opposite--but the peril comes with great eternal reward. Following our intended objective will push us out of our comfort zone, but it also takes us to a place of sacred relationship with our Creator Father. And we take consolation in the truth that He does not leave us on our own, but faces our fears with us, equipping us with armor and speaking words of life into our spirits (Psalm 56:3-4, Eph. 6:10, 2 Timothy 1:7).

I can only speak for myself, but the things God has called me to do require excessive bravery on my part: homeschooling my kids, inviting new people into our home, reaching out to widows and orphans, sacrificing time and energy for the least of these. Most of what I do is not overly comfortable for me. In large crowds, my pulse will quicken and deep breathing has gone AWOL. Meeting new people fatigues me to the point where I need about two hours of silence afterwards. Despite the numerous times I've trekked this path, every semester before I start a new Bible study or a new class, I get nervous. A day of solitude, writing in a cabin in the woods sounds like a blissful dream. As much as I adore being in community, people do drain me. I try to be intentional because I know that's what God has called us too, and I truly do love being around other women of faith. We aren't here to be reclusive. We are here to live in fellowship with others.

Ask the Lord what He needs you to overcome: it may have nothing to do with my issues. Perhaps being brave includes more silent listening time away from people. Perhaps being brave translates into singing in a crowd at church. Perhaps being brave looks like accepting that less-than-impressive job just so you can provide for your family. Perhaps being brave means forgiving the person that offended you. Even if you don't know yet, He does. Ask Him and receive His answer and know that He will equip you with the strength to walk in courage.

I Corinthians 15:58  Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Image result for photos of John Wayne

And as John Wayne said, "Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway."

Monday, September 19, 2016

When God Seems Silent

While waiting in a doctor's office this week, I overheard the receptionist talking with a patient near her. Although I missed the first part of the conversation, the receptionist related how she'd just come off this fast and was praying specifically for someone to step in (not sure what position) from 2:00-5:00 in the afternoons. She told the patient that she started off with no answer, but would keep asking until she got what she needed. Basically stating that she would pray until God gave her what she wanted. And sure enough, God delivered. A woman had taken the position and was able to cover the time. The client nodded and offered praise, "Isn't it great to be children of the King?"
The receptionist responded, "God is so good."

Now, I don't want to diminish their faith or the statements they solidified at the end, but as I sat in the hard metal chair, rubbing a headache away and waiting to get further blood-work done, I wondered if they would have said the same things if God hadn't "delivered."  If the person hadn't stepped in to help out? If the struggle continued on as it had before? If God's answer had been not now... wait? If life didn't turn rose-colored like we expected; if we didn't get a slice of heaven here; if we had to wait, would it be okay then? Would they be saying "God is so good"? 

When people proclaim God's goodness, it's often after an affirmation of their desired outcome. Since God gave me what I wanted; therefore, he is good. Or even, God gave me what I thought I needed, so he is good.

But is God's goodness contingent on our finite ability to discern what's best? We grasp a limited view--fractured at best--of the big picture God paints. If we stood two inches away from a Monet painting and stared at it, we'd hardly grasp what we were seeing. I love Impressionism paintings, but they must be appreciated from afar. If I glare at one brush stroke of black and fail to see all the other strokes around it, I've lost sight of the purpose of the painting. 

Image result for Monet paintings

Still, I get the dilemma: when children face repeated abuse and the system isn't protecting them and God seems distant and apathetic, I want to scream, "We're desperate here! We really do need you! Wouldn't it be good for you to step in and save them, Lord? Why do you seem to do nothing?" We're all praying. We're pleading. And the struggle burns on.

When family members wrestle through chemotherapy and fight against that nasty "c" word and nothing seems to help, I want to scream, "Is this your plan? How does this seem good? Why don't you just end the suffering?" We pray. We plead. And the struggle continues. 

A friend's marriage unravels, and despite years of counseling and prayer and effort, the spouse still walks away, abandoning them and their children. The accident leads to crippling and reduced function. The child remains a selfish prodigal, with no intentions of returning home. The sexual molester goes on unchecked. The liar and cheat swindles another person.

Our Normal Rockwell dream has turned into Edvard Munch's The Scream.

No, this life isn't what we thought it would be. Sometimes God says "no." Sometimes we don't even hear the "no." Sometimes we wonder, is he listening? Does He truly care--in every situation, all the time? Is He doing anything? What? Where? What is the point?

After Malachi finished his prophesy in the Old Testament, it was about 400 years before people heard from John the Baptist, "Make way; He's finally here!" Where was God? Had he abandoned them--decided it wasn't worth it? 

Second Peter chapter 3 expounds on the struggle of waiting for God's judgment day on evil. We see through one angle, but the Lord comprehends and orchestrates it all. Read the whole chapter for further understanding, but these verses speak of waiting and spanning out our perspective.

 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come... ( 2 Peter 3:8-10 emphasis mine)

Those of you who know me grasp this idea: I hate waiting. I'm a get-er-done, check-off-the-list kinda girl. And although I've grown in my patience an itty bit, I'm sorry, but sometimes God just seems so slow. I tap my toe and scowl at my clock and demand, "When?"

Randy Alcorn says in The Goodness of God that evil will eventually meet eternal wrath. "The wheels of justice may seem to turn slowly, but they turn surely. Scripture assures us that justice is coming; 'God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil' (Ecc. 12:14). Justice is certain, even when it isn't immediate.

"Since sin demands death (see Romans 6:23), if people are to live, justice must wait. God delays justice not to make our lives miserable, but to make our lives possible" (61-62).

What if God said "Enough already!" before Randy Alcorn's conversion? Before Paul's transformation on the road? Before yours? 

Habakkuk 2:3 encourages God's people to wait without despair, "For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay."

So, what do we do in the waiting time? If an estimated two-thirds of the Psalms are psalms of lament (Yancey 82) then surely we should approach God with honesty and brokenness and all the tumultuous feelings we are experiencing. In The Question That Never Goes Away, Philip Yancey addresses the angst in Habakkuk, the prophet's plea with God.

2How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
3Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
4Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted. (ESV Habakkuk 1)

We keep talking to God. The temptation--at least for me--is to cross my arms, grunt and say, "What's the use?" Our pride tells us, there's no point in asking, for He will do as He pleases...or seemingly ignore as He chooses. But, Scripture encourages the opposite. We come to the throne room and ask, "How long, Lord?"

We keep fighting injustice. Just because the world appears to have lost every sensible grip on morality doesn't mean we as Christ-followers toss the banner. (I Thes. 4:3-8) We keep serving with compassion, saying no to lustful selfishness, and choose the honorable way.

We keep remembering that our Savior suffered. Though we fully grasp the purpose of it now, Jesus' disciples didn't understand why the Father allowed Jesus to endure such extreme pain and suffering. God feels our pain, and His felt much more. Even when we wonder what He's up to, we need to remind ourselves that we aren't alone. 

"A highway shall be there, and a road, And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness.
The unclean shall not pass over it...But the redeemed shall walk there, 
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return., And come to Zion with singing,
With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, 
And sorrow and sighing shall flee away."  Isaiah 35:8-10

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

When Fear Says "No," But God Says "Yes!"

Today I have the privilege of introducing you to a fellow Bible-study sister. Carolyn helps lead worship at our church, and lead she does. Her humble vulnerability before the throne of God invites others to open their hearts to the Lord with more abandon and passion. For years she's encouraged others on FB with her devotional encounters, and after numerous promptings from readers, she's starting her own blog! Today she's talking about overcoming fear. 

Guest post by Carolyn Hill 

Have you ever felt like your calling was diminished to yesterday's trash in 30 seconds flat? I certainly have felt that way! Just when I finally allowed the Holy Spirit to make me brave enough to step fully into my calling, along came a powerful force of discouragement, and mockery.  Case in point: singing has always been an integral part of my life. But the way I would cut loose and bare my heart in music at home was always a well-kept secret.  I worried too much about what people would think.

I had heard the phrase, "Who do you think you are?" too many times, and it reverberated over and over again in my impressionable brain. I really didn't know who I was, or why God had given me such a passion to sing. As I grew up, I started singing more and more (actually in public) because it could not be completely suppressed. 

Ultimately, singing became my lucrative career for 15 years. However, I always held back. Always. Underlying fear still gripped me, and kept me from truly being "all that God made me to be." But in my late 20's I began leading worship, and a transformation began to happen in me. It took a season of over 10 years to learn how to worship...for real...not for show. God was working on my heart, and I found myself becoming completely free to sing and worship Him with everything I had...my mind, body, spirit and soul! For the first time I was not holding back. How could I? It was all about Him, not me.  I had found my identity in Him, and I was experiencing joy in His presence! 

One Sunday I woke up with so much fervor and excitement to praise Jesus that I could hardly contain myself! And as I was leading worship, I felt a warm sensation start from my head and flow down to my toes. It is hard to describe...but I felt completely loved. At one point I began to jump with joy just like a delighted child, completely enthralled with my Heavenly Father. When church was over, I could not stop my tears from flowing. They were cleansing tears...of relief, joy and love! 

As I was gathering my things and getting ready to leave, a person that I had known and looked up to for a long time called me over. She told me that the way I had behaved during worship was disgraceful and embarrassing. She said it was obviously all about drawing attention to myself! She told me she had never seen anyone act that way in her life! She shook her head and walked away. I felt like she had slapped me and spit in my face! Her words hurt me so deeply. Now my tears were flowing from heartache. I felt ashamed. If you break that word "ashamed" down, it describes how I felt: a sham. I started to doubt that what I had experienced was real. I started questioning everything. The one thing that I thought I had been freed of--the fear of being judged--assaulted me. Again, I was hearing, "Who do you think you are?" 

 Well, the Lord did not let me suffer in this shame for very long. As I made a beeline to my car, a mentor of mine found me crying and comforted me. And then the Lord began to reassure my heart that the worship experience I had with Him was real, and not only that, but it had deeply moved many people in the church. 

Soon after that, without ever telling anyone else about my experience, I started hearing from people who felt the Holy Spirit move their hearts during that time of worship. Many felt freedom to worship like never before! God confirmed this to me many times. And then He urged me to not only forgive the lady who hurt me, but to also pray for her as well! As I began to pray for her over a period of two years, God gave me so much compassion for her that I would be moved to tears on her behalf. I pleaded with the Lord that she would know Him the way that I was so blessed to know Him! I am happy to report that she has never said another hurtful thing to me again. And I hold no grudge against her, and I believe with all of my heart God is doing a work in her! And He has done such a work in me! My worst fear became a reality, and I had to face it. But I have come to realize Satan wants to diminish us and our calling like yesterday's trash in 30 seconds flat, but he will not succeed! I have found great consolation in this truth from Nehemiah 2:19-20; ...they mocked and ridiculed us....I answered them by saying, "The God of heaven will give us success!" And in 4:14, "Don't be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome!"

See, all of those years I missed out because I believed that what people would think, say or do was not worth the risk. Now I see that even when those fears became reality, the experience wasn't so bad! God's calling is worth the opposition and He will always get the final victory!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Why We Remember

Recently, Facebook circulated this photo of the twin towers with a caption below stating that for the first time this year, high school freshmen will study the events of 9/11 not as a memory but as a historical event. As hard as it is to believe that 15 years have passed since that horrific event, I recall in vivid reel the images flashing across our tiny dorm-room TV in college. If I'd been watching a Hollywood film, I would have thought nothing of the scene, but these atrocities were actually destroying thousands of lives. Nearly 3,000 people died that day, but more experienced the penetrating loss. Mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, children, brothers, sisters, and friends felt the deep soul death from the evil. This murderous act killed toddlers and seniors. Their family dynamics would forever be altered.

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Fifteen years later, the majority of people (or perhaps it's just what the media chooses to focus on) seem to avert the topic. "Let's move on." Though "moving on" is essential to growth, we can't deny the devastation of that day. Family members and friends don't want to forgot those who died and for us to do so involves a level of dishonor to what they conceded.

In remembering, we....

  • Reset our priorities. What is truly important? Am I putting my time and energy into those things? After 9/11, people left work and school and spent the rest of the day with loved ones. Estranged relationships were amended through forgiveness and phone conversations across the continent. People who had written off God stepped over the threshold of their local church, looking for eternal hope.                                                                                                                                         
  • Restrain evil. When we remember what can happen, we decide that we will be different. We can't change everyone (or anyone?), but we can change who we choose to be. We decide to demonstrate compassion, service, and light to a world shadowed in darkness. Philip Yancey says that "If the church does its job, people don't torment themselves wondering where God is. They know the answer. God becomes visible through people who live out the mission that Paul expressed so well" (The Question That Never Goes Away 150).                                                          
  • Regenerate through pain. God doesn't want to waste our suffering. If the Lord swooped in every time evil would strike, would we cease to have free will? If He saved us from every painful experience, would we turn to Him and find spiritual restoration? Should life be void of sorrow and agony would we look to our Creator for our purpose and salvation or would we declare, "I've got this"? C.S. Lewis said, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." Romans 8:28 may not make much sense when we contrast it to our experiences, but we trust that God filters the ingredients to receive the best possible outcome. In The Goodness of God, Randy Alcorn relates an experience as a child. His mother used to make the best cakes, but when he tested the ingredients separately (vanilla, eggs, baking soda, etc.), nearly everything tastes horrible. Still, when baked together, the cake became this delicious end product.                                             "In a similar way, each trial and apparent tragedy tastes bitter to us. Romans 8:28 doesn't tell me 'it is good' if my leg breaks, or my house burns down, or I am robbed and beaten, or my child dies.Rather, God carefully measures out and mixes all the ingredients together, including the most bitter ones, and in the end, as measured after life here is done, produces a wonderful final product" (98).

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Surviving Life’s Storms Victoriously

This morning, I have the privilege of sharing the words of a dear friend, prayer warrior, and fellow writer.  Few women demonstrate such gracious poise and compassion over people. Quick to respond with prayer and confident to approach the throne of grace, Jennifer reaches beyond the temptations of merely pointing fingers and excusing behavior. She's the first to ask, "What can we do and how can we accomplish what the Lord wants in us?" I love her heart and humility, as further expounded in this post. 

Surviving Life’s Storms Victoriously
by Jennifer O. White

I can remember my mom confronting me with my inability to say, "I am sorry!" I suppose that was my first glance in the mirror at my own pride issues. I have really struggled with owning up to my weaknesses. It is OH SO EASY to see the weaknesses in other people. But wait .... does that mean it is easy for them to see the weaknesses in me?

Who am I kidding? 
Of course other people know my faults. This fact used to cause me enough anxiety to require medication. But several years ago, God invited me to pray for humility.
How do I know it was God who suggested it to me? I didn't know I had a pride problem, so it wasn't me having a logical discussion with myself and deducting this was a problem I should address. The enemy of my soul surely didn't suggest that I seek God for freedom from the very sin that had him cast out of heaven.

Our Secret Sins
A few years ago, my brother told me about a time when he knew God was calling him to confess a hidden sin to his Bible study group. He was very nervous about doing it, but he knew it was God’s will and God’s prompting. So he did it. He boldly confessed his sin and asked each person to forgive him. Each person offered him forgiveness. And that was the end of his struggle with that particular sin. His obedience opened the door to his healing.

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” James 5:16

One of my weaknesses in marriage has been to rehearse the things that frustrate me. I have a WONDERFUL husband and I have failed him many times by nurturing dishonoring thoughts about him.
So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:33

Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10

Thankfully, my counselor had been teaching me how toxic those thoughts are to our relationship. I followed her advice and practiced confessing to God each thought as it came up. Then I would ask for God's forgiveness.  My side of the conversation with God would go something like this:
“God, I know that thought about David was not from You. Please forgive me. I forgive David for … (when forgiving him was necessary).”

I would breathe a sigh of relief knowing that I had been obedient. Within minutes another dishonoring thought would race across the movie screen of my mind. Each time I chose confession and forgiveness, I found it easier to resist the thought. Today, I realize that I was living out James 4:7. I was submitting myself to God and resisting the devil, which comes with the promise that the devil will then flee from you. This act of obedience also helped me avoid having a root of bitterness take over my heart.

“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:15

Windshield Wipers & Storms
God helped me to see the importance of confessing and practicing forgiveness as a powerful combination with the following illustration. The storms of life are as sure and unpredictable as the thunderstorms that frightened us as kids. Today we drive through storms to get where we want to go and we use our windshield wipers to see our way through the storm.
In the relationship storms of our lives, we have confession and forgiveness as the tools to see through the storm. As windshield wipers cast down the pouring rain, confessing our sin and asking for forgiveness casts down the rebellious thoughts and arguments designed to separate us from God.
“We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

The next time you find yourself rehearsing the faults of others remember to turn on the windshield wipers of your mind. Choose to obey God's instructions to honor others, confess the sin, ask for forgiveness, and forgive the other person. Your choice will bring peace and confidence in the midst of life’s storms.

“And this righteousness will bring peace. Yes, it will bring quietness and confidence forever.” Isaiah 32:17

AND you will open the door to the healing God offers.

Jennifer O. White is the author of Prayers for New Brides: Putting on God’s Armor After the Wedding Dress and Marriage Armor for the #PrayingBride. Get your free copy of Seeing Your Spouse through God’s Eyes, a very important chapter from her book, here at JenniferOWhite.com 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

When You Aren't Good Enough and That's Okay

We're sitting at the table this morning, eating Cheerios with fresh peaches, and reciting Awana Bible verses (trust me, most mornings are not this idyllic). My three-year-old Awana Cubby repeats his condensed version of Romans 3:23, but then Landon queries, "Why does he have to learn that verse?It doesn't say anything about God or what He did." This boy doesn't miss a thing.

I nod in consent, "You're right, Bubby. Why do you think it matters that we know 'All have sinned'? What does that tell us about who we are and what we need?"

He ponders the question and responds, "Because we need God."

Ding-a-ding. Give that boy a prize.

I take a last bite of peach and internally consider what recognizing our depraved need does for us. What happens when we don't acknowledge it? After all, if we think "we're pretty good," what use do we have for a Savior? In our minds, we don't need saving. We become the proverbial man on the roof, stranded by high-rising flood waters, oblivious to our impending doom, shaking a shoo-away hand at anyone who comes by in a boat.

Peace and security don't follow ignorant distraction. Or from pretending that our truth is found in an alternate reality--one that denies our Creator, our need for saving, and our Savior's plan. He's the one that writes the story and He's already scripted the final plot twist and climax.

Going back to my son--lest you think him a redeemed angel--he proved his point in full display not one hour later. Refusing to obey to my command and yelling explosively at his brother, he demonstrated the ugliness of our natural sinful state. Calmly instructing him in how he should talk to his brother and me (ahem, screaming "I hate you!" is not okay) did not result in remorse. The consequence of losing treats, TV and shortening his bedtime just invoked further outrage.

People often see consequence as some kind of annoying blight on their fun. In other words, if people just ignored a standard of absolute right/wrong, everyone could do what's right in his own eyes and all would be well. Really? Does anything become punishable at that point? Who determines what is morally wrong and what isn't? Authorities? What if those in power change...do morals morph too? Some would say a culture determines what's permissible and what's punishable? Some would say it's "majority rules." If that idea were true, then people would agree that Germans should have fully complied to Nazi standards. That major genocide was acceptable.

Without launching into a deep theological explanation--that's not the purpose of this post--we have to ask ourselves, who decides what's good enough? If the standard is ever fluctuating, how do we rely on it? If it's cultural, is it dependable?

Obviously, the standard--if it's to be one at all--must rest contingent on a source outside ourselves. The law of gravity isn't subject to human interpretation. Of course, I suppose you could claim, "I defy gravity and will prove that my way is better" and jump off a 10-story building. Of course, you'd only prove that gravity remains steadfast and people that jump are people that die.
Likewise, the definition of right/wrong, good/evil, and sin originates with the One who writes the Story.

We are born broken.
We are walking dead.
We are fallen and prone to stumble.
We are selfish.
We are lustful and rebellious.

But, we are created for a different purpose.

We are called created with a plan.
We are cherished and valuable.
We are wanted.
We are loved.

We were designed for a life other.

But, we can't get there on our own.

No amount of denial or striving or conjuring will get us to the side of eternal atonement.
We need a Redeemer.

You aren't good enough, and therefore, you should rejoice! The hope of salvation doesn't have to come from within, for He already covered it all. Everything you did and couldn't do was buried with Him and now we rise again renewed and eternal. We've been given a new hope.

Image result for You have been redeemed and rescued Bible verses

1 Peter 1:18-21The Message)

 Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ’s sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. And this was no afterthought. Even though it has only lately—at the end of the ages—become public knowledge, God always knew he was going to do this for you. It’s because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God.