Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Ultimate Stain Remover

I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.
Isaiah 43:25

Proctor and Gamble developed a nifty item for cleaning up accidental spills. Tide to Go, shaped and sized as a felt tip marker, easily fits in a purse or pocket. Drop spaghetti sauce on your shirt, no problem. Dribble hamburger grease on your tie, Tide to Go makes it disappear like magic. Via a chemical solution, stains are neutralized and removed.

Isaiah 43:25 reminds me of Tide to Go. How interesting that this verse was written while Israel was under the Law. There wasn’t any removal of sin, only a temporary covering. In the midst of endless sacrifices for even the tiniest infractions is this word of complete forgiveness. For those alive under the Law, this probably sounded too good to be true. Unfortunately many now living under grace find it unbelievable also.

Tide to Go does a good job but sometimes there remains a hint of discoloration. The stain permeates the fibers of the fabric leaving a mark literally in the cloth. When God blots out our sins all traces of them disappear forever. He leaves nothing behind to jog His memory about our failures.

If God is not holding onto and rehashing all of our mistakes, why do we? All past, present and future sins were paid for in full at the cross with the blood of Jesus. Forgiveness for all was sealed, good for eternity. As far as God is concerned, our sins no longer exist.

This act of pure grace on God’s part doesn’t give anyone a license to sin, as if we needed one. What is gives us is unrestricted access to God Himself. Any barriers that sin would erect were removed once and for all. Surprisingly, God did this for His benefit, not ours. Like us, God can’t forget. He chooses not to remember. Don’t be surprised when you go to Him whining about some old failure you’ll find He doesn’t know what you’re talking about.  He designed a plan that eliminates any reminders. Don’t waste time trying to buck His system.

The next time a guilt trip (not genuine remorse or repentance) tries to force you to bring up things from your past, don’t bother. God’s already dealt with them. Rejoice and relax that He’s wiped your slate clean with the blood of Jesus, the ultimate stain remover.
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/coltrane/3608434116/">Christopher JL</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Well What Did You Expect?

In the morning I lay my request before you and wait in expectation.
Psalm 5:3

Do you pray expecting specific results? Are your words purposeful and focused or are they spouted out as scattershot. Maybe you’ll hit something. Prayer is more than crossing your fingers, making a wish and hoping it comes true. The psalmist considered prayer a serious undertaking. When he made his request he anticipated a response. He positioned himself to recognize the answer when it arrived.

It’s difficult to feel confident that our prayers will be answered if we’re not sure God listens, especially to us. Some people believe they’re in a select group whom God ignores. Firmly convinced they’re disqualified, this mindset prohibits them from hearing and receiving from God.

Everyone experiences disappointments, sometimes with God. Prayers appear to go unanswered. Things get worse; life gets harder. Why bother going to God for help if He’ll only leave you hanging? Disappointment makes trusting our next call will be answered a challenge. The psalmist provides valuable insight into handling these situations.

First, be organized. The psalmist didn’t speak off the cuff but prepared his case. A well thought out petition bolstered his confidence that God would respond.

Second, be prepared to wait. The answer might not come immediately. Often things must change before results occur. Our solution sometimes take us through personal growth and development. Other people or situations may need to come into alignment before a response comes. This usually takes time.

Finally, be in a state of expectation. Because he believed that God heard his prayer, the psalmist expected help. His attention was focused on recognizing the answer he knew would come. His belief system worked for and not against him.

Life would be easier if every prayer received an immediate reply. In a way they all do. God says: “Yes”, “No” and “Keep knocking.” Keep knocking? What’s that all about?"  “Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you” Matthew 7:7 NLT.  James 4:3 tells us that some prayers aren’t answered because we have the wrong motive. Hebrews 7:25 reminds us that Jesus, as our High Priest, is always interceding on our behalf. Is it possible that our prayer isn’t answered right away because we’re not in agreement with Jesus? Graham Cooke, in his series about the favor of God suggests this may be the case. In addition, we usually think too small compared to God’s dreams, designs and purposes.

I prefer God to spell everything out in detail upfront. I don’t want any nasty surprises. This, however, requires zero faith and that’s not how God operates. As hard as I’ve tried, I’ve not succeeded in convincing Him to change His methods of answering my or anyone else’s prayers. Soooooo...just like the psalmist, I’ll present my petitions and anticipate an answer. I’ll get exactly what I expect, a response.

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/kygp/2374438139/">kygp</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Infinity and Beyond!

And we have known and believed the love God hath to us. 1 John 4:16

To know and to believe something to be true or real is not the same thing. The Apostle John, writing about the love of God, qualified it as something he both knew and believed.

“Jesus loves me this I know.” Why? How? “For the Bible tells me so.”

This simple song is a profound statement of truth. Throughout the Bible God’s own words and demonstrations of His love are documented as reminders of how much He cares. We’ve heard and read “God loves you” over and over, but do we really believe it?

To know and to experience are two different actions. Author E. W. Kenyon wrote about “sense knowledge evidence” which is often mistaken for faith. We “believe” someone loves us because we see their actions, hear their words and feel their affectionate touch. When what we sense no longer lines up with our definition of love, the validity of the relationship comes into doubt. Our judgment is based solely on experiences in the natural, sensual realm. Disappointment and discouragement can result from using sense knowledge evidence to confirm God’s love for us.

E. W. Kenyon also warned about the danger of substituting “mental assent” for real belief. Mentally assenting to something is agreeing with it but not necessarily believing it to be true. We read a passage from the Bible and, because it is written there, we agree in principle that it’s true. Unless we put what we’ve read into practice, we really don’t believe it. Faith requires action, not just agreement. It’s easy to amass a storehouse of head knowledge without any practical application. Ultimately sense knowledge evidence and mental assent will fail us when difficulties arise.

A deep, personal relationship with God is built on intimacy not information. Interactions with God, like those with people, open the door for disappointments. God never fails nor does He make mistakes. He steadfastly refuses to confine Himself in boxes based upon our comfortable proportions. He systematically disrupts any attempts to reduce Him to a formula guaranteeing success. His idea of neat and tidy can be chaotic and messy to us; He colors outside the lines. He won’t be relegated to the sidelines saddled with the responsibility of smoothing out the rough spots of life and keeping us appeased. His plans and designs for our life outstrip our wildest imaginations. For these to succeed, we need to truly believe He loves us, not just know about it in theory.

Jesus and John were very close friends. The bulk of John’s life as a Christian, however, was spent without the physical contact with the Lord he’d once experienced. Like the majority of the readers of his letter, John had to know and believe something He couldn’t see. He’d have never endured the hardships and persecutions he suffered if God’s love was only a cute idea or some pipe dream.

Experiencing God's love will stabilize our lives in ways that sense knowledge evidence and mental assent never will. The good news, God desires a deep, intimate, personal relationship with each and every one of us. His love provides the fuel to take us past the confines of our small thinking and into His wildest dreams…“Infinity and Beyond!”

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/nasamarshall/4053625518/">NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>