{re}fresh

Tag: sin

Do You See How I See?

by ivyjonah

Godsheart

“For God so loved the world…” John 3:16

Our small, inner city congregation is a Smorgasbord of God’s children: Afro-Americans, Hispanic brothers and sisters, Messianic believers, Caucasians, a bunch of awesome young people and halfway house residents. Through them, I’ve learned to see people through the Lord’s heart of love, but in my younger days I wasn’t so gracious.

Working retail, my younger self and a coworker observed in disbelief as a small child lay face down, screaming, flailing and twisting like a fish on dry land. I never knew a fish-boy could make so much noise. We glanced at each other, rolled our eyes, pursed our lips and slowly shook our heads. It was an obvious out-of-control mother who was responsible for that kind of behavior I remember saying to my friend. “When I have kids,” I said, “they will NEVER act like that!” I know, some of you are nibbling your knuckles saying, “Uh oh maybe she shouldn’t have said that!”

We all view the world through personal filters and sometimes these filters become a mindset when our ideas “set” just like concrete. When someone holds a perspective differing from ours, we insist he is wrong and we are right. The bible calls these judgments. Along with judgments, we make vows. “My kids will NEVER act like that!” Gulp!

Over the years, the Lord has transformed my filters so that I might see His heart. A few Sundays ago, I underwent more heart change.

Worshiping among my fellow believers my heart broke. I didn’t let out a gentle whimper that could be quieted with a pat on the shoulder or a Kleenex and a hug from a concerned sister. No, this was a heaving, gut wrenching, snotty kind of cry. My Pastor thought I was being touched personally by God’s Spirit. I was being touched all right, but the wailing was not for me but from God’s deeply sorrowful, almost inconsolable heart for people.

Asked to share, the Lord prompted me to cry out for groups of people, one-by-one: drug addicts, prostitutes and prisoners. Pimps, drug dealers and abusers…Wait! These people are really bad,” I thought in a knee-jerk reaction to the Holy Spirit. My heart didn’t mirror God’s heart.

And so the list continued as the Holy Spirit challenged my heart…prideful, greedy, unfaithful, adulterers, lustful, drunkards, gossips, slanderers, liars…My heart weighed the sins—bad, not-so-bad. But, aren’t all sins equal in God’s eyes? Romans 3:23 (GNT) says, “everyone has sinned and is far away from God’s saving presence.” We may think some people are more worthy of forgiveness, but no one is worthy.

Like so many, I have categorized sin depending on what I felt was big and bad. In that I do two things: I judge another’s access to the mercy of God and I minimize smaller sins, justifying them as “not that bad”.

Being in this congregation, has solidified my knowledge that we ALL belong at the foot of the cross. There are no exceptions. Take time today and ask the Lord if you have categorized sin. Ask Him to show you, in His Word, how He views sinners. Ask for help in adjusting your thinking to match His perspective.

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The Empty Suitcase

by Dawn Aldrich

 Sharing stories gives voice to the silent ones locked deep within another soul. When we step aside and let the Holy Spirit use our words to unlock those stories, we bring God’s encouragement, healing, vision, and transformation that can change a life, a family, a community, the world. 

My friend, Lynne, has a story to tell: 

Somehow I did not expect God to touch my heart so deeply “at just another Easter service,” but  he did.

When Pastor Wes spoke of the empty tomb, I expected to hear that old familiar story. But, God surprised me. Oh, the story never changes, but my perspective transformed on Easter Sunday. In the reading of Jesus’ resurrection story, Pastor Wes pointed out that the stone was rolled away to let us see Jesus was gone, but also to let us in to see the real miracle.  Yes, Jesus’ body was gone (raised from the dead) leaving the tomb obviously empty, but continuing, he reminded us that all sin was gone.  Sin did not hold Jesus in the grave.  Halleluiah!  And because of His sacrifice all of our sins are not only forgiven, but gone.  The tomb is open.  All sin is gone.

I know you are asking…so what does this have to do with the title, The Empty Suitcase?  Well, I realized that I have been carrying around a suitcase packed full of my sins.  Over the years it has gotten heavier and heavier and heavier.

baggage

Oh, certainly I have sought and received God’s forgiveness, but then I repacked my suitcase with those same sins; all covered by the blood of Jesus and ready for my trip to heaven.   I thought they were all secure in the suitcase, but it was as if they were seeping out to remind me of my failures.  Making me feel unworthy of God’s love or anyone’s acceptance.

Then God said, “Open up the suitcase, Lynne.”  And in my mind I did just that and guess what I found? It was empty!

suitcase

The true reality of forgiven sin took my breath away.  My sins are gone.  No more.  So why do I allow them to tear me apart with guilt and shame?  After pondering this revelation, I closed that suitcase and kicked it to the cellar.  I have no use for it anymore.  Once forgiven, my sin and yours disappears – gone.  Will I remember my sins?  Oh yes, but rather than feeling guilt and shame,  my heart is filled with love and thanksgiving to my Lord Jesus Christ for his great grace and sacrifice.

I hope you are not carrying around a heavy, sin-packed,  seeping suitcase.  I pray that you know the fullness of forgiven sin and the reality of the empty tomb {and an empty suitcase}.

Blessings,

Lynne

About Lynne Bowen: Lynne is a generous friend, devoted mother, grandmother and  follower of Christ living in New England. She loves teaching young and old alike about God’s saving graces. She enjoys playing piano and solving jigsaw puzzles.

The Brilliance of Christ

by Rob Dunne

diamondsTherefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. Galatians 3:24

My heart pounded. Dodging locals and tourists, I wove my way down busy sidewalks towards my destination. Concerned that I might run into Jack Dawkins, I gripped the envelope tightly while keeping my hand deep inside my pants pocket. Twinkling lights distracted me as I crossed over into the diamond district. Moments later, Gabriel squeezed my hand like a vice grip and smiled. I was about to trade the envelope in my pocket for the treasure locked in one of the jeweler’s fortified drawers.

For months, I educated myself on the Four Cs of diamond buying (color, cut, clarity and carats). Utilizing intense magnification, I looked at dozens of diamonds. Even under the most ideal circumstances, the jewelers explained that no diamond is literally perfect because of the human element involved in cutting the gem. There is no way to make the table, crown and girdle perfectly symmetrical. Though impossible to see with the naked eye or even under magnification, there is sure to be some flaw in the diamond.

In the same way, it is impossible for human beings to live a perfect life according to Gods’ laws. Following the miraculous deliverance of the Jewish people out of Egypt, God gave them laws to live by. The purpose of the Law was to establish God’s  community with guidelines to maintain order and justice. Most importantly, the Law was a teacher to help lead them and us to Christ.

Jesus was fully God and fully man. He was the only person capable of fulfilling every aspect of the law. Jesus lived a perfect and sinless life. As a result, He set us free from the law of sin that ultimately results in death. Yes, everyone must die a physical death. However, a spiritual death occurs when our failure to fulfill all aspects of the law separates us from God. Thanks to His perfect fulfillment of the law, His death on the cross and ultimate victory over death, Jesus provides us with the justification that we need to spend eternity with Him in heaven.

None of us is perfect. Thank God we don’t have to be. Faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ sets us free from our sins. Take a moment today to gaze upon the perfect face of your Savior. He will dazzle you more than the most brilliant diamond ever could!

The Goal Is Shalom

by Mike McKinniss

As a product of the West in the late 20th century, I don’t like talking about sin in the way that traditional evangelical churches like to talk about sin.  I bristled when in a seminary evangelism class it was seen as imperative to make one aware of her sin before she could be saved.  Like holding a drowning swimmer under water before throwing a life-preserver, we had to be sure to pound her with her own shortcomings before we could offer any help.

I was excited, then, when I came across this fresh interpretation of “sin” over at Storied Theology.  Does it make sense to conceive of sin, primarily, as those actions which do not contribute to rebuilding or potentially strip the world of shalom (that is, the fullness of life and peace and wholeness)?  I don’t think that this detracts from the more common understanding, that sinful actions are those that miss the mark of God’s will, whatever that may be in a particular instance.  But instead of having to rack your brain attempting to decipher God’s will (the bane of every Christian college student), you simply can ask, Does this action forward the Lord’s plan to restore peace?

Immediately upon seeing this new thought, I began thinking backwards.  Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, calls his own work the “ministry of reconciliation.”  In other words, Paul was announcing and implementing a new peace agreement.  He thought himself to be informing the world of the Christ’s work in reconstructing a state of shalom between the Creator and humanity (not to mention among all creation  itself).

Indeed, Paul, as well as other biblical authors, foresaw an end in which all of creation, including the natural world, would rejoice in the finished work of the Messiah.  Romans 8:20-22 describes a natural order that has been in a frustrated state since the initial shalom-breaking committed by Adam.  Isaiah, long before Paul, anticipated a similar restoration of creation (55:12-13).  And Revelation depicts a new creation that supplants all disorder (1:1ff; in biblical terms, a world without a sea is a world without chaos).

An all-encompassing peace was shattered.  This same pervasive peace is being reestablished in Christ.  The question for me is, then, How can I get behind that?

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