All posts by Lynne

About Lynne

Lynne Modranski is a sold out for Christ individual just trying to help grow the Kingdom. She has found true freedom and tremendous peace and would like others to find the same!

Relationships

The topic of relationships has come up a lot lately. So I thought I’d share my views on what it takes to have a healthy relationship here.

The most difficult thing about relationships is they require two individuals who might have different views and ideas to get along. In nearly every growing relationship, there will come a time when there’s a disagreement, someone’s hurt or misunderstood and division happens. But there is one major thing I’ve discovered about reconciliation in a relationship:

If you want true relationship, you have to take responsibility for your part in any disagreement.
Matthew 5:23-24 says:
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you,24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

It doesn’t tell us, “If you did something wrong on purpose.” It says, “If your brother or sister has something against you.”  And if that’s the case, we’re supposed to make the first move. Don’t wait for them to come to you. Don’t assume it will blow over, and most especially, don’t tell yourself you’ve nothing to apologize for.

Whether it’s real or perceived, if your friend feels wronged, you need to take responsibility. Just apologize . . . sincerely. I’ve decided even if the problem is someone took my words wrong or out of context, I need to admit that I probably wasn’t paying attention to God or to their feelings. Not only do I need to apologize to my friend, I also need to talk to my heavenly Father, because if I’d been paying attention, He’d have kept me from saying the wrong thing or helped me form my sentences in such a way they wouldn’t offend.

The major problem with this part of the reconciliation is that in order for the relationship to be wholly restored, both parties have to be willing to admit they’re part of the problem. It takes two to fight.

Perhaps you feel like you were the one wronged. Maybe it’s the other person who said all of those offensive words. Is there a chance you misunderstood? Were you hurt by something that was said when other pressures were the real issue? Did you forget to stop and see the situation from the other person’s perspective? Each and every one of those things (and more) are reasons to take responsibility for part of the problem. Too many times we’re quick to take offense when no offense was intended. Not everyone says exactly what they mean, and even if they always do, sometimes our ears don’t hear it the way it was meant. If you are quick to take offense, take responsibility for that! When someone comes to apologize, and even if they don’t, reciprocate the apology. Take responsibility for your part of the schism and begin the healing process.

So often I see wonderful relationships thrown away because one person chose to hold on to the offense or put all the blame on the other person.  Time and time again I’ve witnessed one person apologizing for everything, even things that weren’t their fault, while the second person allows them to take all the blame. And you’d think that might work, you’d think as long as one person was willing to accept all the blame and apologize for it, the other could just maintain their innocence and move forward.

But it doesn’t work! I’ve never, ever seen it mend relationship.

Until both people are willing to admit they made a mistake, even if it was innocent and unintentional, the relationship will never be truly whole. It may have a bandage for a while, but the gangrene will grow, and eventually any kind of connection you had with the other person will disintegrate.

The only time there’s any chance of that working is in the case of abuse. If you are being abused or have been abused, please don’t look for your part in the abuse. You will never do anything to deserve to be beaten or verbally attacked. Yes, there may be other things you’ll need to take responsibility for to be whole yourself, but there is nothing anyone can ever do or say that constitutes or excuses abuse. And if you are a person who has to belittle someone with words, explodes when you’re angry or causes someone else pain to make your point, get help! You are an abuser, take responsibility so you can restore your relationships.

So, step number one in keeping a healthy relationship – recognize you aren’t perfect. Take responsibility for those times when your words or actions have caused a rift in the relationship. Acknowledge those occasions you’ve taken offense when no offense was intended. Apologize and forgive, and remember the one you’re in relationship with is just as human as you.

If you want more of my opinion on this topic, leave me a comment. I have more to say, but I’m not sure anyone even reads this, so let me know!

How To Make Sure We’re Blessed

This is the manuscript from a sermon I preached on November 5, 2017

We who live in the Upper Ohio Valley are blessed. With all the natural disasters that have happened in the last few months, if you don’t feel blessed, there’s a good chance you aren’t paying attention. Five hurricanes, two earthquakes, wildfires, and we’ve been safe. We get very little flooding and tornados and blizzards are rare. Why are we so blessed? Is it because we’re better people? Does God love us more?

I really don’t think so. These hills we’ve chosen to surround ourselves with protect us from the severe weather, and we live too far away from the ocean to get much trouble from hurricanes. I believe we are weather blessed because we have positioned ourselves in a place to be blessed.

And it’s really the same way with the Christian life. Everyone wants to live under the protection of God’s blessings, but very few want to move to a place where they can be blessed. Yesterday when I was reading my devotions by John Wesley, he pretty much said we shouldn’t even tell people about God’s blessings until they are ready to live where God is blessing. He said, Those who “pour out their souls before God . . . these are the person unto whom we are to apply the great and precious promises. Not to the ignorant [those who are knew to the faith] . . . Much less to the impenitent sinner.”

So, our job is to make sure we aren’t “ignorant.” We have to learn how to position ourselves so we can receive all of God’s blessings.

God started telling people how to be blessed from the beginning. Adam and Eve just had to stay away from that one tree. The tree seemed innocent, but God knew it wasn’t good for them. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve didn’t trust that God knew what was best. They didn’t love Him enough to obey and get the blessing.

Over and over God told His people how to be blessed. In the bulletin, I put a list of just some of the Bible verses that tell us how to be blessed. Listen to what He told people about being blessed.

12 If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the LORD your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your ancestors. 13 He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers. He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land—your grain, new wine and olive oil—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you. 14 You will be blessed more than any other people – Deuteronomy 7:12-14

God starts out talking about the Ten Commandments. If we honor Him, worship Him, Trust Him and Him alone; if we don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t murder and more then we will be blessed. And it extends to other commands God gives us. But did you catch verse 14?

14 You will be blessed more than any other people

And God repeated this several more times in Deuteronomy.
Then 100’s of years later King David wrote about what it means to be blessed.

1 Blessed is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
2 Blessed is the one
whose sin the LORD does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit. – Psalm 32:1-2

One of the cool things about King David is that as far as I can tell, He was the first person to truly repent. He was narcissistic and deceitful. He committed adultery and schemed to kill a friend to cover it up. Up until King David, everyone just made excuses for their sin, including Moses and Abraham. David however, was the first to say, “I have sinned against God.” He made no excuses, he repented and God said, “You are forgiven.”

I’m not sure whether David wrote this before or after his encounter with Bathsheba, but either way, the man knew the best way to be blessed. He understood that the one who was forgiven was blessed. The one who has no deceit is blessed. That’s what John Wesley was talking about. “Those who pour out their souls before God are the ones who the promises are for . . . “ When we are obedient and repentant we begin to experience the blessings of God.

But there’s more ! Jeremiah 17:7 says:

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. – Jeremiah 17:7

Do you fully trust in God? It’s a difficult thing to do, to just put your life in the hands of Jesus Christ, but that’s what it takes if you want all of the blessings of God.
One way to tell if you are fully trusting God is to see how you handle your finances. That’s one of the most difficult places to trust Him.

But it says in Malachi:

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. – Malachi 3:10

Do you trust God with your tithe? Can you bring 10% of your total income into the house of the Lord? Tithing is a measure of trust. We don’t tithe because God needs our money. We tithe to learn to trust God, to show Him we trust Him. And God promises that when we trust Him enough to give bring 10% into His house He will pour out so much blessing there won’t be enough room to store it.

And that’s just in the Old Testament. You’ll recognize these verses from the New Testament

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. – Matthew 5: 3-11

That short passage can be a whole sermon in itself. But in a nutshell . . .
You are blessed when you realize you are spiritually poor, when you grieve because of your spiritual poverty and when it humbles you. When you can’t get enough of scripture, prayer and growing in Christ, you are blessed. When you have mercy for people who used to cause you to judge and when you are considerate of others so there’s more peace, you are blessed.

Blessed doesn’t mean problems won’t come. We still have to live on this earth, so we’ll still face troubles. But James tells us:

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. – James 1:12

When you keep going even during the trials and trust Jesus to get you through them, you are blessed!
And James 1:25

But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. – James 1:25

James goes right back to what we talked about at the beginning. God needs us to obey the law. He knows that the rules He’s created are for our own good. Everyone whose ever taken care of a child has set down a rule that the kid didn’t like, but it was in the child’s best interest. That’s what God does for us, and when we obey His rules, when we don’t forget the things He’s told us, we have freedom and we are blessed.

There are times you won’t feel blessed even when you’re completely devoted to following Christ. But we can’t trust our feelings and sometimes we have to look for the blessings.
We also have to remember that sin has consequences, and sometimes the consequences follow us. Even King David, the man after God’s own heart, faced the consequences of his sin until the day he died. And his sin effected his children.

Disobedience steals your blessings and it effects those around you. In fact some of the trials you face are the result of someone else’s sin. Sometimes when we feel less than blessed it’s because those we’ve positioned around us aren’t walking in a way that God will bless.

I want to be blessed and I want you to be blessed. One of the things I’ve become convinced of as I read scripture is that if we want to be blessed we have to be obedient. The more I trust Christ, the more I receive blessing. And as John Wesley said, if we’re ignorant about what God’s requirements are, all of those promises Christians brag about aren’t for us. We need to know what the scripture says if we want to be really blessed.

The Bible is clear. Salvation is for everyone who asks, and you can lived the “just saved” life and probably make it to heaven. But it’s still a hard life . . . not the one God intended for us. We were created to walk in the Garden with Him. Sin messed that up, but more than anything else God wants to have a relationship with us. Jesus died so we can have more than just heaven. He came to restore our relationship with the Father.

Blessed . . .

Some call it privileged. I call it blessed. I am thankful for the advantages I’ve had in my life, each provided to me by the culture in which I was raised. I don’t take for granted that I was brought up by two parents who loved me and gave me healthy boundaries that kept me safe, but allowed me to become my own person. I know not every person gets to have an extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and more to make them feel loved, appreciated and part of something bigger than themselves. I understand that because of my heritage I was able to learn things faster than some, and because of prayers that were lifted for me generations before I was born I am now living a life that some call privileged. I am humbled and in awe of this blessing I’ve been given, and I try to pass along my blessing to others when I’m able.

Not long ago I read a blog post by an African American woman. It was very well written. She had a healthy view of what she called white privilege. It was in response to a question a white male friend of hers had posed. If I could find the link again, I’d share it. She was eloquent in helping her friend understand his white male privilege.

Then yesterday I watched a video of what I assume was a professor attempting to teach a college aged group of individuals about privilege, and he had me clear to the end.

He started out with everyone in a single line facing him with a hundred dollar bill offered to the one who could get to him the fastest. Then he gave “advantages” to show what “privilege” is. Those who were raised in a two parent home were allowed to take two steps forward. A father being present, never having to worry about where the next meal was coming from and more gained each of the qualifying participants two steps toward hundred dollar bill. It was a beautiful example of privilege.

Then he lost me . . . at the very end he brought color and ethnicity into it. And while I will never deny these factors seem to effect some people groups more than others, these cultural differences defy color and ethnicity, and to bring those factors into the mix brings division where division doesn’t need to be.

Additionally, he missed an opportunity to show these folks how they could give themselves a boost when their culture tries to hold them back. Some of the young people took advantage of the two steps and made them leaps while others just took two normal steps forward. Several who got an advantage couldn’t have run fast if their life was on the line, while some left at the gate could have potentially passed even those who had a head start.

And life is like that. There are as many with “privilege” who take it for granted and waste it as there are those with none who use every speck as an opportunity to advance.

The professor also neglected to demonstrate that each of them have a bit of advantage over most of the world simply because they were raised in the United States of America. He didn’t ask who had running water and electricity. Some of those kids need reminded that as bad as they think they have it, there is always someone else who has it worse. And a few of those raised in those other countries have taken advantage of what they do have and have made it big in American sports, taking their new privilege back to their village and paying it forward.

I get it not everyone has all of the same opportunities as others. And I believe those who’ve gotten any blessing at all need to learn early to share those blessings with those who have less. Plus, I don’t want to minimize the despicable thing called discrimination, I realize it still exists, and it’s wrong . . . it’s just wrong. No one should be judged on the color of their skin, their gender, their religious or any other preferences. Every person who has integrity and is qualified and willing to do the job and work hard should be giving the same consideration.

However, I wish the media and those who are passionate about the discussion would start calling this divisive new title they’ve created what it really is . . . cultural privilege.  And I wish they’d stop making it sound like a bad thing. It’s a beautiful gift, one that should be cherished, not one to be ashamed of. It’s a gift that comes with a lot of responsibility, including the responsibility to help the less fortunate and treat every person with dignity and respect.

You see when we call it by what it is, we make it something that can be changed. If it’s white male privilege, I can’t overcome it. I can not change my gender. My black friend can not change his skin. But a family can change their culture. They can refuse to embrace those stereotypes which hold them back. They can put higher expectations on their children, and make them believe they can attain those expectations. Integrity can be taught and caught. Having a good work ethic can be instilled, and molding a person who believes He is a person of value can be accomplished. It’s more difficult when you are forced to live in a downtrodden culture, but it can be done. I know sometimes they’re hard to find, but there are churches who embrace every person who walks through the door and are just itching to help a family who wants to change their culture. One of my goals for my children was to surround them with a lot of adults who shared my values so they knew it wasn’t just me who had high expectations for them, and every mother in America can do that same thing.

It’s not white privilege. There are a lot of males of European descent who are living in poverty in America. Too many are caught in the culture of single parent homes and a latchkey lifestyle. More and more young people of every gender, color and ethnicity are turning to drugs and making unhealthy choices, and often it’s not their fault.  They are being raised in a culture that cultivates unhealthy choices.

I personally wish I could do more, but I do what I can. I try to mentor the young people Christ allows me to encounter, and I sponsor a couple of kids from other countries so they too can be raised out of the culture of poverty and realize someone from across the world cares.

It’s an elephant sized problem, but I believe it begins by taking the focus off of color, ethnicity and gender. Don’t tell kids they are automatically limited by things they can’t change. Help them to see that all of their limitations are just roadblocks, things that can be conquered with hard work. Yes, they may have to work harder than others, but changing color, ethnicity and gender are impossible, so let’s not give these any attention. The roadblocks the underprivileged face are not insurmountable, but they are roadblocks. There will be climbing, pushing, moving and hard work needed to get past them. And perhaps a little reminder of the proper way to eat an elephant . . . just one bite at a time.

 

It’s time . . .

I haven’t been here most of the Summer. Some of that is because it’s been a busy year. So much to do outside! It was such a beautiful Summer, not necessarily great for being poolside, but the temperature was tremendous and just enough rain that nothing turned brown in July or August.

But the main reason I wasn’t here was because I felt like I had nothing to say. And everything I thought about saying had the potential for someone to take it out of context and feel bad. Unfortunately, I’m still just co-dependent enough that the thought of someone being distraught because of something I wrote can completely shut me down.  So for the last few months I’ve been silent.

During the last few days, however, I’ve really felt as though it’s time to get back. I have ideas and aha moments almost daily, and not sharing them makes me feel anxious and depressed. Some I write in one of my journals (I have three or four), but often I want to just type . . . I can type so much faster than I can write.

OK . . . all that probably seemed like I was rattling on, but what it’s really done is given me a commitment to keep. It’s me publicly announcing (or as public as this gets since I really don’t have much of a readership), I’m going to start sharing here again on a regular basis.  It’s also a warning I guess that some of what you read here might not be what you want to hear. You are allowed to click off this page . . . I won’t even know. That’s why I put it here and don’t send it to any of my mailing lists. I save this space for my more controversial thoughts.  I guess what I’m really saying is . . .

I’m back . . .

Whose side is God on?

Joshua 5:13-14a Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”

I’ve often wondered about these two verses. The angel of the Lord is on neither side. How can it be the messenger of the Almighty is not by default on the side of the Israelites? They are, after all, the chosen people of the living God!

But the angel is clear . . . he’s not there to take sides.

Yet, if the angels didn’t take sides, how did the walls of Jericho fall so easily? Why did nearly every battle in the book of Joshua fall to the Israelites without much of a fight?

Tonight I had this thought . . .

Ephesians 6:12 tells me my “struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” As much as humans disturb me, fight me and seem to be against my Father, my struggle is not against them. God is not “against” any of His creation. How could He be? How could anyone purposely be against something they created in perfection with their own hands? And even if you and I could, does that really fit the description of the perfect, complete and Holy God we’re getting to know more and more every day?

Even in the Old Testament, the place where the “wrath of God” seems so evident, God did not take human sides. Our Father’s battle has always been against the one who set himself up as the enemy, Lucifer, AKA Satan, the accuser, the devil. The Holy Trinity was fighting against Satan even then.

Here’s the thing . . .

Just as in war here on earth, in the Spiritual realm there are unwitting casualties of war. People who align themselves with the losing side out of misguided loyalty, false promises, the quest for power and more are lost in battle while the leader who started the whole thing sits in his comfy war-staging room and watches the battle play out.

That’s what the enemy has been doing all along. The people of Jericho had aligned themselves with our enemy. They didn’t even realize they were on the side of evil. The enemy had spewed lies to them just like he does to his followers today. It sounds good, but they have no idea they’re pawns in his little game.

When Israel took Jericho, it was only because the “evil of Canaan had reached its fullness.” The enemy had taken control of the area, and the spiritual power he wielded there had to be wiped out. We read about the ground battle in the book of Joshua, but I wonder what the heavenly battle looked like. It happened over and over again in the Old Testament. It continues to happen today. Even when the enemy thinks he wins by destroying the human flesh of one of God’s children, he’s lost. Because the only thing he does by taking the human life of someone who loves Christ is to prematurely allow that person to be in the presence of the Almighty. And the beauty of that thought is those who are human casualties on the side of the Lord of the Universe don’t lose! They just get their ultimate reward!

God doesn’t take sides . . . not the human kind. The Creator’s only enemy is the one who continually tries to usurp the Sovereign’s power. God is on your side. Will you be on His?

angel
The angel of the Lord does not take sides

Movie Review – The Shack

SPOILER ALERT
If you’ve read the book, you probably won’t notice any spoilers, but if you haven’t, beware, I’ll be mentioning some movie scenes below.

I’m really surprised at the number of Christians who are boycotting this movie. I guess because I’m usually on the boycott bandwagon, I’m not often on this side of the entertainment debate. I have had one or two people tell me they aren’t going because they felt in their spirit the book was wrong. Those folks I am encouraging to follow that instinct. If the Holy Spirit tells you to do something, just do it! I don’t care who tells you it’s alright to ignore those feelings because to them it’s fine, just listen to the Spirit.

But here’s my take on some of the negativity I’ve heard . . .

IT’S FICTION . . . First of all I think it needs to remain in perspective this is a work of fiction. It’s a made up story. It sounds real . . . when I read the book, I kept wondering if it was a true story. Young did a great job of narrating in such a way you felt as though it really happened. On top of that, it’s a fictional story about something a person dreamed while in a coma. Let’s face it, God speaking to people in dreams is not a new phenomena. We don’t have any problem believing God spoke to Joseph or even wrestled with Jacob in a dream, so I’m not sure why this fictional story Should not be allowed to be called Christian based entertainment. Someone even said they thought people were taking it as scripture. If that’s the case, Christians shouldn’t read anything other than the Bible because there’s a chance we’ll mistake it for scripture. It’s fiction. It’s one man painting a picture of forgiveness, healing and the Trinity with words. If someone starts thinking it’s scripture, I think that little fact will straighten them out.

God is not a Black Woman . . .
no, He’s not . . . but he’s not a white man either. God is Spirit, and how He reveals Himself to His children is His business. He walked with Abraham toward Sodom and must have looked like a Middle Eastern man then. I like it that Young took God out of the box. He maintained the masculine pronouns just like God seems to like (since that what scripture uses), but the Bible gives God a lot of traits that aren’t masculine because is not human and has no gender.

Universalism. . . I can see how some might think this movie/book supports the idea that no one goes to hell. But on the other hand, there are several lines in the movie (and I believe in the book also) that dismiss this theory. At one point Papa tells Mack He wants to redeem the man who hurt Missy. If you’re going for a Universal view where everyone goes to heaven, then either there’d be no need for redemption or he’d already be redeemed. But Papa wants to redeem him.

In several places the issue of free will is given. Jesus and Papa both say they don’t want any slaves. Everyone is given a choice to follow or not follow. Wisdom says that trust is required for a relationship with the Trinity. All of these seem to contradict a Universalist view.

Mack’s dad being in heaven seemed to bother a lot of people, it bothered me a bit when I read the book. But by assuming the man could not possibly have made it to heaven is to become the same kind of judge Mack had to learn he was. The father was a leader in the church, and although the beating was inexcusable, we don’t know his relationship with the Almighty. One would think the man’s fruit would negate his ability to be saved, but while the Bible gives me permission to talk about His fruit, it strips me of my right to determine whether or not he accepted Christ’s forgiveness even in the few moments as he lay dying.

I’ve been told some people think this because Mr. Young is a Universalist. I don’t know. I don’t know the man. I’ve never even seen him interviewed. Maybe he is, but I don’t see that the book or movie solidify that view. I believe that even if he is a Universalist, Young left the door open for me to share my belief that One MUST accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In fact I thought the scene when Mack told Wisdom he would give his life for his children so they could both have an opportunity to go to heaven would make a perfect intro to explaining that God deemed us worthy of His love so He sent Christ, but we have to accept the sacrifice on our behalf to claim the gift. Even in this scene Wisdom simply illustrated the children were worthy of love; she did not give them a free pass to heaven.

Justice and Love at odds . . . I just don’t see it. Charisma News said that was a problem, but especially in the scene with wisdom, I see Wisdom being tough on Mack. Even Papa as a man told Mack he didn’t have to excuse the act of the man who hurt Missy. He also talked a bit about justice there too if I remember right, and then said He wanted to redeem the man.

The Wrath of God . . . OK I’ll give you this one. Young does minimize the wrath of God here, but in this context, with Mack believing that Missy was taken because of the Wrath of God, Papa’s statements are legit. Mack did not understand who God was. And the truth is most of the world doesn’t understand who God is. The wrath of God gets plenty of publicity, as does the picture of God who allows for cheap grace. I think the book and the movie both do a good job of showing the need for forgiveness and relationship with the Trinity. So, I can live with the wrath of God being trivialized in a work of FICTION just this once.

I think the biggest issue I have with all those who have problems with this book goes back to my very first statement. For some reason everyone seems to forget this is a work of fiction. I had more problems with THE BIBLE series on the History Channel than I do “The Shack”. “The Bible” series had a few deviations from scripture I thought, but they were relatively insignificant, so I didn’t make a big deal about them. And that series was supposed to be straight out of the Bible. If you’re going to put the Bible into a movie, you have to be accurate. But this is fiction . . . it’s a story someone told . . .

I personally found the picture of the Trinity Young painted pretty awesome. I loved that the garden of Mack’s life was a mess, but beautiful from God’s point of view. I also thought the book and movie did a tremendous job of pointing out the need for forgiveness and a full relationship with the Trinity. He did not get into the plan for salvation, but again . . . it was a work of fiction. I always assumed his point was the need for forgiveness and relationship so he left the way to salvation to us. If this movie can motivate dialogue about the Trinity and the need to trust in God, is it really a bad thing?

Everlasting God

Today on the way home “Everlasting God” by Chris Tomlin played on the radio. At the end a child reads Isaiah 40:28-31. I praised God as the wee one read “Even the very young grow tired and weak. Young men stumble and fall. But the one who trusts in the Lord will have new strength. They will soar like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and never faint.”

I recently was relieved of being a full-time caregiver when my mother-in-law went to be with Jesus. Now, if you don’t know me, you have no idea that natural care giver just isn’t the way anyone would have ever described me. Talk to my siblings, they’ll tell you. It’s a gift that just wasn’t in my wheelhouse.

However, in the almost two years I was Mom’s primary care-giver and the years before that I took care of some of the little “details” of her life, I never felt overwhelmed or anxious.

And those are two things I DO feel from time to time. Much less often now . . . now that I realize when I begin to feel that way it’s because I’m running my own show, not trusting in my Creator.

In my life, anytime I start to feel overwhelmed to the point of anxiety, I discover it’s ALWAYS because I’ve taken on a task or a burden that my Savior did not ask me to carry.

I know not all anxiety is caused by running ahead of the Holy Spirit. Some people need help because it’s hormonal or caused by a deeper mental scar. But for me, almost all of my severe anxiety is a direct result of trying to do things on my own without Christ and without His permission. When I truly wait on Him, I do feel light enough to soar like an eagle. When I let Jesus lead, I have confidence. When God is in control, I don’t grow emotionally weary.

I want that peace and inner energy that comes from following the One who loves me more than I can imagine.

Heaven Isn’t A GPS Location

My mother-in-law recently passed. We appreciated everyone who came out to show love and support. Most offered condolences, but the truth is we lost “Mom” a couple of years ago, so the grieving process had, for the most part, run its course. So, my standard answer when someone assumed we were having a hard time was to say, “She’s so much better now. She knew Jesus.” Because she did. She was quiet about her faith, but my husband can remember the day she gave her life to Christ, and I watched her grow through Sunday School, Bible Study and church attendance and I know she read her Bible faithfully. How can I be sad when I’m sure she’s in the Ultimate Vacation Spot!?!

But one reply to my “standard response” was this, “But what’s important is Jesus knew her.” This troubled me . . .

I can’t help but wonder, does the person who said this think that everyone has a ticket to heaven? Does he believe that all good people get to be with Jesus someday? How many folks think the Kingdom of Heaven is someplace everyone can find, like programming Pittsburgh into the GPS?

It’s not that our friend was wrong. The Bible does say at one time Jesus will someday say to some, “I never knew you.” So obviously having Jesus know you is important; however, check out Matthew 7! He is going to say that to GOOD PEOPLE! Jesus is going to say, “I never knew you,” to people who were doing things in HIS name.

And I believe Jesus is going to say, “I never knew you,” to people who never really knew Him.

There are a lot of people who THINK they know Jesus, but they don’t, they only know ABOUT Him. They know when we celebrate His birth. They know He died and rose again. They may even be able to quote scripture and go through all the motions of a “good Christian.” But they don’t know Jesus.

It’s like the parables of Matthew 25. Bridesmaids should know the groom, but what if the bride met the guy in college or while traveling abroad, and they didn’t get to come home until it was time for the wedding? Those bridesmaids would know all about the guy from letters their friend had written, but they wouldn’t really know him. They wouldn’t know his demeanor or be able to always tell when he was joking. They’d know ABOUT him, but they wouldn’t KNOW him. Half of the bridesmaids in Jesus’ parable didn’t know the bridegroom well enough to know he might be longer than they anticipated. If they’d have really known him, they’d have brought enough oil to wait it out.

Jesus says multiple times, “If you love me . . .” He told us if we love Him, we’ll keep His commands (John 14:15) and feed His sheep (John 21:17). First John 2 says if we claim to know Him but don’t follow His commands we are liars.

And Jesus was clear. He said, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Paul, who was the master at following the “commands” before he actually met Jesus, tells us in at least five places that we can not earn salvation. Our place in heaven is not reserved because of any good we do, but because we have faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ death and resurrection was God’s answer for Isaiah 64:6 because anything we might try to do that might appear to be righteous looks like dirty rags to God. Without Christ, we have no hope. The Bible is clear.

Yes, my friend was right, the important thing is that Jesus knew Mom. But I am afraid my friend doesn’t understand Jesus has chosen to only know those who get to know Him. He wants to know us all! Peter tells us He doesn’t want anyone to go to eternal death. Yes, Jesus wants to know us, but unless we accept the gift of life He offers by accepting what He did on the cross as payment for our sins, we can’t get to know Him.

Don’t be fooled by those who try to convince people that everyone gets to heaven, you just have to be good. That’s the enemy’s favorite lie. Christ has gone to make a room for us, but those rooms are for the people who’ve gotten to know Him . . . really know Him.

Good . . . when is it good ENOUGH?

There’s a conversation on Facebook right now that started with a friend upset by a pious pastor condemning kids to Hell because they believe in Santa. Seriously, if you are a Christian and you’re doing that kind of thing, stop! Just Stop! Believing in Santa is NOT anti-Christian. It’s not straight from Satan. There was a Saint, a man who followed Christ and did so much good the Catholics canonized him, named Nicholas who lived in the region of Turkey and did kind things for others. He has many legends surrounding him, including putting gifts in stockings hung to dry at a fire. Somewhere, someone, took the legendary Saint and gave him a home at the North Pole, and sometime in the early 1900’s Coca Cola gave him a red suit and made him a heavy, jolly fellow. I don’t have a problem with Saint Nicholas or any of his pseudonyms. We don’t bring him into our church because he already gets enough press, so we try to keep the focus on Christ. It doesn’t mean we don’t like Santa.

However, the conversation quickly turned (my fault . . . completely my fault). My friend assumed that these young ones the pastor was condemning automatically had a spot in heaven because they were younger than 13. I have a problem with that theology and said so (I know, I can’t help myself). And my comments began to stir up some controversy. So I decided to put my thoughts here instead of clogging up that Facebook post.

First, will someone please show me in scripture where there’s an age of accountability? I simply can’t find it. I’ve read the whole book through at least twenty times and been in it daily for close to thirty years. I’ve never seen that magic number or even that phrase. We lie when we tell teens and younger they aren’t accountable for their actions and thoughts.

Second, I need some Bible scholar to show me where God condemns people to Hell. Again, all of those years of reading and it’s not until AFTER Jesus comes again that I can find any record of condemnation on God’s part. In fact in John 3:17, Jesus says He wasn’t sent to condemn the world but to save it! Job said it was his mouth that condemned him (Job 9:20), and Jesus said our own words would condemn us (Matthew 12:37). King David requested condemnation for his enemies in the Psalms a LOT. He even predicted the condemnation of the enemies of righteousness as well as those who plot wicked . . . but there’s no mention of Hell. Jesus said the Queen of Sheba would be condemning those who didn’t believe in Him. Jesus did say that the Pharisees were going to have a hard time escaping condemnation from Hell, but when you read it in context, you find our Savior saddened because He longed to gather them under His wings like a hen gathers her chickens. Jesus wasn’t condemning them. He knew they were not going to be able to escape the condemnation at the last days because of their hard hearts. And the most telling verse about condemnation is John 3:18. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” God isn’t condemning (remember, this is the verse right after the first one in this paragraph). Whoever does not believe stands condemned. Through their unbelief they condemn themselves.

And finally, there’s the issue of the good going to heaven. I used to buy into that theology, but it doesn’t stand up to scripture. There’s no guarantee that the “good” have a place in heaven. If I believe that, then what do I do Isaiah 64:6 “all of their righteous acts are like filthy rags.”? And where does Hosea 6:6 – “I desire mercy, not sacrifice, acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings” (quoted later by Jesus) fit into the “good equals heaven” theology? Why did Adam and Eve get kicked out of the Garden for merely eating a piece of fruit if God overlooks those who don’t love Him enough to do what He asks?

In Deuteronomy Moses warned the people they would stray from God, they would seek their own goodness and make their own holiness. He told them when that happened they’d lose the blessing of God, but if they turned their hearts back to their Creator He would rescue them. When we try to set up our own degree of “goodness” we make a mockery of the goodness of God. We can not be good enough!

Romans 3:10 says no one is righteous, yet the scripture is clear that only the righteous will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. Romans 3:20 says “no one will be declared righteous by following the law.” And Paul goes on to say righteousness is given to those who believe. It’s a heart thing. Only those who believe in Christ are declared righteous enough for heaven. Paul tells us that everyone is entitled to this gift! No one will be left out. God does not condemn us to life apart from Him. But as Jesus told us in the parable of the wedding feast, some will choose to be left out. By choosing anything . . . ANYTHING . . . good or bad over Christ, we condemn ourselves, we turn down the invitation.

What about children? I don’t find any special dispensation for children other than 2 Corinthians 7:14 . . . the children of a believing mother or father are considered holy. I know that’s harsh. Now, I don’t find anyplace where it specifically says the young children of a non-believer who die end up in hell either, so I’m not going there! That’s up to God, and I prefer to think as long as a child has that innocence he or she is born with that child has a spot in heaven. But let’s face it, when I stack it up against scripture, that’s just what I prefer to think.

I’m not saying I know it all or everything I believe is correct, I’m just asking you to take your thought preferences and hold them up to scripture. That’s what I do. Some of it isn’t spelled out. So I hold on to what I believe with the knowledge that I could be wrong and understanding that God is bigger and knows better than I do.

Our Father has created a perfect heaven, a place we were given a peak into in the Garden of Eden and the book of Revelation. It’s a place with no room for those who aren’t willing to completely obey their Creator (yep, that’s what He was basically saying in Genesis 3). It’s a place for those with a heart seeking God first and foremost. It’s not a place for the good, it’s a place for the righteous. I don’t want anyone left out of heaven! So I certainly can’t tell “good” people, “It’s OK, you are such a kind good person, I know there’s a place for you.”

What if God meant what He said that only the righteous can dwell with Him? What if He meant it when He said no one is righteous without the blood of Jesus? If after all my years of reading and studying scripture I’m wrong, I will apologize to the masses who are in heaven whom I didn’t expect to see there. But I’d rather do that than stand in front of my Savior trying to explain why I helped a man into hell because I didn’t tell Him the good news of Jesus Christ who came to make us righteous if we only follow Him with all our heart.