Friday, March 24, 2017

Who We Are: Righteous

Let me just say that I am one to feel intense guilt when I skip a day of Jesus time. I feel like a total failure. I get on my knees to apologize over and over for not measuring up so that I can be “right with God” again.
“So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
-Romans 5:21
Let’s look at the verse above. Seems like a pretty basic evangelical principle, right? Works don’t get us to Jesus. Grace does.
While this doesn’t give us free reign to sin, it does mean that sin and grace can’t rule over sin simultaneously. Grace overrules and overrides sin.

I am a people-pleaser. I seek approval for EVERYTHING. My life decisions. My food choices. My workout routines. My relationships.
I’ve learned that I can’t always rely on people’s opinions or approvals...because humans are fickle, and where some may think I’m right, others will think I’m wrong.

So, looking at Romans 5:21 above, we see that we are given a “right standing with God”...and we didn’t even have to work for it.
By human standards, this doesn’t make sense!
Today, you may have lost some battles against your sins...but yesterday, you had a quiet time and helped someone in need. You think, “God can’t possibly look at me the same today as He did yesterday!”

I often think God is upset with me when I sin or when I’m less consistent with my quiet time. But although He does desire for me to live a sinless life to glorify Him, while He does desire to spend time with me--He doesn’t love me less when I fall short.
It’s so hard to live in this truth of a grace-ruled life! Satan distracts us with feelings of guilt and unworthiness, and the world distracts us constantly with images and advertisements of pleasure.

But this grace-filled life frees us, because our works don’t determine God’s love for us. Grace covers our sin totally and completely. It doesn’t determine our salvation or our identity.

“For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.
-Galatians 5:4

Yes, sin is bad, and we shouldn’t indulge in something that doesn’t glorify God. But according to this verse, sin isn’t the thing that cuts us off from Jesus. What cuts us off from Him is trying to be justified by the law.

Hear me out.
This doesn’t mean that sin is a free for all, since we are covered by grace. Those who live a grace-covered life will have less of a desire to sin and more of a desire to please God.
It means that those that trust in their works and good deeds...their service projects and mission trips... to get in right standing with God are the ones that are far away from Him.

A lot of times, I live like staying away from sin is what makes me better than other people. It’s what keeps me in good standing with God. But actually, this is what separates me from Jesus.

We can’t trust both Jesus and our good works for our salvation. We just can’t.
Either we trust in grace, or we don’t.
Either Jesus’ work on the cross was sufficient, or it wasn’t.

When we try to earn God’s favor with our cheap and fickle actions, it makes grace look so much less valuable. 
Grace is a gift...God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.
We don’t have to maintain our holiness by good works once we're a part of God’s family.

Does doing good make us more righteous in God’s eyes? No!

Righteousness is a part of our identity once we are followers of Christ.
It’s not a character trait that we can gain or lose. It is an integral part of our identity. Our actions can’t change our identity.
Righteous is not what we are. It's who we are.


In one of my small groups, we read the book Jesus Is _____. Find a New Way to Be Human by Judah Smith.
Using the video study and participant’s guide, we spent the last eight weeks going through verse studies and personal questions about who Jesus is and who He is to me. If I’m being totally honest, much of the day-to-day study and questions in the books seemed to “easy” and juvenile, but the group questions raised some great discussion in our group, and some of chapter 8 inspired this blog post.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Novel Sneak Peek Part 2

George Mascadona stood on the Western Banks of the Mississippi River under the great steel arch in St. Louis, Missouri. The river glowed red with fire, reflecting the city on the east side of the great river, and likely every city beyond.
The flames glowed in his crisp blue eyes, reflecting the spark inside him. The second civil war in the United States had come to an end, and he had won. He had led the West to victory. It was just a matter of time before he was elected the first leader of the new nation.

The United States already had its height of power and strength as a nation of fifty strong states...over three hundred years of successes and liberties. But for the last hundred or so years, some rebels in the science field started trying to take away some of the freedoms from Americans.

It was this day, in February of the new century, that George saw the end they had been fighting for. The entirety of Eastern America flamed before him. In just a few hours, it would be a wasteland.

George did not smile as he looked over the glowing red river. He didn’t delight in the fire, or the screaming, or the destruction of all the old American history. He didn’t rejoice in the lives lost for his cause. He wiped a tear from his eye and dusted the ash out of his white-blonde hair.

George turned to his troops, who looked to him expectantly. In just a few days’ time, they would vote him as president of their new country. They would vote that the country be named Mascadona, after the name of their fearless leader in the war, and their very first president. But their fight was not over yet.
They had wiped out the life-scientists in their quest for freedom, but science still defied them. Science had ruled the United States for so long, and it wouldn’t be long before more life scientists rose up from the best and brightest children in the schools. 

At first, President Mascadona cared little about the threat of scientists. The new life scientists were so few and far between, that they were mostly laughed out of the spotlight. But over time, they began gaining in numbers, and something needed to be done.
Slowly, trusted members of the president’s cabinet began to work on a plan to keep science undiscovered and the scientists at bay. Ideas were bounced around for months before the president himself came up with the perfect idea to stop science in its tracks.

A university, high in the mountains, that was only for the best and the brightest in all of the country. A school where these students would prepare for their jobs as government agents, or so they would be told. An elaborate plan fell into place. The perfect island in the middle of a lake in the mountains of Wyoming became the secret location for the school. The parents would send their gifted children to this school, knowing full well that they would go on to become top secret government agents, and that they would never be able to see their children again.

To the public, and to the children’s families, the children were being rewarded for their brilliance in school. In reality, one small factor would change the course of each student’s future, ensure the comfort of Mascadona, and continue the dreary fate of the life scientists.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Cleanse Me, Oh God

Dear Treasured Reader,

This weekend I went away to the mountains of North Carolina for a women’s retreat with my church. Due to the fact that I have recently had a personal spiritual awakening of sorts, I was fully expectant for God to speak to me, and received that blessing in full.

Without going into detail on every single lesson (which I would love to), I’ll just say this: the theme was transformation, and day one was transformation of the mind. And man, did it hit me hard!

Those of you that know me know that I have struggled with anxiety for the last couple of years of my life...and as previously mentioned (in the blog post here), although I went to a Christian college, served on ministry teams, and went on mission trips, I was in a spiritual drought for a long time. I knew that I had a relationship with God and that He was there, it just didn’t feel like He was talking to me.

Well, turns out the majority of my frustration during that drought went back to the way I chose to think. Yes, it’s true that the enemy can plant thoughts into my mind. But I was the one who chose to stew on them and dwell in them. I was the one who let my anxiety consume me and affect the way I thought about everything and everyone.

But the main thing that hit me this weekend, during the very first session on transforming my mind, was this:
I cannot be mad at God for not speaking. Not when I’m the one that has my Bible closed.
When I opened my eyes a few months ago and started pouring through scripture, God spoke. His Word is the main way that He speaks to us! I knew that God was speaking to me more, but I thought that it was just because He decided that my drought was over.

Nope. God was there the whole time, waiting for me to listen to Him. He was sitting expectantly. He wasn’t just sitting there for five years, watching me struggle and cry. He was waiting for me to listen. 

I’ll be honest, when I walked away from that lesson Friday night, I was on a cloud. I was rejoicing in God and praying about how to revolutionize my thought life and live in freedom from anxiety.

Turns out, Satan didn’t like that too much, and a few hours later, in the middle of the night, I was awake and struggling through an anxiety attack, worrying about the future and work and home and church...

In the wee hours of the morning, I cried out to God to forgive me for giving into my anxiety, for letting myself go there, and I prayed scripture until I fell asleep.

The next night, after another wonderful session, the prayer team at the retreat came around and prayed for each of us silently. We were supposed to write our biggest struggle on a card so they would know what to pray for, so I asked my prayer warrior to pray for my anxiety.

As she laid her hands on my shoulders and prayed silently, God brought a scripture to mind: Psalm 51. It’s the Psalm that David wrote after he had an affair with Bathsheba and killed her husband.

If I’m being honest, for most of my life I think I didn’t identify with this Psalm because I didn’t think I had committed a “huge” sin that needed to be forgiven. I just did the normal stuff. But as I read the words of Psalm 51, I offered it as my own prayer to God, asking for forgiveness for being a slave to my anxiety, for not trusting Him with my future.
I prayed these words to God from the depths of my heart as the woman prayed over me, my tears falling on the pages of Psalm 51 and staining them with mascara.

“Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” 
-Psalm 51:7

When I am pressed and anxious and stressed, I want God’s word to come to mind. This is why I am starting this week by memorizing Luke 12:29-31.

Dear friend, are you worried about your future?

I want to lovingly tell you that this, too, is sin. You don’t have to have an affair, murder, steal, or lie to break God’s heart. Not trusting Him fully breaks His heart too.

Go ahead and pick up your own Bible today.
Are you having a hard time hearing Him? If so, may I ask your Bible open?
Is scripture the first thing that comes to mind when you’re pressed or stressed?
Are you seeking? For a while, I know I wasn’t. You are not alone.

Let’s journey towards Him together. Let’s open our Bibles and seek His face.

A Fellow Journeyman

Monday, March 6, 2017

Novel Sneak Peek

Everyone has moments that seem to stand still in time.

A first kiss. A historic change. A tragedy.

My moment was this.

A scarlet trail followed behind me in the snow as I limped into the dark forest. Pulling myself into the embrace of the trees, I attempted to slow my heartbeat and let my eyes adjust to the blackness of the night.

Around me, in the trees, were the rest of the survivors. Our ashen faces followed the rivers of blood down the mountain to our lost home. I focused in on the faces around me, the faces of my fellow students, or at least the ones who were left. Some had tear stains on their dirty cheeks; others were tending their fresh wounds.

We had to work together to survive. No one else could be trusted anymore.