I’m Good Enough – I’m Not Good Enough

My husband and I are reading the book of Isaiah this month.  Chapter six is one we are very familiar with.  Anyone who grew up in church has no doubt heard the story of Isaiah’s vision of God.

It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew.They were calling out to each other,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies!
    The whole earth is filled with his glory!”

Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke…..Isaiah 6:1-4

 

Isaiah

Isaiah’s response is one I think most of us would have if we saw such a sight!

His immediate reaction was one of total sense of unworthiness.

Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”….Isaiah 6:5

Interesting to me that he saw his sin as being connected to his lips and the lips of the people he lived with.  Why his lips?

There are probably many different takes on that, but here it is mine.

Words matter.  With words we can hurt, damage people’s reputations, discourage others, create division and hatred.  The Bible has much to say about our tongues.

James wrote that:

the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison….James

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless….James 1:26

Jesus told us:

It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person….Matthew 15:11

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks….Matthew 12:34

Isaiah’s response is one we all should have when we recognize our need of forgiveness.  Sadly, many people never reach this conclusion.  They think they are “good enough.”  But if our standard for goodness is based on who God is, we cannot measure up.  Do not misunderstand me.  I am not saying that people who do not believe in God are not good.  I actually know some who are atheists that show more “goodness” than many of my fellow Christians.

But the standard is not how good we are compared to others.  It is how good we are compared to God.  Based on that gold standard, we are not good enough.

An illustration of this thought:

A group of people are going to see a movie.  The price of entrance is $5.00 When they get there, many are very short of the price having only a dollar or two, or maybe just fifty cents.  Clearly they will not get in.  Along comes someone who is sure they will get in because they have $4.99.  But the price is $5.00.  Although they are much closer to having the price of the ticket, they are still short and will not get in.

But wait!  God did not leave Isaiah bemoaning his unworthiness.

He had a solution.

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. He touched my lips with it and said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.”….Isaiah 6:6-7

Thank God for Jesus.  There is a solution.

So now we come to the second group of people’s response to the goodness of God.  Unlike Isaiah they never move beyond that initial sense of unworthiness.  Although many claim they know they are “not good enough” and question how God can love them, they are just like the first group – relying on their own goodness.

In this case they feel their own goodness is not enough, but they still are relying on it.  Because they continue to say they are “not good enough” they are judging themselves by their own goodness – or lack there of.

They have refused to accept the gift that God has given us though Jesus Christ.  We are not “good enough.”  That is the whole point of Christianity.  Because we are not “good enough” Jesus came and He gives us His goodness.

To continue to insist how unworthy we are, we are denying the whole message of the cross.  We are still relying on our goodness, or in this case, our lack of goodness.  We are rejecting the very Word of God that tells us through Him we are made worthy.

God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him….John 3:16,17\

To Him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name….Acts 10:43

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness….1 John 1:9

Going back to my illustration of the movie tickets:

The group are all standing there realizing they do not have enough to get in.  Along comes someone who offers to give them what they lack.  Those with only a dollar or two will probably jump at the chance to get some help.  But the person with $4.99 may very well think if they just look though their pockets again, or search in the car they will be able to find that penny they are lacking.  Sadly, some who are lacking the full price will probably refuse the stranger’s offer of help because they do not think they should taking something for which they have given nothing.

Only when we recognize our need of a savior and also realize how much He loves us – not because we somehow deserve His love, but because He just loves us, can we have the response Isaiah had.

After his lips were cleansed, he answered the call of God.

Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?”

I said, “Here I am. Send me.”….Isaiah 6:8

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Were the “Them” in Jesus’ Prayer for Forgiveness?

Final notes from my husband’s Good Friday sermons.

Luke tells us in his Gospel that Jesus prayed from the cross “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”  These words were among some of the last brief statements He made before His death.

Who exactly was He speaking to?

  • The Roman soldiers.  They were standing there gambling for His clothes at the foot of the cross as they watched Him die.  It was probably not the first crucifixion detail they had been assigned.  But this one was different.  This man claimed to be the Son of God.
  • Maybe it was the Jewish crowd that had gathered there that day.  They had seen him heal their sick, fed them on occasion and told them all types of parables and stories of God and His kingdom.  Now they had shouted:  “Crucify Him.”
  • Perhaps it was His disciples, especially the ones who had fled and were in hiding.  Only John was present at the cross with Mary, Jesus’ mother.
  • Maybe He saw ahead in time and saw the crowd that stoned Stephen to death.  That crowd was full of hate for Stephen.
  • Perhaps he looked further down in time when the early Christians were martyred in the coliseum of Rome by wild animals.  Surely their persecutors were included in His statement from the cross.
  • What about all the wars that have been fought in the name of religion, the Crusades, the Protestants against Catholics and the Catholics against Protestants?
  • Maybe he saw the barbarians throughout the world who have committed wholesale slaughter of whole groups of people simply because they were different.
  • Or, maybe he looked out to 2019 and saw us when He was there on the cross.  Was he speaking of us as He hung there?  Was it our sin that we have committed day by day, year by year without regard to our own eternity?  Do we realize the total sacrifice that was made for us that day?

Surely He was speaking of me also from the cross that day.

Whatever Happened to Sin?

We seem to have done away with sin.  No one sins.  They make mistakes.  They “mess up.”

In “The Thirteen Clocks” author James Thurber has a character who states:

“We all have our weaknesses; mine just happens to be that I am evil.”

If there is no sin, only weaknesses, mistakes, character flaws, the whole point of Good Friday and Easter is meaningless.

“Why is sin sinful, not just a “little weakness”?  Who says sin is sin?  One of the words the Bible uses to refer to sin means “to miss the mark,” implying that there is a mark or target that has been missed, so the word sin itself implies a standard.  If a highway patrolman stops you for speeding, it implies that the official government has set a speed limit, and you violated it.  Similarly, the moral standard for all humanity comes right out of the holy character of God.  His glory, his holiness, is the standard we all fall short of.”

When we are enjoying our favorite foods and entertainments, it can be easy to forget the decay of sin and death all around us.  Lent helps us remember that there is only one who actually reverses decay – the God who raises the dead.”….Timothy G. Walton

For me I think I have heard the story of the cross and the resurrection so much that I just take it all for granted.  But this season of Lent, I am thankful for the price Jesus paid for us all.

 

 

Does God’s Grace Extend to Colin Kaepernick?

grace

Disclaimer:  My thoughts on this post all came from a sermon I heard this past Sunday.  Guess that this post might be considered plagiarism.  Since the minister that spoke is my daughter, hopefully she will forgive me for stealing her thoughts.

She spoke of our need for God’s grace not just at the moment we realize we need a savior but each day as we rely on God’s grace – it is an ongoing way of life.  Knowing we have received grace, we need to pass that grace on to others in our life.

The meaning of grace could call for a deep and long theological dissertation – but I’m not qualified for that.  For my post, I’m just using a simple definition – again not my own but one I have heard hundreds of time when someone tries to define what we mean by grace.

G — God’s

R – riches

A – at

C – Christ’s

E – expense

Some definitions:

God’s favor toward the unworthy

God’s benevolence on the undeserving

Grace is what God is all about.  Because of His grace, we are forgiven – not based on anything we have done, but simply on His love and mercy.  And, because we have received grace, we are to pass that same grace – that same love and mercy – to others.

But here is where I find a big problem among my Christian friends today.  We are living in a very divided country right now.

  • Left vs right
  • liberal vs conservative
  • Democrat vs Republican
  • pro-choice vs pro-life
  • against a wall vs for a wall
  • restriction on gun rights vs gun rights advocates

And the list could go on and on.

As Christians we have every right to speak out on our own opinions, to speak out for truth and against things that are totally outside God’s Word.

BUT….while we can and should speak out for the truth, we need to remember that those we disagree with, those who we strongly feel are wrong, are people who God loves, people that God died for.  People that need to know God’s love and mercy in their own lives.

Remember the verse we all learned early in life:

For God so loved the WORLD that He gave His only begotten son….

That means God loves:

knee

  • all the NFL players who take a knee during the National Anthem, including Colin Kaepernick
  • all the crazy Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi
  • all the pro-choice activists, including Cecile Richards

Do we speak out against their beliefs, their actions?  Certainly we have that right and maybe in some cases even that responsibility.

But when we speak out against them personally, call them names, say we don’t care about them, I think we have crossed the line as Christians.  No longer seeing them as people who need to know God’s love, but as “enemies.”  We dehumanize them.  We refuse to extend love and mercy.

Jesus told us:

You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

So, I ask my Christian friends:

When was the last time you prayed for those who you disagree with?

When was the last time you bent your knee and prayed for your enemies?

We hear a lot of calls to pray for President Trump – and we should.  But where are the calls to play for those we disagree with?  Don’t they need God too?

Just as we don’t deserve God’s forgiveness, someone you know may not deserve yours. It doesn’t matter: We are still commanded to forgive them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Really? Forgive Again?

Anyone who has gone to Sunday School or attended any Bible studies has probably heard how Jesus said we are to forgive someone seventy times seven.

Of course, we know that He did not mean we keep a notebook handy and add up each time we forgive someone until we have forgiven them 490 times.

Okay, that was the 491st time you did that – no more forgiveness.

forgive

 

Clearly He was expressing how we are to have a heart of mercy and forgiveness to others.  He went on to say that He forgave us to the degree we forgive others.

For many of us forgiveness is a tough one to do.  I have found it fairly easy to forgive when someone acknowledges they hurt me and asks for forgiveness.  But when they do not acknowledge they were wrong and I still need to forgive them – that has been hard at times.  However, not forgiving harms me more than the one I do not forgive.

forgive 2

Several years ago I came face-to-face with the reality of how much I needed forgiveness myself – and therefore should forgive others.

A few years after my first husband died, I remarried a wonderful man and inherited a teenage son.  Raising two girls, I did not have a clue how to deal with a son – especially a teenage son.  Today I am thankful to say this young man and I could not be closer.  But those first few years had some rough moments.

He was a good young man, but suddenly having me telling him what to do did not always sit well with him.

Some days I became frustrated with him.  It was not that he was doing terrible things.  It was just things like forgetting to take out the trash or heading out with his friends without helping with the household chores he had been assigned.  When I confronted him he would always say he was sorry.

So — one day I told him:

I have had it with you.  You keep saying you are sorry – but then you do it again.   I’m tired of forgiving you again and again.

After stomping off to my bedroom to cool off, I suddenly felt a reprimand from the Holy Spirit:

So, how many times have I forgiven you for the same thing?  Next time you pray, should I say that I have had it with you?

Ouch!!!!  That hit very close to home.

Needless to say I went back to this young man and told him I forgave him and we would try again.

(I do want to make this disclaimer.  Being physically or mentally abused by someone does not mean we allow that abuse to continue.  While we need to forgive the abuser, there is no way we should ever continue to submit to abuse.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Reasons to Ban the Lord’s Prayer

In 2015 the church in England had an advertisement which featured the Lord’s Prayer set to run before a Star Wars movie.  The cinemas banned the ad because they said it might be offensive to some.

In response Bishop Steven Croft wrote an article saying “from the perspective of the spirits of the age, there are very good reasons to ban the Lord’s Prayer from cinemas and culture and public life.”

Lord's sprayer

Here are Bishop Croft’s reasons:

  1.  “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”   –  It opposes the myth that we are random specks of matter floating through space and time….We are created and loved and called into friendship with God who is our father and into community with our fellow human being who are therefore our sisters and brothers.
  2. “Your kingdom come.  Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  –  The world is not as it was meant to be.  It is distorted from its true purpose.  But God is at work to redeem and transform this world, to establish His kingdom.  The Lord’s Prayer invites us not to retreat from the world in fear and pain, to anaesthetise or indulge ourselves.  It invites us to join the struggle to see justice and peace prevail.
  3. “Give us this day our daily bread.” – This is not a prayer for more.  This is a prayer for only what we need.  It teaches contentment.  This one restrains our greed.
  4. “Forgive us our sins.” – This teaches me to live with my imperfections and the imperfections of others.  The Lord’s Prayer acknowledges human imperfection and sin, daily.  It offers a pathway to forgiveness, daily.  The way of forgiveness cannot be bought.  It is a gift.  Grace.
  5. “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” – We are not meant to live in feud or hostity or rivalry.  We are meant to forgive and be forgiven, to be reconciled to each other.
  6. “Lead us not into temptation.” – When we say this prayer we remind ourselves that we are not living in a Disney fairy tale.  We are living in a real world of cancer and violence and difficulty, where bad things happen for no clear reason.  We live in that world confident in God’s love and goodness and help even in the most challenging moments of our lives.  We may not have the answers but we know that God dwells with us and in us.
  7. “For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever.  Amen.” – The prayer returns as it begins to the praise and glory of the living God.  our hearts return to their origin and source, the one who created us.  Our lives are to be lived to God’s praise and glory, not to satisfy our own small desires.  We are beings with a higher calling and a greater purpose.

There are only 63 words in the Lord’s Prayer.  It takes less than a minute to say them.

Yet these words shape our identity, give purpose to our lives, check our greed, reminds us of our imperfections, offer a way of reconciliation, built resience in our spirits and call us to live to the glory of our creator.

No wonder many want to ban them from our consumer culture.

Two Views of Dealing With Our Enemies

I recently watched a pastor of a mega church on television (which I don’t do on a regular basis) and was amazed at his message.

He started off speaking of all the parts of our culture that Christians do not agree with.

  • He spoke about the damage pornography does to our society.  (I said Amen!)
  • He spoke about the many lives that have been killed through abortion.  (I said Amen!)
  • He spoke about the anti-Christian attitude in Hollywood portraying Christians as idiots or bigots or worse.  (I said Amen!)
  • He spoke about the terror from Islamic extremists.  (I said Amen!)

But then he lost me!

He said our duty as Christians is to “identify these people and RUN THEM OUT OF HERE!”

Now I am not sure what he meant about “running them out of here.”  Maybe he just meant we need to stand up for our beliefs and not let them scare us from speaking out.

If so, I say Amen!

But the body language and the attitude he displayed when making that statement I found so offensive and so not like Jesus Christ.

Later that week I went to a conference where I heard a different viewpoint on our response to those who take a stand against our Christians beliefs.

It was a Voice of the Martyrs conference where I heard stories of Christians being persecuted around the world.

I saw pictures of young men badly beaten for refusing to deny Christ.

Marks of Christ

This young man lost his right eye and was brutally disfigured

I saw pictures of churches destroyed by bombs or fire.

20130804_Communion_Glasses_231_CVR_04_final

This was the communion set retrieved by the congregation after their church was burned

Then I listened to their response to how they treated their enemies.

Over and over those who had been persecuted asked that we not only pray for them, but pray for those who persecuted them.

Richard Wurmbrand, founder of Voice of the Martyrs said:

“It was in prison that we found the hope of salvation for the Communists. It was there that we developed a sense of responsibility toward them. It was in being tortured by them that we learned to love them.”

“I have seen Christians in Communist prisons with fifty pounds of chains on their feet, tortured with red-hot iron pokers, in whose throats spoonfuls of salt had been forced, being kept afterward without water, starving, whipped, suffering from cold–and praying with fervor for the Communists. This is humanly inexplicable! It is the love of Christ, which was poured out in our hearts.”

Martin Luther King, Jr said it so well:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

But the best voice of all for loving your enemies is Jesus Christ who said:

enemies

Maybe if we prayed more for those who take a stand against Christian principles their hearts would be changed.

Will you join me in praying for those who you disagree with?