Stainless

“Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”

Psalms 51:2

I am neurotic about clothing stains.  If I catch one on my clothing before I leave my house, I will quickly change into something else that is stain free before facing the public.  If I spill something on myself during the day I will do my best to get the stain out or try to make it unseen.  I will also obsess over it fearing people can see it or worrying that the clothing item is ruined because of the stain.  I count it a great success when I am able to launder the item and permanently remove the stain.

My son is a three sport athlete.  Throughout the year he busies himself with american football, basketball and baseball.  Two of three sports are notorious for creating many stains on his uniforms.  It’s most challenging when his uniform is white.  Within in minutes of a game his jersey and/or pants are adorn with grass and mud stains.  I’ve spent many late nights soaking uniforms and buying all kinds of stain remover sprays to return the uniform back to its unblemished look.  Again, I’m usually successful but sometimes, the stain simply doesn’t wash out.

Sin is an ugly stain we walk in daily.  God sent His son to cleanse us from all sin but we still struggle with the stain of sin every day.  Christians are not free of trials, tribulations and most definitely not from temptation.   We have an enemy who waits and watches just looking for the perfect opportunity to lead us into sin.  Some believers even have strongholds they continue to be slaves to even after choosing Christ and saying the prayer of Salvation.  Just like an impossible stain on a clothing item, a stronghold can seem like an impossible stain of sin in our lives.

Jesus’ blood is the ultimate stain remover.  1 John 1:7 explains it this way; “…if we walk in the Light as He Himself is the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”  Christ’s blood was shed to cleanse us from every sin possible.  He died before you and me ever existed.  In a sense, Christ’s crucifixion was a pre-treatment sort of scotch guard that doesn’t protect us from sin but protects us from the stain walking in sin brings. Even though we are born into a sinful world, every sin stain is removed when we give our lives to the One who died to save us.

Here’s a better explanation.  Imagine salvation like a white fur coat.  You’re so in love with this fur coat that you don’t save it for special occasions, you proudly adorn yourself with it every day.  After all, Christ does call us to take up our crosses and live out our salvation daily.  Satan is like a fur protester waiting and watching to throw red paint all over your fur coat while your running errands, heading to work or engaging in some other ordinary routine part of your day.  I’m not a dry cleaner, but I cannot fathom that red paint all over a white fur coat would be easy if even possible to remove.

That’s what satan wants for our lives, to be so stained in sin and strongholds that we think it’s impossible for Jesus to ever wash us clean.  When we are in this mindset, we feel hopeless, ruined and beyond repair.  If we think Jesus can’t fix us or make us clean, how will ever strive to seek Him or walk in His ways?  How can we ever recover from mistakes and addictions if we believe we cannot be saved.  The enemy uses sin and strongholds to fool us into believing God cannot and will not redeem us.

How do we combat the enemy’s lies?  Very similar to how we combat clothing stains. With the best stain removing tool out there.  In the Christian world, our best stain remover is God’s word.  The Bible is full of promises that remind us of what He has done and how He cleanses us from all our sins. In fact, that’s exactly what 1 John 1:9 tells us: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of all our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  Unrighteousness is a stain that God promises to purify (cleanse) us from.  Isaiah 43:25 explains it even better; “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”

Stain removers for clothing have come a long way.  There’s even a laundry stick called Tide To-Go that one can apply to clothing as soon as something is spilled in an effort to be proactive in preventing a stain.  In faith we don’t have a Tide to Go, but we do have a God to go to every time we are tempted to sin (stain prevention), when we get caught up in sin (similar to a coffee stain on a shirt sleeve after accidentally spilling it on yourself) and especially with every stronghold we are chained to (those continuous sins we can’t seem to get free from.)

Just like with clothing stains, we can be proactive against sin stains too.  For clothing, we may carry a stain stick for anticipated spills.  For sin, we can carry our Bible, download a bible app to our smart phones and tablets and especially memorize scripture.  To combat the enemy’s attacks and in anticipation for whatever “red paint” he throws our way, standing on God’s word and reciting the right scripture will protect us from being permanently stained.  If you’re struggling with the idea that God cannot fix you, buy yourself a Tide to Go and on the back side of the package, write down Isaiah 43:25.  Carry it with you and confess it aloud as often as it takes for you to believe that Jesus made you stainless!

What’s Your Worth?

“For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 1:13-14

 

In today’s world people are desperate to feel valued and scrambling to find their worth.  Popular magazines write articles about value and self-love.  There is a plethora of self help books covering this same topic.  Music apps are full of songs with lyrics revolving around finding one’s worth.

There are many ways people define their worth too.  Some chase after success.  If they are successful in their career, their relationships, athleticism, etc. they feel worthy. Others define their worth solely in romantic relationships.  If they’re dating or married, that means someone loves them and that person’s love, makes them feel worthy.  Then there are those who define their worth in their looks.  Physical fitness, perfectly coiffed hair, daily make-up regimes that are professional grade and wearing designer labels makes them feel as valuable as a rare diamond.

Working hard and having a successful career is a good thing. Being a top performing athlete is a great thing.  Doing the work for a steady and trustworthy relationship is definitely something to celebrate.  Even taking care of your body and valuing how you look is important.  But-none of those things make you anymore or any less valuable that someone else.  That is a sentence that may be quite upsetting for some to read.  Upsetting or not, the truth is, success, marriage, dating, having a super model body, even being an Olympian athlete, does not make you any more valuable than someone who doesn’t work, isn’t into sports, may be overweight and perhaps single, divorced or in a bad relationship.

We wear ourselves out placing our worth in material things and in human beings.  When our worth is defined through the success of our business, what happens when that business fails or we lose our job?  Does that make us a failure?  Not at all.  When we define our worth in our relationship status, what happens when our spouse wants a divorce, our partner cheats on us or we’re chronically single for a decade?  Does being single with an empty date card make someone less valuable that a married couple who are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary?  I certainly hope not because personally, I’m on year nine of that “chronic singleness with an empty date card” path.  How about overweight people?  Are they less valuable than someone who works out hours a day twelve times a week and eats like a caveman? The answer again is NO.

Defining our worth in things, status or relationship can lead us to feel unworthy when things don’t work out the way we think they should.  I am firm believer that suicide has been attempted and completed when someone is at their lowest point feeling unloved, unwanted and unworthy.  Young kids have taken their own lives after being told they should kill themselves by their peers.  Adults have killed themselves after being rejected by their spouse or lover.  There are others who have taken their lives after losing their business or career. When we lose what we think defines are value and worth it’s inevitable that we are going to wrestle with despair and feel lost.  It’s also inevitable that we will believe we aren’t valued or worth anything. People struggle to choose life when they feel they are have no worth.

Personally, I am guilt of defining my worth in my career, relationship status and my physical appearance.  I worked a dead end job for 10 years and felt completely devalued on a daily basis.  I have been dumped more times than I count and tend to chase after the guy who only sees value in what my body can give him or wants to control me.  I have felt more worthless in a few romantic relationships than I have felt these last few years of singlehood.  Physically I have struggled with weight gain for years and am currently at my heaviest weight I’ve ever been (even heavier than when I was 9 months pregnant with both of my children.)  I look in the mirror and see minimal glimpses of my youth but more and more changes that occur when one is considered “middle aged.”  I dress to hide all the bulges that are present with being overweight and out of shape.   I have spent many years feeling completely worthless.

If success, relationships and our physical appearance do not define us, what or who does?  There are only two things in life that can define worth. One is the dictionary.  According to Google, worth is defined as “the value equivalent to that of someone or something under consideration, the level at which someone or something deserves to be valued or rated.” Deserving is the key concept in that definition.  Worth is dependent upon what is deserved.  This definition makes it natural to get caught up in the idealogy that we get what we deserve so if we are getting failure, rejection and heartache, we must’ve done something to deserve it.

The second definer of worth would disagree.  The other definer of worth is God.  His definition of worth is simply this, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

God is the defines our worth because He is our creator.  He created space, Earth, the planets and galaxies, the sun, moon and stars, and every creature that roams the Earth, including you and me.  When an artist creates a painting, they know how much the supplies cost and how much sweat and tears went into making the artistic piece. Thus, they can set a price for it because they created it.  The same goes for you and me.  Because God created us, He knows us inside and out.  He defines our worth and sets a value to each of us.  The price He set for us is this-while we were still sinners, He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for you and for me. (Romans 5:8)  Christ’s death and resurrection is was the ultimate sacrifice made for those who live before Jesus, walk with Jesus and for those (including you and me) who came along after Jesus.

The Bible is full of examples of God’s love, deliverance and redemption.  No greater story defines exactly what we mean to our Heavenly Father than Jesus’ crucifixion.  Christ was nailed to cross and crucified in order that we can be cleansed from all sin and spend eternity with Him. Second Corinthians 5:21 explains it best, “God made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we would become the righteousness of God.”

If you belong to God, you are His pride and joy.  His love for you is endless and He pursues you daily. Your worth is defined in Him and Him alone.  There is nothing, not your past, not your definition of failures, NOTHING, that can separate you from His love. (Romans 8:38)  If you don’t yet belong to Him, I pray this message moves you to seek more about Him, His love for you and exactly how He defines you. I want to encourage you to attend a Easter church service or watch a sermon on YouTube to learn more about Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection.  I pray you choose Him, become a believer and seek His truths.  But whether you know God already or not, know this-whenever you feel worthless or devalued, God says you are more precious than rubies (Proverbs 31:10) and He thinks you are to die for!

From my family to yours, Happy Easter.  May God’s redeeming love penetrate your heart and His love overflow in you and through you today and always.

 

 

 

 

 

A Little Faith

“Then he asked [her], “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?””

‭‭Mark‬ ‭4:40‬ ‭NLT‬‬

This past weekend I was updating my playlist on Spotify. When you look up a particular artist the site will make suggestions of other artists in that same genre. I was downloading some 1990’s pop music and came across Mandy Moore. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I’m a Mandy Moore fan so I downloaded a couple of her songs. One in particular was a rendition of “Have A Little Faith in Me.” I didn’t give it much thought then but later that afternoon when the song started playing God spoke deeply into me and the tears just flowed.

Are you familiar with the song? Read these two stanzas and I’m confident some if not most of you will be moved by them:

“When the road gets dark

And you can no longer see

Just let my love throw a spark

And have a little faith in me

And when the tears you cry

Are all you can believe

Just give these loving arms a try

And have a little faith in me…”

I immediately thought of my children and my heart’s desire for them. I long to be their constant and their comfort in this life. They are teenagers and faced with so many temptations and distractions from what God made them to be. I have to admit we aren’t diligent in attending church every week and our family prayers usually only occur during meal times and bed time. Family devotionals are non existent because of busyness and my being too tired to battle with them over a five minute reading. We do have talks about God but sadly they’re foundation is more sandy than on solid rock. I take full responsibility for failing in building a stronger spiritual foundation for them and my heart worries about their future far too often.

The first thing that ran through my mind when I heard this song was how deeply I long for my children to trust me. As their mom and the person responsible for molding them, I long for them to see that I have 20+ years of experience ahead of them and I only wish to use my wisdom to protect and guide them. As I was dwelling on these thoughts I felt the Lord tell that’s exactly how He feels about me and all of His children. He longs for us to trust in Him and to rely on His eternal wisdom to guide and protect us also.

God then reminded me of a text conversation I had with my daughter the week prior. It was past both our bedtimes and she texted me because she was afraid. She had watched a video on an end of the world prediction (stating the world is suppose to end April 18th) and it was so realistic to her that she was in a panic. I tried explaining the biblical version of the end of the world in an effort to bring her some peace of mind but it was ineffective. I felt myself getting frustrated because I was tired (I did mention it was past bedtime, right?) and being a believer in the Bible’s version of End times, I knew this prediction was utter nonsense. So of course I thought it was ridiculous to be panicked over nonsense.

I finally told her she had a choice to make. She could choose to believe her mom or to believe that video. She never answered that choice but after a few more texts she ended up falling asleep. I however was too on edge at that point to go back to sleep so I ended up watching an hour of a movie.

God used my own words to speak to me. He pointed out I (and you) can choose to trust God or we can choose to trust in our circumstances. When we have a little faith in Him (even faith the size of a mustard seed), we can move mountains (Matt 17:20.) When we choose to trust in our circumstances we build our foundation on sand which means our security and stability is ever changing, completely unstable and can be washed away with every ebb and wave life splashes upon us.

Did I mention that my daughter has admitted to not believing in God? Did I also mention that my son is struggling with his own rebellion that is not becoming of how he is being raised? My heart breaks for my children. My heart is desperate for them to be free of strongholds and walking in a close personal relationship with Jesus. My heart is filled with angst and guilt for the lack of effort I’ve made in developing them spiritually.

Yet God is faithful. He reminded of His work with Abraham and Isaac, Hagar and Ishmael, Jacob and Joseph, Moses and his mother, Hannah and Samuel, and of course Mary and Jesus. Each story is one of a parent or parents crying out to Abba over their child and God being faithful to protect them and bring salvation upon every one of them. He is calling me (and you) to trust that He will keep His promises over our children as well. Just as He did for those in the Bible, He will protect and bring salvation to my children and yours in His time and always in His way.

Take note-faith without actions is dead (James 2:17). So we need to plant seeds of salvation over our prodigal children. We need to cover them with prayer day and night. We need to call out the enemy and his henchmen binding up the enemy’s lies. We need to profess the blood of Jesus over ourselves and our children. And we need to NEVER stop believing in God’s ability to turn their hearts back to Him.

Just now God reminded me of St. Augustine. This was a man raised by a God fearing mother (St. Monica) and a pagan father. Although Augustine was raised in a church, when he reached a certain again his father sent him away to a place that exposed him to many worldly cultures. Monica’s heart was in total anguish. At one point, Augustine denounced God and even created his own religion. It was only when he had been stricken with a near fatal illness that he turned his heart and belief back to God and became an evangelist of his time. Just another example of a prodigal son whose prayer warrior momma refused to give up and whose faith moved mountains that brought about salvation.

Are you a prayer warrior momma bear like me? Are you an armor bearing dad who’s in the trenches willing to engage in spiritual warfare for your child’s eternity? Then fight with the faith of Gideon and pray with the persistence of this woman in Luke 18:

“There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’

Victory for our kids is certain by the power of Jesus Christ and the strength of our persistent prayers! Can I get an AMEN?!

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