Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sinner & Hypocrite

Sometimes when I pray or read my Bible or even when I go to church, I doubt. I doubt big-time...even the words from my own mouth sometimes seem foreign, like science fiction. Doubt and fear knock at my door daily - especially when I know there are so many circumstances out of my control. I can plan and prepare a meal, buying all the right ingredients, follow the recipe to the letter all the while thinking I am somehow in control. And I DO want control. of everything within my reach: my home, my children's health and behavior, my husband's health and behavior, the budget, the car I drive, the prices at the store or at the pump, even my hair...I do. I want control. I want the power and the ability to prevail in every circumstance, yet I cannot.

I am a sinner. I am a hypocrite. I believe one thing and do and even think another. That is the very essence of why I need the perfect Savior.

Peel away the layers of legalism and twisted teachings of some individuals and churches who pick and choose what they follow, get to the truth of the Bible as a whole and you get the 'vanilla gospel.' The human being is a liar, fool and idolater. The Christian is a hypocrite. The Christian believes in certain morality, yet in his or her human state, cannot ever perfectly conform to the requirement of holiness. The inability of the human being to attain perfect morality leads to outcry for a savior - THE Savior.

Not long ago, my son asked me "Mommy, why does God let there be sin?" Whoa...that was a big one and I didn't have an answer in my back pocket. Saying a silent prayer for wisdom, the words escaped my lips and it was I who came to a greater understanding. I asked my son to think of how he feels when he's been outside playing in the summer heat, sweaty and stinky, covered in dirt and mud, then he comes in to take a nice warm shower, coming out squeaky clean. I noted that he wouldn't know what it means to be truly, deeply clean if he didn't know what it had meant to be dirty. That's how sin is - dirty, evil, self-centered...and it reminds us how deeply and truly holy our Creator is. I do believe He allowed sin to enter this world so that His holiness would be so clear, so evident and in that realization would come a beacon for hope and our true source of redemption - Christ.

Simply stated, God IS perfectly holy; humans are not. Offended yet? No one - Christian or not- wants to hear they need something or someone other than self to provide right standing before God! The gospel IS offensive to our very being. No method or philosophy that teaches that one can attain some higher level of consciousness actually deals with the root and consequence of sin, nor does it deal with the solution. As long as there is a human - there is sin and temptation -temptation of the mind to hate another, to lust after another, to covet the stuff of this world, temptation of the hands to promote self (even when working for good wanting praise and promotion), the temptation of the tongue to slander another, to lie for self gain, to puff self up.

All I have to do is be alone with my own thoughts for a moment to see that even when my words or hands "do good" my thoughts are only self-motivated, my selfish heart wants praise and I want credit for any "good" I do.

What this sinner & hypocrite must realize is that credit is not due to self - an unholy, unworthy hypocrite. Credit/praise/glory is due to the God of Heaven and Earth, the God of all visible and invisible. And you can bet that He is jealous for His glory.

My/Your/the human inability to be perfect is the very reason we cannot stand before the mysteriously perfect, holy, just God with all our blemishes and walk away having somehow "earned" a prize. But Christ, who was mysteriously fully man and fully God was all those things - perfect, holy, sinless - the One who even defeated !death! was and IS the solution for the sinner. The Bible teaches that the one who believes in Christ is saved not for what he or she has done, but because of what Christ has done on his or her behalf. When God looks at me, a believer, He sees the perfect work of Christ and has removed my sins as far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12) The 'vanilla gospel' is that I am a sinner and a hypocrite, unable to be righteous to be justified before God and Jesus has ALREADY paid for all that I have done, am doing, or ever will do! Thank goodness- thank Jesus that it was never up to me!

Like the bud anticipating Spring, beginning to open, yet stifled by sleet and snow, the believer (despite the bumps and bruises along the way) is already unmoved on the path of glorious victory. I will stray, I will doubt, but HIS work has already been done in me.

I encourage those of you who are not familiar with the Bible, or who have never considered or investigated the big picture of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation to do so. The book of Romans in the New Testament is a wonderful place to start. The Jesus Storybook Bible is a beautifully simplified storybook that paints a good big picture of the Bible. Explaining how God brought His people under the law first to show them how law keeping was impossible in our human state - yet!- He promised them a Savior and He delivered Christ to bring His people under grace.

So yes, I am still a sinner and still a hypocrite. My faith should not drive me to judge, but rather to love because by the grace of Jesus Christ through faith I am forgiven. There IS freedom in Christ that no one else, no thing in this world can EVER provide.

Romans 8:1-3
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature,God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.

Psalm 103:11-13 (New International Version)

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;

12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

Romans 3:24-26 (New King James Version)
24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Hebrews 2:16-18 (New King James Version)
16 For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. 17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Yes, I was. A Pageant girl.....Wearing my aunt's pastel blue, ruffly prom dress, this quiet, barely-in-high-school girl entered the pageant at the local fair, based mostly on looks and not much on brains - big surprise there. I don't think I even made the top ten that time, but it was an experience. I went on to enter scholarship pageants at the county level two years in a row, placing in each one. Then I ventured out, having to get sponsors to support my attempt to win at a state level pageant.

My Junior year I entered the "Miss Teen Tennessee Scholarship Pageant." This pageant was the 'real' thing, interview lunches with judges (etiquette in table manners, making sense of numerous eating utensils, and grown up discussion on display), a 'talent' or speech competition, and even my g.p.a was part of my score. My parents, sister, grandparents and extended family came to support me. I was meeting girls from all over the state. Some were kind and well-rounded - the ones I wanted to win- and others would complement my dress to my face, then turn in plain view to make an ugly expression of disgust.

Since I had no obvious talent....I've always been the type to do very well in any number of tasks, only achieving "good" merit never "excellent" (I'm sure my husband and parents would graciously disagree)...I chose to deliver a speech. I spoke of "believing in yourself...putting trust in self." Older and a little wiser now, I know that 'self' leads to destruction... I made it into the top eight out of numerous girls who had displayed excellent talents of piano playing, sign language interpretations, dancing and the like. Next, I would be asked a judge's question on stage.

Called up to the microphone, I walked poised and hopefully prepared. "Where do you see yourself in the next ten years?" the M.C. asked. "Whew, an easy one," I thought. I got a laugh from the audience when I said "Well, first, I plan to graduate from high school." I went on to say "then I plan on graduating from college, getting married and having a family." I began to walk back to the lineup, then realized I was supposed to take a turn at the front of the stage so I turned, did my pageant twirl, and returned to the line of other 'well-rounded' girls.

Looking back I can hear the thoughts of the judges, my family, and the audience: "What?! no mention of career?!"

How telling my answer that day was! I did not place in that pageant. Getting married and having a family are not on the world's agenda for a "good, successful" life, especially in front of the line, ahead of career and 'personal fulfillment.' Every day, I'm becoming more comfortable with disagreeing with the idea that somehow I've shortchanged myself and subdued my life for some lesser existence because I want to be a full-time wife and mother. Most days, if I'm honest, I still need some convincing.

The recent warm weather opened the blooms on the tree in our front yard, but today they are stifled by the sleet and snow. Like that bloom, I often expect that I am on path 'x' to grow and blossom and achieve. In the reality of God's perfect, mysterious ordination of all life, my feet don't always tread on the path I expect. He brings challenges and seasons of stagnation in what looks like life to me - just so He can remind me why I'm here and for whom I am here - what life really IS.

I could say that I chose to get married while I was in college, chose to come home full-time, and chose to have a 'big' family by today's American standards despite the struggles of having a limited budget. I am confident that this path has been chosen for me. I do struggle with not having a big bank account for the security I think I need, or having enough cash to put my kids in all sorts of extracurricular activities. I struggle with not having, not doing, not receiving, not being enough. This culture has expectations that I'll follow a certain list of what it takes to be a good parent or spouse and implies I deserve or will receive something in return.

I see it every day and often sense the unspoken judgement of other parents when I don't conform to what they think I should be doing:
help my child have the best project in the science fair (not letting the child touch it, of course) - check
enlist my child in swimming lessons, music, dance, sports, etc. - check, check, check
take daughter to the mother/daughter event at church - check
have a membership to the family gym - check, check

When I attempt to have, do, receive or be, I fail - every time. I can never perfectly achieve and never receive what my sinful heart thinks I deserve from anyone: husband, child, friend, family, etc. I thank God for giving me grace to not need a to do list. His grace IS sufficient for me!(2 Corinthians 12:9). I must find what I need in HIM and quit seeking it elsewhere...

My senior year of high school, once again, I entered the local county pageant. I won. The prizes were a crown, a basket of perfume, a gift card for a haircut at a local salon, and $250 towards my college education (it barely covered my books the first semester). Winning certainly temporarily boosted my confidence, but today 'the win' and all of those prizes are gone. That earthly crown is broken and in a dump somewhere after living in a bin of little girls' dress up clothes until it was beyond repair. Today, that win and all those prizes are literally rubbish.

I know that the legacy I leave my children, good or bad, is not! What must I do today to ensure that I leave a legacy, a crown on their hearts after I've left this world? Do I instill in them a drive for education? fame? fortune? No. Sure, I'm a huge proponent of education and would love for each of my four children to have a college degree, fame is overrated, and I do desire for them to be good money managers, but even those things won't give them what their hearts most need. My children will see me worship - but what? Each of us does worship some thing. What will I worship? or rather Whom will I worship?

I don't want to give my children a "Life's To Do List;" I want to leave a legacy of faith where they don't see what I did, but what Christ did in me. I must model trust in the One who made me, provides for me, and will give me the only crown I and they shall EVER need.

James 1:12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

I Peter 5:4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Matthew 6:19-34

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust [5] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? [7] 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.