“And remember, it is a message to obey, not just t…

“And remember, it is a message to obey, not just to listen to. If you don’t obey, you are only fooling yourself. For if you just listen and don’t obey, it is like looking at your face in a mirror but doing nothing to improve your appearance. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you keep looking steadily into God’s perfect law–the law that sets you free–and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.” James 1:22-25

I had my first really embarrassing moment in Kindergarten. My teacher, Mrs. Perkins, had traced everyone’s silhouette onto black paper and then cut them out. I think it may have been a science lesson on shadow and light, but I don’t recall. What I do remember is her holding up the profiles one by one and letting us guess who each one was. When she held up my little 5-year-old head, the class went wild with laughter, pointing at me with their snide 5-year-old fingers. They all knew who it was immediately because my hair was so ridiculously out of place all the time. I honestly don’t know why my mother let me go out like that. The thing is, I probably got up in the morning, looked at myself in the mirror, saw my unkempt appearance, and then got too distracted by the Rice Krispies awaiting me downstairs to do anything about my crazy hair. Then, so satisfied was I by those darn Rice Krispies, I went along my merry way and didn’t give another thought to my appearance for the rest of the day. I had forgotten what I looked like.

Over spring break, I took a mini-retreat just to get out of the city and have some good fellowship with God. It was sweet, yet challenging as He revealed to me some areas in which I haven’t been giving Him first place. He showed me some things I’d begun to set up as idols, and He called me to give up some things that I very much enjoy. I was able to see how unkempt those parts of my life were, and as God gave me peace about giving them up, it was like He was handing me a spiritual hairbrush to straighten myself up a bit. But when I came back to the city, I got swept back up in the day-to-day, laid the intense Bible study aside, and I found myself rationalizing my involvement with the very things I’d just told God I would give up! I had forgotten the things I had learned about myself, the things I’d learned about God, and the sweet peace I’d had as I submitted to Him in light of the perspective I’d gained. I had forgotten what I looked like spiritually! I had listened to what God had to say for a moment, but then I didn’t follow up with obedience.

I was fooling myself.

The only way to not forget what we look like spiritually is to constantly keep in mind what God looks like by saturating ourselves in His Word. When we do that, we see ourselves in proper perspective. Our shortcomings become glaringly obvious, but when we live according to His Word, we allow God to bless us through freedom–freedom from the worries of the world, from thinking we need things that we don’t need, and from thinking that we have to straighten ourselves out. God’s law–the rules that govern–is love. If we think about God’s law not as something that, when broken, is to be punished, but as something that describes a state of being (like a law of science or nature), we can experience this freedom. God loves us. Jesus became sin for us so that we could become righteous (1 Cor. 5:21). He has taken care of everything, and He is all we need. If we don’t forget this, but live in light of it, responding to God’s love by loving Him and those around us (Luke 10:27), we will be blessed indeed!

In Genesis 24, we find the story of how Isaac and …

In Genesis 24, we find the story of how Isaac and Rebekah got hooked up. There were 3 matchmakers involved: Abraham (Isaac’s dad), Abe’s servant (the message/wife delivery guy), and God (who brings the girl and the messenger together). I just love the servant in this story! First of all, he’s so faithful. I mean seriously, he goes schleppin’ it through the stinkin’ desert to get a wife for his master’s son. I don’t know how he got to the right well, except for the divine direction of God, but there he ends up…waiting and praying by this well, “O LORD , God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. May it be that when I say to a girl, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’-let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”

Homeboy WASN’T EVEN FINISHED praying yet, when God answered him by sending Rebekah out with her jar. This guy is BLESSED!

But here’s the good stuff:

Rebekah goes inside to tell her family that she’s gettin’ hitched and her brother, Laban, goes out to greet the servant. He says to him, “Come, you who are blessed by the LORD. Why are you standing out here? I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.”

How often are we so amazed by one blessing/answered prayer/miracle/whatever that we don’t realize that GOD HAS MORE FOR US!! I am indeed blessed by the Lord, and yet, I’m STILL standing outside of the next thing He has prepared for me.

Press in, friends, and press on. Why are you standing outside? He has prepared the house for us! Let’s go in, take a rest, and by all means, EAT!

Oh y’all…tonight was the most apoplectic night o…

Oh y’all…tonight was the most apoplectic night of hockey EVER! I think I had about 9 heart attacks. First, Picasso’s men with horns were stinkin’ it up royally. It was seriously like they’d forgotten how to skate. I was afraid. But Michael S. Chen pulled out some excellent saves, and luckily, the other team stunk too. It was back and forth, back and forth all night. The viking got angry, the cake man got to take a penalty shot, Wellington (Lee 3) had a nice carry up the rink, Sir Phatty popped in and out, but wasn’t a dominating presence, Hyun took some shots…but all to no avail. At the end of the 3rd period, the score remained 0-0, and while by this point we had retrieved 3 pucks (which we smuggled out of the sky rink in my backpack), the night would still be unfulfilled for me until the Bulls came out victorious. Thirty-six seconds into overtime, my wish was granted, and after several deep breaths to calm my racing pulse, the night was declared an utter success! GO BULLS! 9:1 !!(?)!!!!!!!!!!

Anyone who’s moved from Podunk, USA to New York C…

Anyone who’s moved from Podunk, USA to New York City knows the value of good housing. Rather, they know how the value of good housing increases tenfold within the bounds of Manhattan. The same apartment set in Greenwich Village vs. Greenville, NC would have a price difference of at least $2000. This truth makes very clear to me another truth–that worth is not inherent, but ascribed.

In Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 film, “Moulin Rouge,” the leading lady, Satine, grapples with her own self-worth. A late 19th century French courtesan and the star of the Moulin Rouge, Satine has come to define her value by the going rate for a night with her, a perception perpetuated (if not propagated) by Harold Zidler, the owner of the nightclub. But through a relationship with a young passionate poet, Christian, Satine comes to understand that she is worth far more than rubies as she begins to believe in the worth that he ascribes to her by his love rather than the worth credited to her by her employer, Zidler.

In one scene, the lovers have resolved to run away together–away from the pressures of Zidler and the Duke (who is not-so-gallantly vying for Satine’s affection), away from Satine’s current lifestyle, away from the Moulin Rouge. As she hurriedly packs her belongings, Satine is interrupted by Zidler, who has come to persuade her to stay by telling her that unless she succumbs to him, the Duke will kill Christian. In a rage of truth and a brume of tears, Satine shouts at Zidler, “All my life, you’ve made me believe I was only worth what someone would pay for me! But Christian loves me. He LOVES me!”

Likewise we endure a daily barrage of worth-ascriptions that change according to circumstance. Our value teeters precariously on the weekly trends, and we scrap frantically to keep up with the times. The world says to us, “Your worth increases with looks, intelligence, talent, etc, but if you’re not up to snuff, you’re not worth the fulfillment you desire.” Satan says to us, “You are a sinner, and you know it. The Bible even says so. You don’t deserve God. You’re not worth it. You never will be” (see Romans 7:8).

Oh, but God says to us, “I love you. I LOVE you! I sent my only Son to give His life for you, and it was worth it to me. You were worth it to me. Are you going to accept the worth that the world gives you and never be good enough, or will you accept the worth I see you as having and never stop receiving blessings? You are worth everything to me, and I have made you worthy to receive everything I want to give you” (see John 3:16, Romans 5:8, Colossians 1:12, Revelation 19:7-8).

Ah, the wisdom of Caedmon’s Call….. "No More …

Ah, the wisdom of Caedmon’s Call…..

“No More My God, I boast no more

Of all the duties I have done

I quit the hopes I held before,

To trust the merits of Thy Son

No more my God

No more my God

No more my God

I boast no more

Now, for the loss I bear his name,

What was my gain I count my loss

My former pride I call my shame

And nail my glory to His cross

Yes, and I must, I will esteem

All things but loss for Jesus’ sake

O may my soul be found in Him

And of His righteousness partake

Amen, amen

The best obedience of my hands

Dares not appear before Thy throne

But faith can answer Thy demands

By pleading what my Lord has done”

"Oh soul, are you weary and troubled? No light in…

“Oh soul, are you weary and troubled?

No light in the darkness you see?

There’s light for a look at the Savior

And life more abundant and free.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.

Look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting

He passed, and we follow Him there.

Over us sin no more hath dominion

For more than conquerers we are!”

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

"Not the labors of my hands Can fulfill Thy law’…

“Not the labors of my hands

Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;

These for sin could not atone;

Thou must save, and Thou alone:

In my hand no price I bring,

Simply to Thy cross I cling.”

(from “Rock of Ages”–Thanks for the reminder Bryan)

Romans 3:

10As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;

11there is no one who understands,

no one who seeks God.

12All have turned away,

they have together become worthless;

there is no one who does good,

not even one.”

13″Their throats are open graves;

their tongues practice deceit.”

“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”

14″Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”

15″Their feet are swift to shed blood;

16ruin and misery mark their ways,

17and the way of peace they do not know.”

18″There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

21But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished– 26he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

27Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. 28For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. 29Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

John 1:14 "The Word became flesh and made his dwe…

John 1:14

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen the glory, the glory of the One and Only of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

In the Old Testament, we hear from God a lot, and His “presence” is around sometimes. But mostly we just hear messages from Him–the writing on the wall, the 10 commandments, the words of the prophets, etc. We lost the privilege of a face-to-face-contact relationship with Him in the fall of Adam and Eve. Oh, but here, all that God had been saying all along, all that He wanted to say forevermore became flesh. Jesus is what God has to say to us. Everything Jesus said and did and was and is–that is God talking. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” “Follow me,” “…born again,” “for God so loved…,” “living water,” “life abundant,” “Get up! Take up your mat and walk,” “bread of heaven,” “light of the world,” “truth will set you free,” “good shepherd,” “life,” “peace,” “sacrifice,” “love,” “love,” “love,”

“COME.”

The glory is what we have seen of Jesus, but what is it? It is the manifestation (the outwardly visible) of grace and truth. Grace and truth make up the glory of Christ–what we have seen of Him. He is composed (full) of grace and truth. He is God’s message to us in the flesh. God’s message to us is full of grace and truth. When we pray for God to be glorified, we are saying that we want His grace and truth to be manifested, to be made more visible. When we say we want Him to be glorified in our lives, we are saying that we want His grace and truth to be made more evident in our lives.

Too often lately I’ve been forgetting that God has given me a “Christ coat” (if you will). In and of myself, I cannot display Christ’s glory. I cannot glorify Him. It is only His presence in me that makes me able to do anything worthwhile. It is only when I’m covered by Christ that anything full of grace or truth is manifested in my life. Recently, I’ve been doffing my “Christ coat” in favor of showing off the real me underneath…and nobody wants to see that. I’ve been living totally to show off my own glory, which, believe me, is definitely NOT full of anything resembling grace and/or truth.

God has made His message so plain, and yet my life does not often reflect my mental understanding of His love, grace, and truth. How different would I be if it did??