Like Scarlet, As Snow

Isaiah 1:10-20 New Living Translation (NLT)

10 Listen to the Lord, you leaders of “Sodom.”
    Listen to the law of our God, people of “Gomorrah.”
11 “What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?”
    says the Lord.
“I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams
    and the fat of fattened cattle.
I get no pleasure from the blood
    of bulls and lambs and goats.
12 When you come to worship me,
    who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony?
13 Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts;
    the incense of your offerings disgusts me!
As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath
    and your special days for fasting—
they are all sinful and false.
    I want no more of your pious meetings.
14 I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals.
    They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them!
15 When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look.
    Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen,
    for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims.
16 Wash yourselves and be clean!
    Get your sins out of my sight.
    Give up your evil ways.
17 Learn to do good.
    Seek justice.
Help the oppressed.
    Defend the cause of orphans.
    Fight for the rights of widows.

18 “Come now, let’s settle this,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    I will make them as white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson,
    I will make them as white as wool.
19 If you will only obey me,
    you will have plenty to eat.
20 But if you turn away and refuse to listen,
    you will be devoured by the sword of your enemies.
    I, the Lord, have spoken!”

I love the first snowfall of winter. IMG_4319Tiny frozen flakes cover a multitude of branches, leaves, and blades of dormant grass. The earth is blanketed in white and I am immediately taken back to memories of childhood playing at our grandparent’s home in La Pine, Oregon. Snow drifts several feet high covered the landscape- along with our white poodle as he attempted to paint the snow yellow! Gone now is the little girl who bundled up from head to toe to play in frigid temperatures. In her place remains an adult-ish woman who now prefers to watch our children write their own memories in the snow as I sit beside the roaring fireplace with a book and hot beverage in hand.

Gone too is the spiritual little girl who first met her Savior when she was 9 months pregnant with our first little girl. In her place remains an adult-ish spiritual woman who now prefers an authentic, life giving relationship with her Lord instead of the religious ceremony that once devoured her.

I accepted and believed in Jesus in the final few months of the 20th century and was baptized with water the following year. However, my baptism with fire didn’t occur for several more years (see Acts 1: 4-5). Although my life was saved for all eternity, the abundant life that Scripture promised was not yet realized. I was a religious zealot. I sought acceptance and approval from church leaders to satisfy my ravenous pride. I made sacrifices of my time, talent and treasure. I paraded through the courts of worship auditoriums with religious ceremony. I brought meaningless gifts to the altar. I lifted my blood covered hands in prayer meetings in an attempt to look washed and clean. All the while, I refused to give up my evil ways.

I attended worship services, but I did not worship the Lord in Spirit and Truth. I heard the Truth, but I wasn’t set free. I acknowledged the Spirit, but I wasn’t filled with power. But just as He promised in His Word, the Lord poured out His Spirit on me while I was in the living room praying with my husband one day… and I began speaking in other languages! Shortly after, I began to prophesy, see visions and dream dreams (see Acts 2:17-20).

I was transformed.

How?

Grace.

Deliverance.

And discipline.

God’s Spirit released the gift of repentance in my soul. The warmth of His love melted my hard heart just as the sun dissolves the snowflakes from the earth when the sun rises. As solid gave way to liquid, my religious activity was exposed and the scarlet sin of rebellion was revealed beneath. I began to pray as Jesus taught His disciples to pray. I began to read His Word and do what it says. I began to confess my sins to the Lord- and others. I began to acknowledge that I did not love God. I began to grieve over my disobedience.

Then He caused wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below: this spotted sheep, who’s sins were like scarlet, were made white as snow.

All because the Lamb of God was slain.

And now, this white as wool sheep listens to the Shepherd’s voice… and obeys Him, instead of offering sacrifices.

God-breathed

2 Timothy 3:16-17 New International Version (NIV)

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 

Just as God breathed life into man’s body in the garden, God breathed life into the men that wrote each verse, chapter and book recorded in the canon of Scripture. Ordinary men were equipped by the power of the Holy Spirit to write an extraordinary love letter to the world.

Woven through the life stories of men, women and children throughout Scripture we learn who God is and who mankind is in relationship to Him. We discover love, grace, mercy and forgiveness. We realize the ramifications of sin. We are introduced to the Savior. We are warned about an enemy.

IMG_2961Each day as we study, the Holy Spirit breathes life and the words on the page become the Word written on our heart. Miraculously, we begin to receive instruction, rebuke, and correction. Through this supernatural training in humility and submission, our lives are transformed by the renewing of our mind. We are made righteous. We are equipped as a servant of God. We are able to do every good work.

If we don’t know the Word (Jesus) by studying the word (Scripture), we are not equipped to do any work. A student who is fully trained will become like their teacher (Luke 6:40). But a student who refuses to be trained, rejects the Teacher and becomes like the one they follow; Satan (John 8:44).

Reading a verse fragment a few times a week on a Bible app or Facebook post with a pretty background picture won’t thoroughly equip you. Would you give your child a handful of goldfish for the week and expect him to be sustained physically? NO! The child would be hungry and eventually, he’d starve to death because of the lack of nourishment. A child cannot live on goldfish alone. He needs the Word of God.

IMG_4461Dear child, if you’ve become malnourished, you cannot serve God. Sure, you may be able to sustain yourself and work for a little while, but the signs of starvation will eventually emerge. You may not notice it – but the people around you will. Your wife may say she feels unloved because you’re too tired to lay your life down for her. Your husband may say that he feels disrespected because you’re too busy to spend time serving him. Your kids may repeatedly disobey you because you’re too preoccupied to deal with their foolishness. The people you lead in the church may keep falling back into the same cycle of sin because you’re unequipped to shepherd their broken soul.

But don’t give up! There is still HOPE. The Good News is still the Good News. You can have abundant life. You can love your wife. You can submit to your husband. You can train your kids. You can lead others in the church. You can do every good work.

All you have to do is choose whom you will serve. God’s mercy is new every morning. Set that alarm on your smart phone to wake up 5, 15, 30 minutes earlier tomorrow. Grab your bible, pen, journal and a cup of strong coffee. Saturate your mind in Scripture. Then…do what it says.

You may feel ordinary, but Scripture will train you to be an extraordinary man or woman of God. God breathed life into your body when He saved you. God will breathe life into your soul when you study His love letter to the world.

 

Jealous of You

Psalm 19:12-14 New Living Translation (NLT)

12 How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?
    Cleanse me from these hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant from deliberate sins!
    Don’t let them control me.
Then I will be free of guilt
    and innocent of great sin.

14 May the words of my mouth
    and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

I have been jealous of you- my fellow bloggers. Not because you post much more frequently than I do. Not because you are actually writers (I’m just a girl with a pen, journal and laptop who talks with her fingertips). I’ve been jealous of the approval and affirmation you’ve received from others.

I know. It’s disgusting. It’s foolish. But its been lurking in my heart.

IMG_4389I’ve been blogging for more than a decade. Scratch that. I’ve been “blogging” since I was a kid. In the 80’s I just didn’t share my thoughts with the world. They remained locked up in my diary. In the early 90’s they were kept on printed paper, courtesy of my cool typewriter. In the 21st century they ‘got mail’ as I began sending paragraphs of my life lessons to family and friends electronically. I don’t remember when or how I was introduced to this online journal called a blog. But for whatever reason, I decided to join the community. I created a homeschool blog and wrote about…you guessed it, homeschooling! In 2010 I shut that site down and launched a marriage blog in conjunction with our ministry founded that same year…posting about, yep- marriage. That blog was also shut down and replaced with this one. Now I’m just a blogger who shares a journey of trusting God in life, marriage, parenting, homeschooling and ministry. Morning after morning I sit in our comfy office chair with a cup of coffee (cream, no sugar), bible and composition book. Some days the pages remain blank. Other days the words flow from my heart faster than the pen can release its ink on the paper.

God has given me the ability to read His Word with understanding.

God has given me the ability to share how Truth has radically changed my life.

God has given me the ability to arrange words into grammatically correct sentences in order to communicate the Good News to others.

But sometimes I forget all that…

I forget that I blog to please God. I forget that He called me to share my story with others. I forget that the praises of men will pass away, but “well done, good and faithful servant” will be eternal.

I may never have a multitude of people follow/subscribe to my blog.

I may never have a multitude of people like/share/comment on Facebook.

I may never have a multitude of people like/re-tweet on Twitter.

Jesus had a multitude of followers, but only a handful of friends. Only 12 became His disciples. He wasn’t concerned with being popular. He wasn’t concerned with receiving praise from men. He was about His Father’s business. Everything He did was to glorify His Father in heaven.

When I compare my blog feedback with others, I’m not like Jesus.

When I become jealous of others, I’m not like Jesus.

When I think I’m a failure based on opinions, I’m not like Jesus.

When I seek praise from others, I’m not like Jesus.

When I expect affirmation for my obedience, I’m not like Jesus.

Lord,

Cleanse me from these hidden faults.
Keep your servant from deliberate sins!
    Don’t let them control me.
Then I will be free of guilt
    and innocent of great sin.

May the words of my blogs
    and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Amen