Uprooted

Matthew 15:1-3, 10-20

New Living Translation (NLT)

Some Pharisees and teachers of religious law now arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They asked him, “Why do your disciples disobey our age-old tradition? For they ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat.”

Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God?

10 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “Listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 11 It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.”

12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?”

13 Jesus replied, “Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted,14 so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.”

15 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Explain to us the parable that says people aren’t defiled by what they eat.”

16 “Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. 17 “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. 18 But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. 20 These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.”

I have a stubborn planter wart on the bottom of my foot. Gross, I know. For the last year, I’ve been pulling, picking and smothering the seeds with Compound W that have risen to the surface. Several months ago, I finally relented in trying to eradicate the thing by myself, so I scheduled an appointment with the dermatologist. She brought out the big gun: dry ice (solid form of carbon dioxide). After 3 painful, burning procedures that sucker still wasn’t gone! The latest treatment involved injecting chemotherapy into the wart to kill the infection at its root. Needle into the foot? AHHHHHHHHH! Yes, I cried out to the Lord… as I was trying not to kick the doctor in her face.

Hobbling through the house, trying to avoid the pain that permeates every time I step on the affected area, I realized that I attempted to pull, pick and smother my sins…especially those that were deeply rooted in sexual immorality. After I accepted Jesus, who saved me from eternity in hell, I still experienced hell on earth as the seeds of sexual sin continued rising to the surface of my life. Ashamed, I tried covering them up with a band aid (just like I did the wart). I pleaded with God, “PLEASE make it go away!” (just like I did with the wart).

Nothing happened.

Until I asked for help. Help from my Savior and Lord. Help from others in the body of Christ. What do I mean by that? I mean bowing my will to the King of kings and Lord of lords. I mean crying out, “create in me a clean heart oh God, that I might not sin against you!” (Psalm 51:10, emphasis added). I mean taking off the cloak of shame I was wearing and laying it at His feet. I mean confessing the pain my body and soul were suffering as a result of sin. I mean standing before God naked. I mean allowing Him to shine His light on the darkest areas of my soul, to expose every single temptation and sin related to sexual immorality. I mean giving the Holy Spirit permission to dig until the first seed of sin was exposed, injected with fire, and uprooted. I mean extending forgiveness to those who sinned against me. I mean asking forgiveness for those I sinned against. I mean confessing to God- and others. I mean feeling the deep grief of repentance for the sins I committed against God and His commands. I mean asking Jesus to deliver me from the evil that resided in my wicked heart. I mean accepting His sacrifice for my sin. I mean receiving supernatural healing for my body and soul because He bore the stripes upon His body for ME.

Uprooted-2

My friend, your evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, lying and slander cannot be removed by religious activity (washing your hands). The seeds of your sin cannot be smothered in Compound W. But submitting to Jesus as Savior and Lord and asking other believers for help can uproot the rebellion that lies hidden within your heart. Yes, injecting Truth into the lies will be painful. The procedure will hurt some. You will be embarrassed that others know your deep, dart secrets. But death WILL come to the sin, and life WILL grow in its place as you confess your sins in prayer!!! (James 5:16)

The 99

Luke 15:1-7 New Living Translation (NLT)

15 Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!

So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!

Maybe it’s just me, but have you ever read a passage of Scripture over and over again and think, in your arrogance, “yeah, I get it?” Until someone says “many people get confused by it [this parable], but….?” And you are instantly offended?

Just me? Ok.

IMG_2961When I re-read the above passage, the Holy Spirit breathed life onto the page and BOOM, revelation invaded my soul. Humbly, I cried out, “Oh….God…I’m so sorry for leaning on my own understanding….thank you for revealing your truth to me.”

I had always assumed the 99 were already saved, and God abandoned them. I was continually irritated when this message was preached in seeker friendly services (what does that mean, anyway? “Seeker friendly”?!). Pastors would declare, “it’s not about YOU, it’s about the one.” Excuse me? What does THAT mean? Am I not loved by God? Am I to be abandoned in the wilderness when He goes after the one?

No. No. No!

The 99 represented the Pharisees and teachers of religious law. They had no relationship with the Shepherd, even though they belonged to Him. The 99 stayed in the wilderness, instead of following the Shepherd.

Here’s the deal: The Shepherd loves all His sheep. He died for all of them. But, He goes after the one. The one He chose before the foundations of the earth. He leaves the 99 who reject him. He pursues the one. He finds the one. And when the lost sheep humbles himself, the Shepherd picks him up, puts him on His shoulders, and carries him home.

I am the one.

I was part of the 99. I stayed in the wilderness for decades. I was raised in the church. I knew about God. I was involved in religious activity. But I did not know the Shepherd. I was lost. I was a notorious sinner.

Now I am found!

The Lord left the 99 to search for me 19 years ago. ME! He chose ME before the foundations of the earth. He pursued ME. He found ME. And when this stubborn sheep humbled myself before the Great Shepherd, He picked me up, put me on His shoulders and carried me home. There was joy in heaven for ME!

I am the one.

Are you?

(Thank you, @realcoryasbury https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xx0d3R2LoU )

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.