Thursday, March 19, 2015

Possess the Greatest Miracle of All



You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?  Galations 3:1-6

 

I have a friend who is a seventh grade math teacher.  This one year he had student he really liked.  She was the brilliant, overachieving, geeky type.
One day, after class, she approached his desk. Out of the blue, she fell on her knees in front of him, and with her hands out trembling, she whispered, “Do you like me?”
“Yes, I like you very much,” He said. 
I had a favorite professor in seminary, Dr. Bill Witt. I think he’s pretty cool and I hope the feeling is mutual, but never would I have gotten on my knees in front of him and pressed the issue. Once, we become adults, we know better.
But, we can all relate to this question, because all of us feel this question. We want to be liked and I think that was what was motivating this young woman.  She wanted to prove to herself, her teachers, and her classmates that she was smart, capable, likeable – if not loveable.  She desperately wanted to be liked and in more theological terms, we might say she wanted to prove that she was worthy, righteous, justified. 
It is this same desire – to prove oneself worthy – that is at the heart of Paul’s words.
Paul is writing to the church in Galatia, who are under the influence of legalistic religion. They think that if they can follow the law to the letter they too will prove themselves worthy and justified. 
Paul is not having any of it when he writes “You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched?”  He has a question for them and it is one that is relevant to us today.  He wants to know just one thing
Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing the Gospel with faith? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law? In other words, who justifies you? God or yourself?
The answer is Jesus.  We know by now that Jesus justifies us, but all of us, if we are really honest with ourselves, attempt to justify ourselves all the time.  If you are like me, self – justification is a daily temptation.
We want to be a great spouse, parent, or daughter or son.  We want more money, more things, more friends. We want to be important and we want to look good while we are doing it, we want to lose ten pounds and have a cool car. We so easily deceive ourselves that through all this we can somehow prove our worthiness through our own effort.
What does this lead to, this self - justification? Exhaustion and striving, burn out, bitterness, because we are daily trying to perform an impossible task that we are doomed to fail at. So we get angry, we constantly compare ourselves to others to see where we are on the worthy scale, all kinds of sin and division and caring everything in our own strength, we grieve the Holy Spirit.
But, do you know what, according to Paul, is the worst thing about self – justification?  When we do it we take what God has done for us in Jesus for granted. 
And here is Paul’s main point.  We don’t have to justify ourselves, we don’t have to live under this curse because Christ became a curse for us. He was publically executed, denigrated, and mocked, with his precious body stripped naked for all to see and scoff and he did this so we might live in freedom.  We don’t have to justify ourselves because God took care of that in Jesus. 
And he did it because he loves us.  He loves us and it isn’t based on any merit or worthiness on our part. He knows how unworthy we are, he just loves us.  It’s totally absurd.  And there is nothing we can do to add to it, no great success on our part. And there is nothing we can do to subtract from it. No sin or failure can take away the fact that God loves you and took it upon himself to justify you. It’s a once and for all, eternal decree.
So friends, let’s not deceive ourselves.  Let’s not be foolish.  Let’s ask ourselves, where in your life are you attempting to justify yourself? Let’s surrender that to God. 
And know that when we do that, when we receive that our justification comes from Christ alone, we will be blessed beyond measure.  We will experience the Holy Spirit indwelling us, we will be a blessing to all nations, and we will see miracles. And we will possess the greatest miracle of all - that God loves us.
Let’s be like that girl – trembling, vulnerable, and kneeling before our Father in Heaven, desperate to know - “Do you like me?” And His response is always, again and again:
“Yes, I love you very much.”

Friday, March 6, 2015

REJECTIONS – Aaughhh!



Have you ever read something at just the right time and place, that it's like God is talking just to you? That's how I felt when I read this article, from my fellow writer (and redhead) Cindy Sproles. Last week, I reviewed her recently released novel, Mercy's Rain, and this week I am pleased to have her as my guest blogger. Whatever your craft or call, I hope you find her words on rejection as encouraging as I did. Blessings to all!
Lilly

Rejections - Aaughhh!
By Cindy Sproles

Rejection is not fun. I can’t think of a soul who lives for the next rejection, whether it be in our families, our jobs, or our writing career.
These days when a child is told no, the next thing to expect is wailing . . . maybe a little kicking and screaming, and pouting. All this before the child gets over it and moves past. But if you’re a writer, rejection can become stifling.
We spend hours bent over a computer keyboard typing out the work of a lifetime. There is a vested interest in this work no one else understands, so when we open an email and find that Joe, Editor has “passed” on our manuscript or article. It stings.
I sorted through my file folder of rejection letters last week. In ten years of writing, I’ve gotten more rejections than I have finished projects. It didn’t seem quite right, but as I gleaned through the letters attached to failed works, I realized the value of hindsight.
My first work was a novel I was sure God gifted to me (sound familiar?). I woke up in the middle of the night, rushed into my office and within minutes, I’d plotted out an entire “Lord of the Rings” like kingdom. My characters were in place, the monsters were there. In my eyes, it was a sure-fire thing.
Due diligence was my friend while, over the next three months, I pounded out this great story from God. When the piece was complete, I sent it for a paid critique at the upcoming conference I was to attend. The critiquer, an author of over 50 books, gave me wonderful feedback. He liked the story, remarked it didn’t hold the marks of a first time writer, and he introduced me to the acquisitions editor of a major publishing house – who on the recommendation of my critiquer, asked for the proposal. I was thrilled.
Months passed and finally the mail delivered my proposal back to me with a very nice letter.
Nicely done. The story is strong, the writing good. Though I see potential in this work, I cannot see that this story could stand against works such as Lord of the Rings.
“Really? We all know I’m a much writer than Tolkien. Really?” I was rejected. Even with the criticism gently tucked between two bits of compliment, it hurt. Years past that work, I can look over it and see why it couldn’t stand against works like Lord of the Rings. The adage hindsight is 20/20 rang true.
Rejection is never easy, but it is part of the process. To succeed we must fail. It’s failure that forces us to practice, learn, and improve. Improvement leads to success. These days I look over the rejection letters and raise a glass. “Hail to the Rejection.” Because of it, I’ll grow to be better.
I’ve since learned, moving past rejection is not as hard as it was in the early years thanks to those hindsight lessons. There’s consolation in knowing even the big time writers still get rejected. Before you curl into the fetal position over rejection letters, follow these tips to get past the hump:
• Mourn a few days and then get over it
• Pull out the suggestions along with a few writing books and study. Learn how to
repair the things that helped bring the rejection.
• Understand there is always a better words and different twists that can improve your
work.
• Write and rewrite.
• Begin a new work.
• Move ahead with the determination to be better at what you do. Attitude is
everything.
Rejections sting a little but in retrospect, they are the stair steps to success. Choose to look at them with the attitude of persistence and you will climb your way to publication.