Bible, Christian, church, death, Encouragement, Faith, God, grace, Jesus, love, new creation, righteousness, Spiritual, Uncategorized

Newness

There is a certain pleasure that comes with new things – that new car smell, the look of a new outfit, the feel of crisp, untouched pages in a new book (a pleasure lost with e-books…).  We try to take excellent care of the new things we’ve obtained in the hopes that the newness will last longer.  But try as we might, the evidence of use appears more and more with each passing year.  Some things become more valuable simply because they have survived the decades and centuries intact.  Other things more personal are increased in heart-value with much use, like the tattered-edged quilt that my grandmother made for me. It was beautiful when it was new, but evermore beautiful to me now with its ragged edges and broken threads.

In a world where time leaves its mark and things age and become old and changed, we struggle to grasp the concept of newness that the resurrection secured for us.  We have been given a newness that doesn’t fade with time or become less valuable because of our imperfections.

We were buried therefore with Him by the baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, so we too might habitually live in newness of life.  Romans 5:4 

Paul writes further:  consider yourselves dead to sin…and alive to God – living in unbroken fellowship with Him – in Christ Jesus.  (v 11)

Consider:  to think about carefully; to take into account.  Paul was writing to those who had already chosen Christ and attempting to help them understand what change had taken place:  they had been made dead to sin and alive with Christ!  Consider it!  Think about it!  Take it into account!  Every moment of every day we have new life!  This body will show the wear and tear and age that time will bring, but this is only the outer shell that holds who we really are – new creatures.  When we sin and miss the mark we think we become damaged and broken, but our new natures remain unchanged and unmarred. He has washed us with the blood of the Lamb and we are beautiful in His sight.

This is how we truly honor His resurrection – by sharing in our own resurrection through His.  Taking what He’s purchased for us that will be ours for all eternity:  Newness of life with every breath.

 

Newness” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

 

 

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In between

I woke this morning thinking of the followers of Jesus many, many years ago who awoke on this day in between.  They had walked with Him and talked with Him and believed in Him and now He was dead. The fullness of understanding had not come to them yet and they find themselves striving to put the pieces together.  I imagine what it was like as they recall and discuss with one another the things He said as they openly share their grief for this Beloved One who is gone.  Some silently grieve over the hope they feel is dying as doubts and fears begin to creep into the sacred place of their broken hearts.

The mighty work being done was invisible to them, as are all things of faith in the beginning.  Some found strength in numbers, remaining with their fellow believers.  Others pull away searching for clarity in the solitude where no one can touch their pain or expose what they are afraid is their faithlessness. Still others cannot be still, pacing as they try to find something to do that will ease their sorrow and clear the fog of the unknown, not realizing that nothing they could ever do would impact the outcome of His marvelous plan.

In between they wait.

They cling to the words of promise uttered from His lips but they do not see the fulfillment.  The frustration of things left undone is ready to overwhelm if they will let it have its way.  Emotionally and physical exhaustion cause the hours to pass slowly.

Three days.

There is no way around it, this day in between.  Tomorrow there will finally be something to do, rituals to observe which are in themselves the symbols of finality.  Once His body was prepared and the tomb was sealed again, they would be expected to return to their lives.  But how could they?  They have been forever changed and nothing is the same as it was before He came and the question hangs in the air “What will we do now?”

Sometimes the waiting in between is hard for us also.  We find Him and His promise that sin is conquered and that we will be free from its grip and destruction.  We know from the depths of our spirits He is real and His promises are true.  But we look at ourselves and it appears we are unchanged.  We cannot always see the work He is performing in our own lives and if we are not careful the frustration of things that seem undone can overwhelm us.  Fears and doubts stand ready to creep in and convince us that we are not really changed after all.

In between we wait.

Oh, sometimes there are obvious things that we need to do.  We need to read and study and fellowship with those who will love and encourage.  We need to recall and discuss the things we were taught of Him.  But when we understand that it is by faith that we receive Him and by faith that we receive the victory over sin, we can learn to stand in faith while we wait, our faith placed in His power to change us from within and work out this wonderful salvation in our every day lives.  Faith that one day our transformation will be evident on the outside.

Those believers many years ago stood in between the cross and the resurrection and they waited.  We stand in between the power of the resurrection and the perfection that heaven will be.  There is no way around it, there is time in between.  This time of our existence on earth is important and He will make it significant in His way and His time.  But let’s not forget that this is not the end goal.  One day we will be with Him after the in between. 

In between” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

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Slow drivers in the left lane

Grrrrr….

It is commonly accepted as a standard driving courtesy, and on some highways a traffic law, that slower drivers take the right lane, not the left.  I once referred to this particular annoyance as one of my pet peeves but have decided that I do not want to have peeves for pets, so now I call it an occasional irritation.  One that reeeaaaalllyyy irritates me.

I don’t think of myself as a fast driver yet that is exactly how my granddaughter describes me:  “Momma, Granny always drives fast!”  I choose to view myself as a driver with purpose.  I have a plan and a schedule and I would appreciate it if all the other drivers on the road would accommodate me.  I suppose they have their own plans and schedules but can they possibly be as important as mine?

Those who know me very well no longer take offense at the fact that I never see them when we meet on the road.  Never.  Once I enter the confines of my vehicle, I am in my own little world.  My focus is on where I am going and what I have to do.  I must admit, however, that I occasionally get so caught up in this little world of mine that I lose focus as I zone out, becoming oblivious to my own driving speed.  Yes, it’s true, sometimes I AM that slow driver in the left lane. Thinking only of myself, I can become completely inconsiderate of the person who is riding my back bumper in the hopes that I will notice their grill in my rear view mirror and from a few, the inappropriate hand gestures they’ve been making for the last five miles.  I’ve often thought I need a small, hand-held sign that could quickly be displayed in the window directed at the one I have just offended that simply read “Sorry!!”  Surely that would make all their anger dissipate if they simply knew it was an oops on my part and I was sorry…

This morning as I was impatiently stuck in the left lane behind yet another pesky slow driver, God says “This is what you do spiritually, too, you know.”  Ugh.  Yes, Lord, I do.  I get impatient with those who are not moving at the same speed as I am.  I zone out, thinking only of myself, and pass them as soon as I can.  I give no thought to the road they are on and what their destination may be, acting as if mine is more important.  I often move through entire weeks without even noticing there are others on this road.  Different speeds, different destinations, different needs, same God.

…keep alert and watch with strong purpose and perseverance, interceding in behalf of all the saints…  Ephesians 6:18

Pretty hard to offer any intercession for my sisters and brothers in Christ if I am not paying attention to them…

Unlike driving behind a slow driver on the highway, when we encounter those who are traveling this spiritual life at a different pace than ourselves, it is an opportunity to enjoy their pace and learn from it.  We may have to slow down to see what they see and hear what they hear.  We may need to speed up to join them in the next revelation of our God.  Our unwillingness to move at their speed very often is shown in our impatience.  We want to offer a quick “Sorry!” with the expectation that they will surely understand we have no time to stop….

But if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is brought to completion – to its full maturity, runs its full course, and is perfected – in us!  1 John 4:12

This love He’s poured into us can only be perfected as we share it with one another.  Even those who are driving slow in the left lane.

 

Bible, Christian, church, Encouragement, Faith, God, grace, Jesus, new creation, praise, prayer, righteousness, Spiritual, worship

When God caused me to wander

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of wanderers in the bible is the account of the Israelites in the wilderness.  There was a destination to reach:  the promised land.  But rather than a straight line journey, they wandered on their way there.  Ready to leave the bonds of slavery, the plan seemed easy enough: follow Moses.  Yet it wasn’t many days into the journey when it was apparent there were things that had to be dealt with.  Old habits, attitudes, opinions and emotions surfaced that revealed there would be more to this journey than arriving in Canaan.  It is clear in the story that their stubbornness was the primary reason they wandered for so long.  I can identify.  Their actions and attitudes kept them in a cycle of wandering with very little progress towards the goal.  Been there, done that, too.

Wandering by definition means to move around usually without purpose or direction.  Life teaches us that this is bad or wrong.  We make plans upon plans, we write down our personal goals, we make lists, we form business plans, we have middle schoolers and early high schoolers under the pressure of deciding what direction their education will go over the next four to eight years.  We are asked what we are going to do, what we want to “be”, and where we will be next year, in five years, and ten years from now. To answer “I don’t know” to any of these pressures is to appear lazy and lacking sufficient motivation.

While all of these strategies (minus the ridiculous notion that a thirteen year old has a clear vision of where their life is going) are very useful in the business world and in maintaining a certain order in our home lives, I wonder how much we try to carry over into our spiritual lives which becomes the very reason we continue to go round and round certain mountains.  Perhaps we stubbornly hold onto a worldly concept that  slows down our spiritual progress.  What if God wants us to wander??

“…when God caused me to wander…”  Genesis 20:13

Abraham heard the call of God on his life and he followed.  God led him to pack up all his things and begin a journey.  He didn’t know where he was going but he started walking.  He started wandering.  The Israelites wandered because of a lack of faith.  Abraham wandered full of faith.

I am not entirely comfortable with this season of wandering.  It feels foolish to not know exactly where I am headed and to resist the temptation to plan every step.  It stings my pride a bit to answer “I don’t know” when asked about my plan.  But I want to learn from Abraham.  I want to dream of the promises God has planted in my heart without taking it upon myself to make it happen.  I want to move when He says move and stay when He says stay.  I want to walk so full of faith that when God changes my direction there is no hesitation on my part.  I want to embrace when God causes me to wander.

 

When God caused me to wander” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

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Missing the point

If you’ve been following this blog recently, you saw a photograph I had made of my children.  I had a wonderful young photographer take two precious pictures and unite them to show that while my son is in heaven, he is still with those who loved him, particularly his sisters.  Lest you misunderstand, I do not believe that he is hovering around in a ghostly form nor does he appear when summoned.  That is a topic for another day…

Most people who’ve seen the photo get it.  They understand what it represents.  A few do not.  It doesn’t really matter to me whether others understand, I only care what my girls think.  I had it made it for them.  I know that when they look at it they completely understand my motivation and my heart.  It was an expression of love that says to them “I know.” “I know that you are grieving.  I know that you love him and miss him so very much.  I know that you hold the same hope as I that we will see him again.  I know.”

I can only imagine my anguish and disappointment if they had received this labor of intense love and simply said “Thanks.  That’s nice.”  It would have broken my heart if they missed the point, if they did not let it bless them and comfort them in some way.

In Monday night bible study we are digging deep in to the book of James.  James was writing to a fellowship of Jewish believers.  Jews who had been steeped in the Law yet had discovered Grace.  His instructions in this particular letter indicate they were struggling with the letting go of the demands of the Law they had spent their lives endeavoring to follow.  As we discuss the verses, we often allow a little speculation and imagination as we try to understand how James’ audience was responding to his words…

They knew that Jesus had died for their sins and that He taught that the Law had been fulfilled, but I wonder how many of them still quietly slipped into the temple area and continued to make the sacrifices they had always done.  Just in case.  Keeping the Law as their back-up plan in case they had misunderstood this Grace that says sacrifice was no longer needed…

I am pursuing this Grace with a determination to get it.  To understand more and more what it is and what effect it is supposed to have on my life.  Yet even while I read the words and know with my brain that Grace says no more sacrifices are required for sin, I still often find myself caught in self-condemnation or works of penance, spending hours or even days mentally and emotionally beating myself up when I have missed the mark.  Part of it is habit – I’ve spent a lifetime believing that this was the correct response to sin in my life. But I wonder how much of this is my back-up plan, the efforts put forth just in case I have misunderstood the freedom of Grace…

How this must grieve the heart of my Father!  He provided the perfect sacrifice for me, a price paid that is beyond my comprehension, so that I could be blessed and comforted and helped and delivered and free.  I want to fall with abandon into this Grace.  I want to live my life in the freedom purchased for me, not wasting my time trying to obtain something that has already been given.  Big Daddy Weave is a group of Christian artists who produced a wonderful song entitled “Redeemed.”  I love the song and it’s in my top 10 favorites because much of it speaks to me.  But there is a particular line that rings so loudly in my soul every time I hear it and I leave you with it today:

“Stop fighting a fight that’s already been won.”

 

Missing the Point” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

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Chiseled by trial

After weeks of rain, last week produced wonderfully mild temperatures and gorgeous days!  Now settled into the new home and rested from the intensity of the move, it was time to embark on the adventure of mapping out my new route to walk, and eventually run.  Thank goodness for maps on my phone – this subdivision is quite large and with my inability to naturally navigate, I could have been lost for days without it!  I decided on an easy loop that will provide enough distance to begin again, slowly getting back to a regular routine after months of sporadic efforts.

I was a bit over-zealous on day one of this new course, but having given my legs quite the workout during our move I fell into a familiar rhythm and delighted in the beauty of the day.  Day two was even better, cutting a couple of minutes from my finished time.  By day three, I imagined with every move of my slightly sore muscles that they were quickly becoming very toned underneath this layer I hope to shed.  It felt good to move and good to be sore, indications that my muscles are becoming stronger even if unseen by the human eye.

As I dreamed of a fit body with muscles clearly defined, the word “chiseled” came to mind.  I laughed at the thought of that particular word every being applied to my appearance again, but it had come up in Tuesday morning bible study as we’ve been looking at wisdom:

When swelling and pride come, then emptiness and shame come also, but with the humble – those who are lowly, who have been pruned or chiseled by trial, and renounce self – are skillful and godly Wisdom and soundness.  Proverbs 11:2

Trials come to us all.  How we respond to them is our choice.  But no matter what we choose – whether we seek to find the good and embrace the hardships with hope, or we rebel and resist and fight – the chisel is at work.  It is chipping and carving and cutting and will reveal a finished work.  For those who fight, this tool of trials carves the hardship into the soul as if it can never be forgotten, a constant reminder of pain.  But for those who yield to the chisel in the Master’s hand, their form changes with every cut, the details and definition of His likeness lovingly revealed in the masterpiece He had in mind.  Wisdom is humbling ourselves before a God Who is so much more than we can comprehend.  A God so good that we can trust Him with the difficulties of this life, confident that He is working something beautiful that is yet to be seen.

While I cannot see all the muscles that are shaping up, gaining strength and definition, I am confident this work is taking place every time I work out.  In the same way, I take confidence in the fact that God is working even in the trials, or perhaps especially in the trials.  You may not be able to see it yet, but with every faith step I take His chisel at work making me what I ought to be.

 

The post “Chiseled by trial” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

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Where are they?

I’ve written of this woman before, but as I’ve been in this state of receiving His grace more and more, her story will not leave me.  My previous observations were more about the accusers.  Today I am thinking of her and imagining…

She had been dragged to stand before Him.  Her head hung in shame and humiliation, their accusations cut to the core because she knew they were true.  She was guilty.  She hadn’t planned her life as it was, it just happened.  One disappointment led to another and after a while it just didn’t seem to matter any more.  She was embarrassed at her lifestyle but helpless to break the cycle.  Self-worth?  She had lost that a long time ago. This man’s attention turned her way had disguised itself as hope, love, and healing, but it the end became the reason she stood accused.

The crowd who had been sitting listening to His teaching grew strangely still.  All eyes were on her.  She couldn’t bear to look up so she just stood there with here eyes clinched tight.  She certainly couldn’t look Him in the face.  She had heard about Him.  She knew He was righteous and good, unlike the men who had captured her and most certainly the very opposite of herself.  The angry men loudly announced her indiscretions, and when He did not respond they persisted.  The ugliness of her sin repeated again and again, every word a hammer blow to her soul.  She had lived with the fear of discovery for quite some time and now must be her reckoning.

What was He doing?  He hadn’t answered the angry men.  With her head still low she dared to peek.  He’s stooped to the ground.  He’s lowered Himself as she still stands.  This is enough to get her attention and still more, the fact that He seems to be in His own little world writing on the ground as if oblivious to all that is going on around Him.  How very strange!  It appears He plans to ignore their question of what to do with this sinner but then He stands.  He speaks to them and gives them permission to stone her.  IF they are each without sin of their own.  Then He returns to His strange writing on the ground.

She cowers and braces herself for the pain.  These men never see themselves as wrong.  They are the proclaimed righteous in the community, the ones who are always pointing the fingers of blame at everyone else, the ones who fill the temple courts regularly.   The seconds following His words seem like hours.  Her eyes clinched again, her own mind screaming “GUILTY!” over and over, she doesn’t notice what has taken place.  Then His voice breaks through:

“Where are they?”

What?  He is speaking to her and she looks up.  The angry men have left!  He looks her in the eyes and asks:

“Has no man condemned you?”

She can hardly grasp it and she stammers in amazement “No one!”

“I don’t either.”

How can this be??  This wonderful, pure Man is fully aware of her guilt and yet offers no condemnation.  This undeserved forgiveness found not only in His words but also in His eyes floods her entire being.  She realizes she has come face to face with true Love.  She cannot fathom why He chose this, but her desperate soul offers no argument because in this moment she knows somehow she is changed.  She feels a freedom she had believed was lost to her.  She feels strangely empowered, able to hold her head up now and experience real Hope.  She knows without a doubt that she will never be the same so His next words are not burdensome:

“Go and sin no more.”

She can’t help it – she breaks into a smile and it is all she can do not to dance in the lightness that is now hers!  The crowd that had gathered around Jesus’ teachings is still there.  She looks around and finds the faces that were stern and uncertain when she arrived have softened. For while they weren’t the accusers that had boldly approached Him, their hearts were pierced as well when He spoke to the angry ones.  They knew of their own sin and realized that the miracle she had just received was there for them as well.  A few offer kind smiles.  Several pat the ground next to them as an invitation to sit and listen to more of what He has to say.

“I am the Light of the world.  He who follows Me will not be walking in the dark, but will have the Light which is Life.”

This day she sits with new friends, new hope, a new life.  This day she met Grace.

(John 8)

 

The post Where are they?  was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on Our Passionate Purpose.