Category Archives: 25. Naked

Naked (Sunday) – Romans 13: 8-14

Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. (Romans 13:14)

How do you envision putting on the Lord Jesus Christ? Reading the Bible? Praying in tongues? Memorizing scripture? Silence? Meditation? Rededication? Getting into ministry? These things are ok (maybe) but I don’t think in doing any of them we are, in any way, adding Christ to what we are wearing. If we are born again, we are in Christ and Christ is in us. I think we actually look very silly when we add things to our wardrobe, thinking we have somehow improved upon who we already are, in Christ.

The chief provision of the flesh is darkness. Darkness is the metaphor scripture uses to describe Satan’s realm. It is a temporal, well-administrated collection of lies designed to oppose God’s kingdom which is Truth everlasting – Light, radiant in spender. Our spirits are born again into this kingdom. With the Holy Spirit in us, we have become children of Light. Light and Truth are now the core of our new nature. However, with our permission, our flesh still has its say. All of us have been (and to some degree still are) duped into believing well placed lies which entangle us in darkness.

In the Love After Marriage workshop, Daneille and I served as facilitators at a table with 3 other baby-boomer couples. We had things in common; all of us had been zealous in trying to serve God, converting and discipling the lost, taking in the homeless, caring for the disabled, serving as elders, leading the songs and no doubt we applied the spiritual disciplines. Sadly, all of us have failed to love our spouses well and some of us have even sunk into abuse and addiction. All of our families paid a price for our zeal. The cost has been horrendous and (in most cases) is ongoing. Father, how can this be – your most zealous children consulting with attorneys and counselors, trying to patch together lives from the debris of failed marriages?

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law…if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (from Romans 13:8-10)

Until we were loving our spouses well, we should have each said “no” to those so-called opportunities to serve God. The pastor of those organizations that consumed our labors should have taken off his CEO cap and become the shepherd – the one who was watching out for our hearts. He should have recognized and stood in the way of our flesh’s propensity toward religion. God’s honor and glory (which is the point, right?) would have been far better represented to our children and neighbors had we simply loved our spouses. We would have fulfilled all that Christ called us to do. Through our marriages, our children would have seen an actual representation of God and his Bride instead of the sad parody of it they witnessed as they watched their parents spinning their religious hamster wheels.

However all is not lost. Our error can be redeemed. In Christ, salvation is always a now affair involving far more than sparing our souls from hell. It is a fact, in this sense, salvation is always nearer to us than we imagine. If I have learned anything in the past few days it is that the Holy Spirit is all-in when it comes to forgiveness, reconciliation and transformation, especially in marriage. The Holy Spirit is Satan’s worst nightmare and he stands ready to disentangle us from the lies we have bought into that have done so much destruction to our marriages. I think if Paul, the skillful shepherd, were to look in on our hearts today, he might customize today’s passage for us…

Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let’s exchange our religious strivings for the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in feverish commitment to religious codes, not in contentious and competitive relationships within the church. Instead put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its religious compulsions. (an adaption of Romans 13:8-14)

Holy Spirit forgive me where I have excluded You from my marriage and pursued ministry in my flesh. I invite You into all of the places where I have entertained lies, especially those I have conceived of as “Christian.” Thank you for awakening me from my slumber. Help me to steward the healing and renewal you have undertaken in my heart and in my marriage. So be it.

 

Naked (Saturday) – Hosea 2:1-23

The blockquotes in this post contain my paraphrase of Hosea’s prophecy.

Let your siblings know they are illegitimate. Let your mom know she’s not my wife. Tell her to quit whoring or I will undress her and shrivel her up like a desert. And I will have zero compassion for her offspring – those wastrels born of harlotry. Why? Because she insists it is her many lovers that sustain her.

I am writing from a marriage conference where our watch word is “nothing hidden,” where tragically, the marriages represented have been damaged (in varying degrees) by things that have been hidden. In God’s kindness, he is undressing some of us and exposing our delusions that pornography, cocaine, other lovers, vocations or homosexuality could satisfy us.

We are telling our stories in pods comprised of four couples each. The stories are all the same. Hidden things were sown in the heart, whirlwinds of hellish outcomes have been (and are being) reaped. After hearing a particularly painful account yesterday of a multi-decade affair, I asked myself, “Why? Why would a person do this to themselves and the people they supposedly loved?” Why do dogs return to their vomit?

It seems that in a world where the ultimate engine is Love, God permits men to feed on vomit until it looses its savor. I think he does this because he cannot help the foolish animal until it is broken of its folly. God even gifts the heartbeats and breaths we fools require to get us to that last pile of stench. Why two decades though? Because for some beloved children, that is what it takes.

When Paul says that we receive the due penalty of our sins within us, this includes deception. Sinning induces a spell upon the sinner such that vomit looks tasty. Iniquity is a mystery. God uses even deception for his own purpose which is our freedom.

I’m going to sponsor her disorientation. While she is foolishly pursuing her provision from men who are only using her, it is I who have been providing for her. I even provided the money she’s given to Baal. Consequently, I am going to remove this provision and strip her naked before her lovers. No one will rescue her from this fate. The party is over. Beasts will devour the leftovers. I am going to punish her for her unfaithfulness…but, I am not done with her.

There is something hopeful about having been stripped bare and having no other options than God. In this place eyes can begin to once again see and ears can once again begin to hear. The only hope for restored love is that deception be broken. There is hope for the hopeless for one reason only – there is a Lover Who is persistent in His love. Whether its a marriage between a man and a woman or a God and the world he so loves, there is hope because it is He Who loved first.

I am going to attract her back to me. In her wilderness I am going to open a door of hope and say some kind things to her. She will sing once again as she did when I rescued her from Egypt. She will forsake even the name of Baal. In this day, there will be peace on earth and good will among men. God and Israel will renew their vows and heaven and creation will celebrate. The earth will know harmony such that even the crops will flourish because it is God doing the sowing. God proclaims over this new day …

I am going to have compassion on her. No one else is. I am going to say to an estranged people that they are mine!  I will say, “You are My people!” And they will say, “You are my God!” 

Father, we can claim You as our own only because You have claimed us as Yours. Our hope rests in Your initiatives. May this be the day of salvation for many of us who have come to hide no more from You or our spouses. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Naked (Friday) – Ezekiel 16:1-14

In our passage Ezekiel is told by God to make Jerusalem understand her mongrel origin and her unattended birth. She is to know that she was abhorred on the day she was born, but… as she was squirming in her blood God claimed the orphan, saying; “Live!” And live she did. This people grew numerous and matured to a place where God said she was physically mature, ready to give her love away, yet she was still naked and bare.

God responded by covering her nakedness with a covenant of betrothal. This people Ezekiel is calling Jerusalem was claimed by God as his own. She was brought into the king’s tent and was cleansed, perfumed, bejeweled and adorned, head to toe, with the finest clothes. Consequently…

 Her fame went forth among the nations on account of her beauty, for it was perfect because of God’s splendor which He bestowed on her. (Ezekiel 16:14)

Clothed with covenants. This is the story of God’s beloved. She was initially clothed in the innocence of Eden. Then there was the Abrahamic Covenant followed by the Old Covenant with its Law.  Each of them were designed to point to a marriage – a restoration of all things to God, especially his bride. It was foretold by the Prophets, heralded by John the Baptist and fulfilled in Jesus the Nazarite. The previous covenants were suitable in her youth, but in the fulness of her life, the Groom proposed afresh. Tragically, scandalously, Israel declined the proposal of a New Covenant. She preferred her nakedness to a wedding gown.

Some believe this rejection was Israel’s last opportunity for union with God. Some believe we gentiles have now become the wastrels without pedigree who have been rescued, replacing Israel at the alter. Given the persistence of God’s love, this would surprise me. I don’t know exactly who Israel is today but I doubt if we have replaced God’s first love. He claimed her as his own then. I suspect he sees her as his own now. I will leave the theology to the scholarly speculators. However as one rescued by this King and been shown his love, I have reason to believe that Israel (whoever she is) will be reconciled by the unfailing love of her Groom.

Father, win your bride’s affections. May the world see her adorned in the splendor of your love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Naked (Thursday)—Hebrews 4:13-16

And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:13-16)

I became a Christian at the tail end of the Jesus movement inside one of its tracks known as the charismatic renewal. To many evangelicals, the word charismatic conjures images of old line Pentecostalism with its legalism and emotion. I stumbled across this a few times, but it was very rare. I remained in the charismatic camp in spite of its stigma because when I told mainline denominational Christians about my initial encounters with God, I could see I had become persona non grata. At best they held out the limp right hand of fellowship.

The troubling aspects for them were my reports that I had heard God’s voice (very clearly) and that I had felt his presence (very strongly). Since their relationships with God often revolved around studying his word (very seriously), we had an inevitable and unfortunate impasse. It was unfortunate because I needed them and they needed me. This is just the way it is in the body of Christ; all parts are essential.

I don’t know why, beyond the fact that he wanted to, but after repenting over a wild weekend, knowing that I had lost a sense of his presence (even thinking he might have erased my name from The Book), God allowed me to experience his presence for a full hour, while he spoke the clearest, most precious, and penetrating words I have ever heard. The good news was three fold. My name was still written (I gathered quite permanently) in The Book; that He still makes his presence known; and that He still speaks to men. The bad news (I have thought since) is that he has not spoken that clearly or allowed me to enjoy his presence so intensely since.

I lived for a long time for the express purpose of conjuring up this experience again. Oh the miles I have traveled and soul gyrations I have logged in this effort. In my heart, I have asked a thousand times, “Why Lord, would you allow me to taste of Nirvana only to withdraw it from the menu?” I have not received any exhaustive revelation to my question. I just know that the Person who spoke and Whose presence I enjoyed is the One I want to spend eternity with and that this life is really all about Him. I also cannot help but desire that all men might know this Person.

This too has frustrated me. “Lord, it’s obvious you can knock a man of his horse on the road to Damascus or reveal yourself to a man on the road to Tulsa. Why don’t you just do this to all the world, which you are on record as loving, desiring that not one perish?” I have no conclusive revelation on this either. So what’s a body to do?  As Christians living just briefly in a perishing world where we have the cure for an eternally fatal disease, what should our lives look like? More and more, I am coming to the simple conclusion that we will reveal Jesus best in the living of our everyday lives.

I propose that we put one foot in front of the other, leaning into the reality that whether or not we hear him or feel him as clearly or as intensely as we might like, we are never hidden from his sight and that he is nearer to us than our own skin. I suggest that we reconcile our errant thoughts (that often postures us as victims) with the reality that Jesus has experienced whatever we are facing. We then hold fast to our confessions of his sufficiency and draw near to Him by simply acknowledging his nearness to us.

If I have learned anything, it is that we cannot conjure up his presence. We must simply enjoy it. And since, we are in continual need of His life, we must be continually presumptuous of his presence, acknowledging that He has gladly given us his His own Spirit. He lives in us and we live and move and have our being in him. Maturing in Christ, in large part, involves our increasing awareness that are roots are sunk deeply and permanently into the unseen realities of Jesus Christ and his eternal kingdom. Here we have rest. Here our foundations cannot be shaken because they are resting utterly upon him. Christ alone is the hope of glory.

In learning to live at rest in Him, we will pass through many seasons when we think we may die if we do not get a word from God or a fresh sense of his presence. While these seasons might seem to be our worst nightmare, they are the things of which our deepest and sweetest dreams can be made.

While on this earth, in our temporary fleshly homes, it is faith that pleases God. This requires that he withhold exhaustive revelation, pat answers, and the formulas we would like in order to make our lives work out. Yet, if we just keep putting one foot in front of the other while looking to him as our life, we will find that, in the end, we have been built to overcome, that we will have an inheritance in both this life and the next that will cause us to bless the days of drought with all our hearts; it was there, by faith, that we came to know him alone as our abundant provision.

As to the why of my God encounter—it remains a mystery. All I know is that no one is at a disadvantage with God if they are without a dramatic experience. In fact, those who do keep putting one foot in front of the other are blessed especially when the light on their path is dim and they cannot see or feel Him as they might like.

 Jesus said to him (Thomas), “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” John 20:29

Father, help us to navigate by faith, trusting that nothing about us (or your world) has escaped your notice. Help us to rest in the eternal realities, which you have spoken, which allow the birds of the air and lilies of the field to so effortlessly proclaim your faithfulness and sufficiency. Help us to live so securely in you, so openly and honestly with you and each other, that something new and eternal radiates from us to all around us who have yet to taste and see just how truly good you are. Truly Lord, it is you with whom we have to do. Amen.

 

 

Naked (Wednesday)—II Corinthians 5:2-5

For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.(2 Corinthians 5:1-5)

When I was younger, I looked at the elderly and wondered what was going on that caused them to walk stooped over and to make groaning noises when they moved. That question was raised in a day when the house I was living in was a strong, low maintenance abode. At 63, I’m no longer curious. My groans come mostly from degenerative discs (a structural component of my current house). At least that is what the legion of doctors I have seen tell me.

I also have a legion of well meaning people who volunteer their cures when they hear me groan. There’s a fascinating array of them. These cures may involve doctors, pills and potions, herbs, fasting, diet, oils, magnets, color, sound, touch, chemicals, the earth (grounding), repentance, communion, vitamins, rest, yoga, faith, prayer, confession, or proclamation. I don’t mean to, but I’m sure I’m leaving someone out. Oh yes, there is prayer. Prayer is sometimes recommended as an additive to the above list.

Sometimes (like now), I express my groaning with sarcasm. This may even be picked up as frustration or anger (which, on some days, it may lapse into). While those negative elements are sometimes present, I hope that readers will also find something winsome in my words because, while I am usually trying to make some eternally minded point, I am attempting to do it through an ornery and playful spirit. Truly, we are in this together, this being a place of vast mystery packed with uncertainties. Humor, questions, and sarcasm all surely appropriate here.

In western culture, we have all been given an impressive buffet of options to free us from our suffering. No doubt, some of them are legitimate. I believe the Spirit, whom He gave as my Helper, leads me in sifting and sorting through all the options proposed to relive my pain. Is this an infallible process? Does this kind of interaction with the Spirit yield airtight solutions? Guaranteed results? The short answer is “no” because certainty, a condition God does not offer his apprentices, would preclude faith. A bit longer answer follows.

I believe that the Spirit, in Paul and all who are trusting in Jesus as Lord and Savior, have a distinct mission on earth. It is a very important one if Jesus’ words mean anything:

 But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. (John 16:7)

And we might ask, “So then, what is this advantage the Helper (his Spirit) will give us?” In a nutshell it is that:

 He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. (John 16:13-14)

How does He do this? You would think that if the Spirit were active in this way, His movements would be the daily headlines of every news agency. Is it possible the Spirit is so embedded into our lives that we simply miss the stories? This is my bet. Here is just a small byline from the story I believe He’s writing in my heart. It won’t make the news, but I would like to report it nevertheless.

On the drive to work this morning, there was no coffee yet in my system to fuel much mental activity. I was still burning through the fog of a night’s sleep, trying to keep at bay a clutter of thoughts hounding me for attention. As soon as I recognized I was not really on duty, I simply turned my mind to the Lord. My first intentional act of this day was to say, “Lord you are the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” My next thoughts evolved into a question, “Many are aware of this claim who do not experience the reality of it.” In my heart, I ask, “Why is this Lord?”

Some might retell what I am about to describe as a crystal clear I said and then, The Holy Spirit said-conversation with God. I can’t do this in good conscience because I did not hear the Lord say, “Robby, Here is how it works with me. You see…(and then fill this space in with whatever word-for-word download I thought he offered).” Instead, my thoughts were prodded (I believe) by his Spirit, who is leading me into all truth, just as he promised. The advantageous and helpful thought which followed was roughly: “They do not believe these words because there is a great shortage of those who can tell others and model how (beyond their salvation) Jesus becomes their Way, their Truth and their Life.”

So…were these 1) God’s thoughts 2) My thoughts or 3) a combination of the two. I have chosen door number 3. But, I just report. You decide.

Instead of reporting to the world, some personal thus sayeth the Lord, I will simply and unapologetically report that these words were my impression of what He said. However, even though it was an impression, it was not just a shot in the dark; I have been living by these types of impressions for 40 years. You may ask why would I have ever gone down such a vaguely marked path? Answered simply: because his words have been a light along this path and they always seemed to have been leading me somewhere.

My impressions have typically been derivatives and distillation of scriptures, which I have hidden away in my heart, words which I have interacted with and which have progressively transformed my heart and mind. Over time, the testing of these words, by faith, have proven to me that they were in fact His advantageous and helpful words. As I have embraced them by faith, testing them in the rough and tumble of real life, the outcomes have proven to me that God is faithful and true to his words. It is out of this living-exchange of ideas and words, in the regular course of living, where a relationship with God has been forged. Based on this ongoing experience, I write and report about an intimately personal relationship with God.

Returning to our main passage, what is God saying about groaning and the myriad remedies and options we must sift through? For me, I report that while I have listened and will continue to listen to my friends and family, my sole remedy remains to be Jesus Christ. He alone really is my only and ultimate Truth, Way, and Life. I believe all of us who trust Him will find that the Spirit’s mission on earth has always been (above all things) to point us continually to Jesus, who is our very Life. It seems his mission in my heart has been a steady push to establish this reality so that I can know him now and that I will not end up standing before him having trusted in anything other than Christ alone.

Have you ever made a list of things you have confidence in, which if adhered to, will produce an improved quality of life? I suspect this exercise will tamper with our perceived pathway to the good life, but is it not the very things on this list which compete with Christ alone as our Way, Truth and Life?

I have spent an inordinate amount of time seeking a cure for degenerative disk disease, and the results have led me to ask, “Is this circumstance my thorn in the flesh?” This question will make some of my friends cringe because they know that by his stripes we are healed. I can almost hear the voice of some of them rebuking me for such an apostate question. And yet, the voice I hear says:

 “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

So Lord, just how am I to take courage? I hear his answer:

 Always give thanks for all things (especially trials) in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and be subject to one another in the fear of Him. (Ephesians 5:20)

So…always on a journey, always passing through mysterious landscapes, I see I am joined to a body of people with a myriad of thoughts about God and his ways. I see a pathway intentionally paved with uncertainties by a sovereign and loving God who is leading us into, and through a blessed gauntlet of circumstances all for the sake of truly knowing him today and for the day when we will stand before him and give a final account of what we have trusted in. That’s pretty much my story. I’m gratefully stuck to it.

For the record, I am quite open to glorifying you right now with a report of either partial or total healing. Even in the presence of a little degeneration, thank you for all the advantageous and helpful thoughts and words that you are using to continually lead us into all truth. Take all the small bylines of our stories and somehow publish them for your name’s sake. Let them be shouted from the housetops. May you alone become our headline. In Jesus’ wonderful name, amen.

Thank you, Father, for my degenerative discs which will contribute to your glory as a faithful Lord, my healer now or my deliverer then, when I receive my new body which will know no degeneration. It’s all good because you are always good. Until that day, whichever comes first, I am so, so grateful that my spirit is being renewed daily as it lives courtesy of Your Spirit who is transforming me into the image of your Son, just as you promised.

 

 

Naked (Tuesday)—Genesis 3:6-13

Though our passage picks up with Eve’s disobedience, let’s back up and observe the temptation that preceded it. Here we find the Serpent laying the groundwork for his attack. It’s simple. He starts by raising a question about the integrity of God’s words: “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?” Eve walks right into the trap. In a conversation that should never have taken place, she responds:

 From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.

God draws us through his Spirit. The Serpent draws Eve by way of her un-fallenGod-given senses. (How often does sin begin as the anticipation of some gland’s gratification?) As Eve’s unprofitable dialogue continues, her anticipation is aroused. While she has already imagined and begun to anticipate the sweet juices on her tongue, the Serpent adds:

 ‘You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it (the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil) your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’

It is interesting how vulnerable Eve is even before the Fall. The Serpent systematically invites her to remove all barriers between her and gratification. He challenges the authority of God’s word and positions Eve to hear a blatant lie, which she is now prepared to accept to obtain what she’s come to want. The lie is twofold: first, that disobedience will cost nothing, and second, that God has been shortchanging her. Does this exchange sound at all familiar?

 When the “wow” saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. (Note: “Wow” is what I propose Adam would have named Eve, had he been given naming rights.)

Adam, knowing (more acutely now) that it is most assuredly not as good for man to be alone, is also drawn into the treason. (Adam had appetites as well.) Drilling deeper into what happened next will open our eyes to the dynamics of temptation.

 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.

While the fruit initially had a sweet taste, it soon turned bitter, poisoning the well within the earth’s two first rulers. The consequence was a self-awareness God had not intended. The pure light that was in them was replaced by a strange light, which cast shadows on their notions of God and themselves. And radiating dimly in this new light was a fresh consideration: right and wrong. So, from the shadow lands of their fallen hearts, they began to navigate outward from Eden. They were now wrestling with the earth and with their Creator by the dim light of their own wits (which illustrates the etymology of the word dimwit. I’m sorry.) Actually this train wreck is called the mind of the flesh and it is by nature spiritually barren. Paul tells us that the mind set on the flesh is death.  Our story, in Adam, continues:

 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

Men, hiding themselves from each other and their Creator. Is this not the story of the human race?  What is there to hide that was not in us originally? I believe it is shame. Shame flooded into man’s soul, extinguishing his light just as God told him it would. While it is natural to the flesh to lust for things and power, it is also in its fallen make-up to compensate for its shame. This hiding leads man into myriad forms of slavery, especially religionReligion is the classic means of coping with God by our own wits. This is why the spirit of rejection (along with pride) is common in religious persons.

We know the next scene by heart. The man tries shifting the responsibility for his sin to Eve. (FYI: This never works with God.) Adam cannot bear the burden of shame, trying to lay it off on his mate. It’s never our fault, is it? I was recently impressed with the candor of a friend. His email address came right out and said it all: itsyourfault@whatever.com.

When things in us are awry at the level of our identities, the serpent’s job of deception is pretty simple. When we think of ourselves as stepchildren whom God tolerates through Jesus, it is quite simple for the Serpent to recommend a course of prescriptive ideas to fix ourselves up and get right with God. This would be the equivalent of us sewing our own fig leaves. Regardless of how good a résumé of moral thoughts and deeds we might string together, it will not affect our standing with God one whit. On the contrary, it will deepen religion’s deception. God must provide the remedy:

 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.

God has provided Jesus to us as our sole remedy. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Religionas we speak of it, is an inadequate (and even deadly) covering. We must be clothed in Christ alone. He is the only garment God has provided us.

As they grow accustomed to its fit, the wearers always testify that they no longer feel like tolerated step children. Far from it! Rather, in Christ, they come to see their identities as cherished sons and daughters who are welcome in God’s presence, permanently free from shame and condemnation. They are able to declare in unity: He keeps me from stumbling, and makes me to stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy. In the sacred place of their innermost being, they continue: Now to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24)

Father, help us to recognize and honor the authority of your word. Help us to recognize the enemy’s intrusions upon our thoughts with innocent sounding questions designed to undermine what you have said, tempting us into sin. Teach us to focus on Jesus and not on our shadowy notions of right and wrong. May our hearts acutely grasp the cost of our sin and may we repent of the notion that we have been shorted in any way. May we live with an exclusive dependency on Christ and out of the fullness of his life within us. You are our sole remedy and you are in every way sufficient. Truly Lord, our cups are running over. In your strength, may we complete our mission to subdue and rule over your earth. Thank you, thank you.

 

 

Naked (Monday)—Genesis 2:18-25

Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. (Genesis 2:19)

Had Adam been given the naming rights of the creature that was fashioned from his rib, I suspect she might have ended up as “Wow.” He might have added, “There is no way that thing was made from dirt! Come, let us be alone no longer.” Would we ever get used to hearing pastors say, “And who gives this wow to be married to this man?”

But that’s not how it happened. Instead:

 The Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.

And what Adam really said was:

 This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

This is why:

 A man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

There are so many directions one could go on a keyboard given our gender-challenged world where these fundamental truths have been discarded. In this hour of history we see that human courts have taken it upon themselves to become God’s judge in such matters. If there were any room for fear in the working out of our salvation, this circumstance would provide a reasonable basis for it. If ever there has been a living illustration of folly, it must be western culture. Listen to the Spirit in two passages warning us to not do what we have done and continue to do:

 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption. (Galatians 6:7-8)

 God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.  For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. (Romans 1:24-27)

Back to Eden. Why was it that the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed?  A comment by Paul regarding human nature in general may help to answer:

When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding. (II Corinthians 10:12)

Adam and Eve did not have the disadvantage of having a multitude of prisoners of modern culture with whom to compare themselves. We moderns have literally millions of images stored away in our minds for the sake of fruitless comparison. Most were intentionally planted there by Madison Avenue. How deep is the madness of a culture that permits advertisers to fuel a perpetual discontentedness with who we are and what we have?  As the restless pawns (and the essential fuel of our economy), just how deeply are we entangled in this world?

Arlo Guthrie asks, “Hello, America, how are ya?” What should our response be to our conflict?  The Spirit tells us:

 For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25)

And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Mankind will not likely return to this place of innocence, at least as it pertains to apparel. However, knowing transparency and innocence (shall we call it freedom?) is surely fundamental to the life Jesus intended for us. Our hurdle, shame, is as unnatural as same sex union, yet it’s systemic to our culture. Shame in how we see ourselves drives not only fashion and finance; it drives relationship to God as well. I believe we reason in error, thinking, we must escape our shameful being if we are to ever know God. Dallas Willard rightly says that we live in a shame-based culture. (For a profound and thorough discourse on our hearts, by all means read his book, Renovation of the Heart.)

Religion is what we clothe our hearts with in order to cover our shame and enable us (we vainly imagine) to approach God. In our vain imaginations we believe we must first think particular things and do particular things to win God’s acceptance. However, when thought of in this way, church attendance, baptism, giving, and service all become filthy rags in God’s appraisal. There are simply no human thoughts or actions that can qualify us before God. They are worthless. They will even be damning if we die thinking we are adequately clothed with them.

Christianity (which began simply by Christ living in and through man) has evolved into a religion. Did Jesus really die to establish a religion?  Religion is simply any system of thought or practice whereby the doing of it causes us to think that we have gained the favor of God.  If life truly begins there (in the heart) as Proverbs 4:23 tells us, we must allow the Spirit to examine our hearts as to the why’s behind our thoughts and deeds. We should complete this sentence; “I am accepted by God’s because: fill in the blank. (I pray no extra space was required there.)

If we think we are in right standing with God and that we are assured heaven because of something we just placed in the blank space, we must rethink our position in comparison to God’s words. If we think we have performed in some way, or that our personal righteousness is as good as another’s (there’s that comparison thing again), we are standing on shifting sand. When the winds and storms come (especially the last one), we will have no foundation and it will indeed be finished. People often ask, “Why trials? Why suffering?” We must give thanks if God has sent storms in advance to expose the false work of our existing spiritual house. He is working in us and wanting us to reinvest our faith in Him alone, the only firm foundation for life.

When we stand before him we must be clothed in Christ alone. Even a peep about our righteousness on that occasion would be the ultimate absurdity in light of the glowing perfection of God’s holiness, which is the only and continual reference point we must have.

Be holy therefore as I am holy.

This can be achieved only by clothing ourselves in Christ, by being a vessel that he has come to inhabit in His Spirit. Today (as always) is the day of salvation. If we are laboring under the delusion that some particular something about us is inherently good, that our life, in itself, is sufficient, that our faithfulness to this or that has won God’s approval, then we must repent and put our trust in Christ alone and be saved. Being clothed in this sense is not only how God saves our souls, but it is also how God restores to us the shame-free and guilt-free hearts he intended for us.

Father, in your kindness, disrupt us in every way we trust in ourselves for our salvation or renovation. Let our restlessness evolve into longings which equip us to taste and to see, at ever deepening levels, Your beauty and Your glory. We invite you as Lord to challenge and overthrow any religious idea that may have lodged in our thinking, undermining the simplicity and the surety that is You alone. Blessed be Your name. Amen.

 

 

Naked (Thursday) – Hebrews 4:13-16

Naked – Hebrews 4:13-16

And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:13-16

I became a Christian at the tail end of the Jesus movement inside one of its tracks known as the charismatic renewal. To many evengelicals the word charismatic conjures images of old line Pentecostalism with its legalism and emotion. I stumbled across this a few times but it was very isolated. I remained in the charismatic camps in spite of its stigma because when I told mainline denominational christians about my initial encounters with God I could see I had become persona non grata. At best they held out the limp right hand of fellowship.

The troubling aspects for them were my reports that I had heard God’s voice (very clearly) and that I had felt his presence (very strongly). Since their relationships with God often revolved around studying his word (very seriously), there was an inevitable and unfortunate impasse. It was unfortunate because I needed them and they needed me. This is just the way it is in the body of Christ; all parts are essential.

I don’t know why, beyond the fact that he wanted to, but after repenting about a wild weekend, knowing that I had lost a sense of his presence (even thinking he might have erased my name from The book), God allowed me to experience his presence for a full hour while speaking the clearest, most precious and penetrating words I have ever heard. The good news was three fold. My name was still written (I gathered quite permanently) in The book, that he still makes his presence known and that he still speaks to men. The bad news (I have thought since) is that he has not spoken that clearly or allowed me to enjoy his presence so intensely since.

I lived for a long time for the express purpose of conjuring up this experience again. Oh the miles I have traveled and soul gyrations I have logged in this effort. In my heart, I have asked a thousand times, “Why Lord, would you allow me to taste of Nirvana only to withdraw it from the menu?” I have not received any exhaustive revelation to my question. I just know that the Person who spoke and Whose presence I enjoyed is the One I want to spend eternity with and that this life is really all about Him. I also cannot help but desire that all men might know this Person.

This too has frustrated me. “Lord, its obvious you can knock a man of his horse on the road to Damascus or reveal yourself to a man on the road to Tulsa. Why don’t you just do this to all the world which you are on record as loving, desiring that not one perish?” I have no conclusive revelation on this either. So what’s a body to do?  As Christians living just briefly in a perishing world where we have the cure for an eternally fatal disease, what should our lives look like? More and more, I am coming to the simple conclusion that we should simply live Life, not demonstrate Him as much as simply enjoy Him as the gift of God He is.

I propose that we put one foot in front of the other, leaning into the reality that whether we can feel him or hear him as clearly or as intensely as we might like, we are never hidden from his sight and that he is nearer to us than our own skin. I suggest that we reconcile our errant thoughts (that often postures us as victims) with the reality that Jesus has experienced whatever we are facing. We then hold fast to our confessions of his sufficiency and draw near to Him by simply acknowledging his nearness to us.

If I have learned anything it is that we cannot conjur up his presence. We must simply enjoy it. And since, we are in continual need of His life, we must live continually presumptuous of his presence, acknowledhging that He has gladly given us his Life, His Spirit and His kingdom. He lives in us and we live and move and have our being in him.  Maturing in Christ, in large part, involves sinking our roots deeper and deeper into these unseen realities of his eternal kingdom. Here we have rest. Here our foundations cannot be shaken because they are resting utterly upon him. Christ alone is the hope of glory.

In learning to live at rest in Him, we will pass through many seasons where we think we may die if we do not get a word from God or a fresh sense of his presence. While these seasons might seem to be our worst nightmare, they are the things that our deepest and sweetest dreams can be made of.

While on this earth, in our temporary fleshly homes, it is faith that pleases God. This requires that he withhold exhaustive revelation, pat answers and the formulas we would like in order to make our lives work out. Yet, if we just keep putting that one foot in front of the other while looking to him as our life, we will find that in the end we have been built to overcomes and we shall have an inheritance in both this life and the next which will cause us to bless the days of drought with all our hearts because it was there by faith that we came to know him alone as our abundant provision.

As to the why of my God encounter, it remains a mystery. All I know is that no one is at a disadvantage with God if they are without a dramatic experience. In fact, those who do keep putting one foot in front of the other are blessed especially when the light on their path is dim and they cannot see or feel him as they might like.

Jesus said to him (Thomas), “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” John 20:29

Father, help us to navigate by faith, trusting that nothing about us or your world has escaped your notice. Help us to rest in the eternal realities which you have spoken which allow the birds of the air and lilies of the field to so effortlessly proclaim your faithfulness and sufficiency. Help us to live so securely in you, so openly and honestly with you and each other that something new and eternal radiates out from us to all those around us who are yet to taste and see just how truly good you are. Truly Lord, it is you with whom we have to do. Amen.

 

 

 

Naked (Wednesday) – 2 Corinthians 5:2-5

Naked – 2 Corinthians 5:2-5

For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.

When I was younger I looked at the elderly and wondered what was going on that caused them to walk stooped over and to make groaning noises when they moved. That question was raised in a day when the house I was living in was a strong, low maintenance abode. At 62 I no longer curious; I know now from personal experience. My groans comes mostly from degenerative discs (a structural component of my current house). At least that is what the legion of doctors I have seen tell me.

I also have a legion of well meaning people who volunteer their cures when they hear me groan. There is a fascinating array of them. These cures may involve doctors, pills and potions, herbs, fasting, diet, oils, magnets, color, sound, touch, chemicals, the earth (grounding), repentance, communion, vitamins, rest, yoga, faith, prayer, confession or proclamation. I don’t mean to but I am sure I am leaving someone out. Oh yes, there is prayer. Prayer is sometimes recommended as an additive to the above list.

Sometimes (like now) I express my groaning with sarcasm. This may even be picked up as frustration or anger (which on some days it may lapse into). While those negative elements are sometimes present, I hope that readers will also find something winsome in my words because, while I am usually trying to make some eternally-sized point (which seems humorous), I am attempting to do it through an ornery and playful spirit.  Truly we are in this together, this being a place of vast mystery packed with uncertainties. Humor, questions, sarcasm all seem appropriate here.

In western culture, we have all been given an impressive buffet of options to free us from our suffering. No doubt some of them are legitimate. I believe the Spirit whom He gave as my Helper leads me in sifting and sorting through all the options proposed to relive my pain. Is this an infallible process? Does this kind of interaction with the Spirit yield airtight solutions? Guaranteed results? The short answer is “no” because faith would be precluded by certainty, a condition God does not offer his apprentices. A bit longer answer is what follows.

I believe that the Spirit in Paul and all who are trusting in Jesus as Lord and Savior have a distinct mission on earth. It is a very important one if Jesus’ words are to mean anything…

But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.

And we might ask, “So then, what is this advantage the Helper (his Spirit) will give us?” In a nutshell it is that…

He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.

How does He do this? You would think, if the Spirit was active in the earth in this way, his movements would be the daily headlines of every news agency. Is it possible the Spirit is so embedded into our lives that we simply miss the stories? This is my bet. Here is just a small byline from the story I believe he is writing in my heart. It won’t make the news but I would like to report it nevertheless.

On the drive to work this morning there was no coffee yet in my system to fuel much mental activity. I was still burning through the fog of a night’s sleep, trying to keep at bay a clutter of thoughts which were starting to hound me for attention. As soon as I recognized I was not really on duty, I simply turned my mind to the Lord. My first intentional act of this day was to say, “Lord you are the Way,  the Truth and the Life.” My next thoughts evolved into a question, “Many are aware of this claim who do not experience the reality of it.” In my heart, I ask, “Why is this Lord?”

Some might retell what I am about to describing as a crystal clear, “I said” and then, “The Holy Spirit said“- conversation with God. I can’t do this in good conscience because I did not hear the Lord say, “Robby, Here is how it works with me. You see…. (and then fill this space in with whatever word-for-word download I thought he may have offered).” Instead, my thoughts were prodded (I believe) by his Spirit, who is leading me into all truth just as he promised. The advantageous and helpful thought which followed was roughly…..

They do not believe these words because there is a great shortage of those who can tell others and model how (beyond their salvation) Jesus becomes their Way, their Truth and their Life.

So….. were these; 1) God’s thoughts  2) My thoughts or; 3) a combination of the two. I have chosen door number 3. But, I just report. You decide.

Instead of reporting to the world, some personal thus sayeth the Lord, I will simply and unapologetically report that these words were my impression of what he is said. However, even though it was an impression, it was not just a shot in the dark; I have been living by these types of impressions for 39 years. You may ask why would I have ever gone down such a vaguely marked path? Answered simply; because his words have been a light along this path and they always seemed to have been leading me somewhere.

My impressions have typically been derivatives and distilation of scriptures which I have hidden away in my heart, words which have interacted with and which have progressively transformed my heart and mind. Over time, the testing of these words by faith have proven to me that they were in fact His advantageous and helpful words. As I have embraced them by faith, testing them in the rough and tumble of real life, the outcomes have proven to me that God is faithful and true to his words. It is out of this living-exchange of ideas and words, in the regular course of living, where a relationship with God has been forged. Based on this ongoing experience, I write and report about an intimately personal relationship with God.

Returning to our main passage, what is God saying about groaning and the myriad remedies and options we must sift through? For me, I report that while I have listened and will continue to listen to my friends and family, my sole remedy remains to be Jesus Christ. He alone really is my only and ultimate Truth, Way and Life. I believe all of us who trust Him will find that the Spirit’s mission on earth has always been (above all things) to point us continually to Jesus who is our very Life. It seems his mission in my heart has been a steady push to establish this reality so that I can know him now and that I will not end up standing before him, having trusted in thing other than Christ alone.

Have you ever made a list of things which you have confidence in, which if adhered to, will produce an improved quality of life? I suspect this exercise will tamper with our perceived pathway to the good life but is it not the very things on this list which compete with Christ alone as our Way, Truth and Life?

I have spent an inordinate amount of time seeking a cure for degenerative disk disease and the  results have led me to ask, “Is this circumstance my thorn in the flesh?” This question will make some of my friends cringe because they know that by his stripes I am healed. I can almost hear the voice of some of them rebuking me for such an apostate question. And yet, the voice I hear is One saying,

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

So Lord, just how am I to take courage?

I hear his answer,

Always give thanks for all things (especially trials) in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and be subject to one another in the fear of Him.

So…. always on a journey, always passing through mysterious landscapes, I see I am joined to a body of people with a myriad of thoughts about God and his ways. I see a pathway intentionally paved with uncertainties by a sovereign and loving God who is leading us into, and through a blessed gauntlet of circumstances all for the sake of truly knowing him today and the day which we will stand before him and give a final account of what we have trusted in. That’s pretty much my story. I’m gratefully stuck to it.

Thank you Father for my degenerative discs which will contribute to your glory as a faithful Lord as my healer now or my deliverer then, when I receive my new body which will know no degeneration. It’s all good because you are good always. Until that day, whichever comes first, I am so so grateful that my spirit is being renewed daily as it lives life in partnership with Your Spirit who is transforming me into the image of your Son, just as you have promised.

For the record, I am quite open to glorifying you right now with a report of either partial or total healing. Even in the presence of a little degeneration, thank you for all the advantageous and helpful thoughts and words which you are using to continually lead us into all truth. Take all the small bylines of our stories and somehow publish them for your name’s sake. Let them be shouted from the housetops. May you alone become our headlines. In Jesus’ wonderful name. Amen.

Naked (Tuesday) – Genesis 3:6-13

Naked – Genesis 3:6-13

While our passage picks up with Eve’s disobedience let’s back up and observe the temptation that preceded it. Here we find the Serpent laying the groundwork for his attack. It is simple. He starts by raising a question about the integrity of God’s words…..

Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden‘?

Eve walks right into the trap. In a conversation that should never have taken place, Eve responds….

From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.

God draws us through his Spirit. The Serpent was drawing Eve by way of her un-fallenGod-given senses. (How often does sin begin as the anticipation of some gland’s gratification?) As Eve’s unprofitable dialogue continues, her anticipation is being aroused. While she has already imagined and begun to anticipate the sweet juices on her tongue, the Serpent adds…..

You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it (the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil) your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

It is interesting how vulnerable Eve was even before the Fall! The Serpent systematically invited her to remove all barriers between her and gratification. He challenged the authority of God’s word, positioning Eve to hear a blatant lie which she is now prepared to accept in order to obtain what she has grown to want. The lie is twofold; first, that disobedience will cost nothing and second, that God has been shortchanging herDoes this exchange sound at all familiar?

When the “wow” saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. (Note: “Wow” is what I propose Adam, had he been given naming rights, would have named Eve as she had awakened his senses in ways that animals A to Z had not).

Adam, knowing more acutely now, that it is most assuredly not as good for man to be alone, is also drawn into the treason.  (Adam had appetites as well.)  Drilling deeper into what happened next will open our eyes to the dynamics of temptation.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.

While the fruit initially had a sweet taste it soon turned bitter, poisening the well inside the earth’s two initial rulers. The consequence was a self-awareness God had not intended. The pure light that was in them was replaced by a strange light which cast shadows on their notions of God and themselves. And….radiating dimly in this new light was a fresh consideration; right and wrong. So, from the shadowlands of their fallen hearts they began to navigate outward from Eden. They were now wrestling with the earth and with their Creator by the dim light of their own wits. (Thus the word dimwit. I’m sorry.) Actually this train wreck is called the mind of the flesh and it is by nature, spiritually barren. Paul tells us that the mind set on the flesh is death.  Our story, in Adam, continues…

They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

Men, hiding themselves from each other and their Creator. Is this not the story of the human race?  What is there to hide that was not there in us originally? I believe it is shameShame flooded into man’s soul, extinguishing his light just as God had told him it would. While it is natural to the flesh to lust for things and power, it is also in its fallen make-up to compensate for its shame. This hiding leads man into myriad forms of slavery, especially religion.  Religion is the classic means of man of coping with God by his own wits. This is why a spirit of rejection (and pride) are common in religious persons.

We know the next scene by heart. The man tries shifting the responsibility for his sin to Eve. (FYI: This never works with God.) Adam cannot bear the burden of shame, trying to lay it off on his mate. It’s never our fault is it? I was recently impressed with the candor of a friend. His email address came right out and said it all, itsyourfault.com.

When things in us are awry at the level of our identities the Serpent’s job of deception is pretty simple. When we think of ourselves as stepchildren whom God tolerates through Jesus, it is quite simple for the Serpent to recommend a course of prescriptive ideas to fix ourselves up and get right with God. This would be the equivalent of us sewing our own fig leaves. Regardless of how good a string of moral thoughts and deeds we might string together, it will not effect our standing with God one whit. On the contrary, it will deepen religion’s deception. God must provide the remedy…..

                  The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.

God has provided Jesus to us as our sole remedy. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Religion, as we are speaking of it, is an inadequate (and even deadly) covering. We must be clothed in Christ alone. He is the only garment God has provided us.

As they grow accustomed to its fit, the wearers always testify that they no longer feel like tolerated step children.  Far from it! Rather, in Christ, they come to see their identities as cherished sons and daughters who are welcome in God’s presence, permanently free from shame and condemnation. They are able to declare in unity…..

He keeps me from stumbling, and makes me to stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy. In the sacred place of their innermost being they continue…. Now to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24)

Father help us to recognize and honor the authority of your word. Help us to recognize the enemy’s initial attempts to intrude upon our thoughts with innocent sounding questions designed to undermine what you have said and tempt us into sin. Teach us to focus on Jesus and not on our shadowy notions of right and wrong. May our hearts acutely grasp the cost of our sin and may we repent of the notion that in any way we have been shorted.  May we live with an exclusive dependency on Christ and out of the fulness of his life within us. You are our sole remedy and you are in every way sufficient. Truly Lord, our cups are running over. In your strength, may we complete our mission to subdue and rule over your earth. Thank you, Thank you.