Is There Really Only One Way?

John 14:6-7
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one can come to the Father except through me.  If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is.  From now on, you do know him and have seen him!” (NLT)

You are dying.  There is only one neurosurgeon in the world that can perform the type of operation that will save your life, but he is a long distance away and you would have to make some sacrifices to see him.  You have two good neurosurgeons in the city where you live. They have never performed this type of  operation before but said they would try.  You like them and its convenient.  There is only one shot at this.  Would you choose one of them, or seek out the one who is guaranteed to save your life?

Matthew 7:13-14
“Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (NIV)

You and your kids are caught in a fire in a a movie theater.  Everyone is rushing to the closest exit and pushing and shoving to go through the easiest access point.  You spot another exit further away, but few people are heading that direction and you would have to go against the crowd to get there.  Which one would you choose?

Everyday we have choices.  It is one of the gifts that God has given to us from the very beginning of our existence.  While in Eden, God didn’t have to plant the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  He planted it to give Adam and Eve a choice.  They could choose to trust God or choose to understand like God.  God knew the truth about good and evil, but Adam and Eve didn’t.  When tempted, Satan used that very argument to convince them to choose the latter.  This decision was very unfortunate for you and for me.

Now we are stuck knowing good from evil.  That is great and all because I like to see the shadows from the light, but that is only helpful while on this side of Heaven.  It sure would have been nice just living in the presence of God with that tree completely ignored for an eternity.

Their decision is now our decision.  So many people get frustrated that Jesus is the only way.  They wonder how this possibly could be true?  It seems very vain and exclusive, doesn’t it?  I mean really.  THE only way?  I might as well forget it.  I might as well run to the exit from the burning fire licking my coattails where everyone else is going.  I might as well pick the surgeon in my backyard and hope for the best, right?

I often wonder why people view Jesus as such a big bad bear that bonks people on the head and tells them how awful they are, and if they don’t follow Him they will forever be hated by God.  That following Jesus means giving up everything that is fun and joyful and we must wear these lead handcuffs and perform multiple acts of goodness for this bear to even glance in our pitiful direction.  I am always amazed how people view Jesus as anything but the Savior that He came to be.  Satan is doing a very effective work blinding us from the truth.

Following Jesus would be exclusive if He excluded certain people and only loved and saved a certain type of person.  Is your heart beating? Then He came to save you.  That is His only criteria.  Following Jesus would zap your joy and fun only if He hated Joy.  In John 15:11 Jesus said, “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy.  Yes, your joy will overflow!”

Sin initially feels fun and joyful doesn’t it?  How often do we run down this path in the dark only to see it as it really is when the sun begins to shine?  Sin isn’t so pretty then, is it?  It’s not fun and joyful when the light hits and we look around and our marriages are destroyed, our families are broken apart, and our integrity is in shambles.

Jesus didn’t come to zap our fun.  Who created love and gave Himself unto death out of love?  He came to zap our sin.  Remember Adam and Eve’s decision?  Because of the decision they made, we are forced to make ours.  Sin is covering us like Saran™ wrap.  We were born into sin because of the fall.  Jesus came from glory to live in our Saran™ wrap world so He could make a way for us to uncover ourselves from this clinging, suffocating, strangling hold it has on us.  All He asks is that we admit we are sinners, ask for Him to unwrap this from our bodies, and choose to keep sin at the foot of the cross and follow Him.

My personal sin decisions still have scars that are gouged into my heart.  They weren’t much fun.  Jesus wasn’t there to wag his finger at me, either.  He was there to love me and free me from the hold sin had on me.  Following Jesus doesn’t mean we are overburdened and have to live life like a monk.  Satan likes us to believe this lie.  Don’t.

Matthew 11:28-30
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (NIV)

Raise your hand if you have burdens, feel weary, and need rest? I don’t think I can stretch my hand high enough to show this is me.  Does partying offer you rest?  Does an affair unburden you? Does lying make you feel gentle?  Does cheating on an exam make you feel humble?  Insert any sin and answer these questions honestly.

Now that the fruit has been eaten and we all have the knowledge of good and evil, can you admit that there are times in your life that you have sinned?  That the choice you made wasn’t in the direction of good?  That sometimes we can feel like we just keep wrapping ourselves in another layer of Saran™?  We think not choosing Christ is the easy answer because following Him is too hard.  Unburden yourself and choose joy and freedom.  I don’t know of anyone else that willingly gave up everything and died so I could be set free of my sin.  Jesus didn’t choose the easy answer.  He chose the best answer.  Now it’s your turn.

A Righteous Life

Matthew 6:33

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

A Daughter’s Love

I thought I understood completely the concept of myself being Earthly alive as opposed to Heavenly alive.  I have always known our real home is with our almighty Father, and this temporary place we stay in is just a wisp of wind in the scheme of things.  In my mind, I could see this great divide between these two places, and it’s only when my time here is complete will I completely feel the reality of my forever home in Heaven.

I thought this until my mom passed away and this great divide came crashing down.

I’ve heard people say that when they lose someone, a part of them went with their loved one when they passed.  A wonderful friend who lost her son in a freak accident told me she is ready to trade her time here to be with him because that is where her heart is anyway.  I heard these words but never experienced what they meant.  Now I’m in the club of lost loved ones, and my eyes have been opened.

I’ve lost grandparents whom I love but since they always lived a distance away from me, our daily connection to each other was compromised from birth.  We loved through the miles and that is okay.  My connection to family has always just been my mom, dad, and brother.  With everyone else living no closer than a day’s drive for most of my life, it was always just us.

My mom’s passing is the first real heartbreak of loss I have experienced.  Her daily presence is no more and that just seems surreal to me.  She passed away on January 28th of this year, and I was there when she died.  I fell to my knees onto her feet and cried out for my momma like a three-year-old child.  My husband said he will never be able to get that image out of his head.  I broke his heart as mine shattered right there onto the floor where she lay.

As I gain perspective over these last few weeks, I feel closer to Heaven than I do here on Earth.  One of the most important people in my life is in a place that I long to be, and she is experiencing all of the joy and glory being in the presence of our Savior.  It’s strange, but I feel as if I am feeling her joy as well.

Anything I ever order from a restaurant or pick from a buffet, my girls have their forks on the ready to taste from my plate.  It’s been their standard practice since they could hold a fork and my mom always yelled at them to let me eat.  I chuckle at this memory because I feel like that now.  I want to experience all that my mom has on her plate and as my mom, I know that she would share with me if she could.  I guess that is what it means when people say a part of their heart went with their loved one.  My mom has a part of mine in her pocket—if they have pockets where she is.

The hold this Earth has on my life just got a little looser.  The draw to the enticements of this world aren’t grabbing me as tightly.  I know God gave me a purpose and I pray I honor Him with the rest of my life here, but a chunk of who I am isn’t in this life anymore.  That isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Our hearts should always be seeking Heaven.  A part of mine is just there waiting for the rest to come when God calls me home.  Until then, it is my prayer that I open a wide net and be a fisherman of men and women and point towards the direction of my Savior.  My mom has a part of my heart with her in Heaven, and He continues to hold the rest.

Have you found Grace?

I wrote this on a Christian Blog for my girls on Valentine’s Day three years ago.  It came up on my news feed, and I was struck by how much truth I still feel in these words.  I’ve needed his Grace to renew my life 1096 days since this was posted.  I can’t imagine the amount of heartache and sin I caused my Father during these last 1096 days, but I am forever thankful that I feel cleansed by His love and mercy and not loaded down by the pain I have caused Him.  Thank you, Father.  You are my first and forever Valentine.

 

“Love Letters for God”

2/14/14

Grace

To my Precious Daughters,

I begin my faith journey with what God has taught me about Grace. When we first discover God’s Grace, we usually have just crash landed from a nose dive straight into the dirt and find ourselves looking upward, dazed, wondering how things could have ended up so wrong. As we begin to unwrap this gift, after we have opened our hearts to receive it, we begin to realize just how undeserving we are. There is nothing we have to do to earn it. It just is. I want to share with you what I have learned about Grace from a God who has everything and can do anything but loves us so much He offers His Grace and forgiveness for the sins still fresh from the day all the while knowing the sins that we will break His heart with tomorrow are soon to follow. He listens to us, He forgives us, and He will do the same every day until we take our final breath. Grace is a mighty thing, my loves. Let me open up and share with you what Grace means to me.

Love,

Mommy

Dear Lord,

Where to begin? I know I thank you daily and often for your gifts, Father, but I know more times than not I take for granted all that you give to me. It starts with a breath. A heartbeat. A functioning mind and body. These things are miracles in and of themselves but acknowledging even the smallest gift down to the tiniest cell I know I don’t give you all of the worship you deserve.

My worship of you needs to begin with me on my knees thanking you for your Grace. My relationship with you has been an on again/off again relationship but never at your end, only at mine. When things are bad I will cry out for your mercy to protect me, but when things are good I take back the reigns, give you a mental high five for getting me through that one, and tell you I can now take it from here. Things go well for a while and then I end up on bended knee again wondering why I can’t sustain what you have preserved. It’s a lesson I repeat over and over. You never insert yourself in my life and always graciously let me take over when I ask but thank you for not stepping away from me when I do. I’m like a toddler not seeing the dangers but as my loving Father you are there to pick me up when I fall, and I always fall!

I heard recently someone describing what it meant for Jesus to be on that cross for the sins of all of humanity. I have often wondered how my sins could be washed clean so far removed from that sacrificial day. He described it as Jesus dying not only for the sins being committed at that very moment, but also for every sin that will ever be committed from that point to the end of time. I can picture each of our sins transforming into individual nails and the billions and trillions of nails coming together into a black, clinking, undulating cloud crossing the chasm of time straight at Jesus and nailing Him to the cross. The fact that He chose to take on this unimaginable task not as a God who could defend himself like a gladiator but as a human man is hard to fathom. He suffered all the while knowing 2000 years later I would continue to sin and multiply my nails to this ever darkening cloud. Thank you for protecting me from the nails that should have been pointed straight at me but instead pointed them in the opposite direction headed for a salvation plan centuries before I existed.

Even knowing all that you knew would come to be you created us anyway. When I had the desire for a baby I only focused on the pregnancy and holding that precious newborn in my arms. I wasn’t romanticizing a future with my now eleven year old stomping her feet in the kitchen making me feel like the meanest mom in the world because I was making her unload the dishwasher AND brush her teeth before bedtime. I gave birth to two, but you gave life to billions. Billions of us stomping our feet. Billions of us shaking our fists. Billions of us desiring more than we need while appreciating less. Billions of us inflicting pain on others and ourselves. I’m sorry about sin, Father. I don’t blame Adam and Eve, though. If it had been Adam and Crista, the story would have still ended up the same. You are an amazing parent, Father, and thank you for not giving me what I truly deserve.

Your Grace to me is a soft, white linen hovering over us, waiting for each of us to reach up and wrap it around our bodies. It’s light and airy and we become weightless in it’s enfold. It absorbs our stains, our pains, and our sins but it’s color remains a brilliant white. Only a God of the universe could clothe us with this type of material. This type of love. This type of Grace. It’s patiently waiting for the man torn by sin to reach up and accept your mercy and cover himself with your love and for the woman drowning in shame to slip on the robe of forgiveness and righteousness. It’s patiently waiting for that child beginning to know you to jump up and catch the corner of the white blanket to carry around until adulthood and sleep with as they enter into the kingdom of heaven. I see your linens, Lord, and I thank you for Jesus who washed them clean for us. There is freedom in your Grace and I’m clutching my robe with all that I have and all that I am. Thank you. Thank you for love so powerful that only Grace could be its name.

Love,

Crista

Matthew 11:28-30

New International Version (NIV)

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”