Lessons from an Eight Year Old

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth (3 John1:4).

 A few days ago our eight-year-old grandson, with wonder and excitement, relayed this story to us on the phone. He and his dad and little brother were mountain biking through some wooded trails. He was in the front, got far ahead of the other two and took a few wrong turns. He found himself lost and alone.

He told us that he immediately prayed…twice! This story has more than a happy ending. The next day, as they were reading a daily children’s devotional, the topic was… you guessed it—Fear Not! It described different fears such as being alone, rejection, and failure. And it talked of the assurance of God’s promise—“I will never leave you.”

We always have someone who loves us, accepts us, and helps us. God wants to be part of our here and now.

He was so excited about the timeliness of this lesson that he read the whole devotion to us with the excitement and passion that we have when we realize that a special passage from God’s word was written just for me, at the exact time I needed to hear it.

Don’t you love how God works!?

It warms my heart to know that this little guy knows that he can face his fears with God “who will never leave him.” And here is the verse from his devotional that we can all claim, which was written just for us, for the exact time we need it:

 I asked the Lord for help and He answered me. He saved me from all that I feared (Ps 34:4).

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Just As I Am

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8)

A character in a movie that I was watching made the statement, “The trouble I have with religion is the people.” I agree. Religion was invented by imperfect, and sometimes corrupt, people. I cringe whenever I am referred to as being religious. I would so much more love being identified as a woman of faith—faith in a loving God whose motive is a loving relationship with me.

Religion can be both rigid and fickle with dos and don’ts that change whenever a more palatable idea comes along. God’s character doesn’t change, but He’s far from rigid. He deals with each of us as individuals—where we are, where we need to grow in order to become the improved model, not of someone else, but of who we are—our own 2.0 version, moving closer to the image of His Son.

Even if we are unfaithful, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny who He is (2 Tim 2:13).

Certainly we can, and are encouraged, to gather together as believers to support each other, learn, and especially to worship the One who accepts us right where we are –Just as I am, You will receive; Will welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve.

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).

 I will never turn away anyone who comes to Me (John 6:37).

Paradise Lost …and Found

For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one Man the many will be made righteous (Romans 5:19).

The world in which Adam and Eve lived would have been perfect in every way—weather, temperature, lush fruits, incredible surroundings, nothing to diminish their enjoyment of knowing God in a most intimate way. And God had companionship directly with them. When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden.

Of course, we know that didn’t end well. When sin entered the world, our holy God could not be in the presence of sin.

All our sins from merely embellishing the truth to inflicting horrific torture can be traced back to our inheritance of this sinful nature. Left to our own devises unconstrained, we fall back into greed, envy, selfishness, pride, gluttony… All the sins we commit are a manifestation of this sinful nature.

But God had a redeeming plan from the start to restore His cherished fellowship with mankind for those who so choose. When Jesus suffered as our substitute He was sinless, but He assumed our sinful nature long enough to defeat it. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  

This is so well explained in the words of this song:

                  “I am covered over with the robe of righteousness that Jesus gives to me. 

                   When [God] looks at me He sees not what I use to be, but He sees Jesus.”

We can have fellowship with God now in the spirit, and can look forward to someday walking with Him in the cool evening breezes.

The Perfect Plan

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).

Nellie Bly, a gutsy 19th century journalist, became famous by exposing the neglect and brutality at the Women’s Lunatic Asylum. Her assignment required that she be admitted undercover feigning insanity. This assignment involved trust—trust that someone from the outside would arrange for her release.

I know that this is a very, very, very weak comparison, but I was thinking about Jesus. About how He left His position in glory, at the right hand of the Father, to come into the world and in all humility to assume His human role as the Son of Man. His mission wasn’t to expose, but to defeat the enemy and eternal death, and replace it with an opportunity for us to have fellowship with the Father and eternal life.

When Jesus came to earth as a man, His physical suffering and agony was real, and He also knew first-hand what being one with the Father was like. But the part that Jesus dreaded even more than the physical torture was that once He shouldered our sin, the Father, who can’t be in the presence of sin, had to turn away from Him. “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ’Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”

But Jesus’s release from the bowels of the earth was pre-arranged. Sin and death were defeated. Our part, to individually trust and believe in His death, burial and resurrection, seems so insignificant in comparison to the torture, agony and then the ultimate resurrection power necessary to conquer death.

Yet it was the perfect plan. And we can share in the victorious results.

Go and Sin No More

Go and sin no more (John 8:11).

At present I attend two ladies’ Bible studies, both different in a number of ways, but in both the word “judge” came up. In one, the focus was on a person; in the other, as an action. In a well-known scriptural passage, the adulterous woman was brought before Jesus and He was asked, “What do you say?”

The goal of these religious leaders was to trap Him, but His response neither dismissed her sin, nor condemned her. He turned to the accusers and said, “Let the one who never sinned throw the first stone.”

Whenever we point the finger of judgment (accusation) at someone, three fingers are pointing back to us. The ONLY sinless person, the ONLY one who has the right to judge said, “I do not condemn you.” The woman hadn’t even asked for forgiveness!

God’s character is one of both love and justice. Aren’t you glad!? He doesn’t dismiss our unrighteousness (justice); but He doesn’t use it to condemn us (love). Rather His motive is to draw us into an even closer relationship with Him.

So where do I fit into this scenario? Here is my role as a judge—DON’T. And as an unrighteous woman—Go (without condemnation) and sin no more.

Fitting God into My World

For in Him we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:28a).

A Venn diagram is an illustration used as a way of picturing the relationship between two different groups of things. It is made up of two or more intersecting circles. The intersecting parts of the circles show characteristics that they share; the outside parts of the circle show characteristics that are unique to each.

Let’s compare dogs with cats as an example. The outside part of the cat circle might have “climbs trees” or “grooms itself.” The outside part of the dog circle might have “barks” or “has to be bathed.” The intersecting or overlapping parts of the circles would have characteristics they share like “has four legs, a tail, fur.”

Where am I going with this (Please tell me that your brain leaves the box sometimes, too)? I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s place in my life. There are obvious things that I can’t do without God’s “intersection” like breathing and living in the world that He created. And we definitely intersect on Sunday morning. But there are areas where I more or less ignore God, telling Him, “I got this one.”

How do we enlarge the intersecting parts of the circle? The scriptures give us some great guidelines—Pray without ceasing—recognize God’s presence in every situation; Work as unto the Lord—not unto our boss; In all things give thanks—those dirty dishes mean that I ate today.

Jesus desired for us to have this relationship with God when He prayed, “I in them and You in me–so that they may be brought to complete unity.” One with the Father.

We really don’t need to fit God into “our” world. He is already there, waiting patiently for us to recognize that His circle completely covers or interposed on ours—a total eclipse.

For in God we live (physically), are moved (emotionally), and are (intellect and will).

 

Hope

The Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put heir hope in His unfailing love (Ps 147).

When Jesus asked the Father if it was possible for “this cup” to pass from Him, what He was about to face involved even more than the suffering, it was even more torturous than the crucifixion. It was what would happen when He assumed our sins—He would have to be separated from the Father.

Although I’ve never come anywhere near close to what Jesus faced, I can’t even imagine what life would be like if I couldn’t go to the Father. Although, in reality, I don’ t control much, the lack of hope would be unbearable. I call on Him so often in my minor emergencies and He is always there, faithfully, lovingly guiding me in the way I should go if I choose to obey.

If you think about it, it truly boils down to hope. A person who is about to call it quits in any situation, or on life itself, can do an about-face when given the smallest glimmer of hope.

It is unfortunate when we chose to anchor our hope in money, power, armies, governments, or even loved ones. These are all shifting sands, as fickle as an adolescent.

The old hymn was right on—my hope should be in nothing less …wholly lean on Jesus’ name.