It’s the Sweetness of God

If someone were to ask you to describe God in one word, which of the thousands of adjectives would you use to do so? When I think of God, like many people, words like holy, righteous, omnipresent, loving and just, come to mind.

What about sweet? I can’t say that I’ve ever thought of God as sweet, not because He isn’t, but because I feel like the adjectives He deserves are more along the lines of those already mentioned. But to know Him personally, is to know His sweetness.

The other day while having lunch with a very dear friend the conversation drifted to what I was wearing. This particular day I decked myself out in bling. It was everywhere; on my shirt, all over my shoes and around my neck. My friend complimented me on the way I looked and on what I was wearing. In that moment I realized how far God had brought me.

After my husband and I got out of debt I went through a period of time where I decided that I was not going to care about my clothes or my makeup and just live simply. Besides, too much emphasis is put on the trivial, and I was guilty for sure.

I remember a conversation with God in which I questioned Him about why He just didn’t send me to some remote African village where the only item of clothing I would need was a piece of fabric to cover what needed to be covered. At least then I wouldn’t have to worry about any of this anymore. It would be so easy!

His response shocked me. “No! You will live in this culture and among these people and learn to do it well. I made you this way, to love beautiful things. You are the one who has made this personality trait ugly.”  He was so loud I almost looked around to see if anyone else heard Him!

It’s true. Like everything God creates, we get our hands on it and warp it with our selfishness and the insane habit we possess of putting that thing at center stage of our lives, even down to something as shallow as shopping!

Shopping is not a necessity of life. Wearing beautiful things does not make or break my existence, but it’s something I enjoy. I love finding the bargain. I love sifting through the stacks of ick and finding that one gem that I believe will transform my entire wardrobe! More amazingly is the fact that I worship a God who created me this way and rewards me with the gift of participating in this one activity every once in awhile.

Matthew 7:11 says,

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him” (NIV).

In response to my friend’s compliment the other day, I just responded with, “It’s the sweetness of God.” What else can I say?

In a way God has given me back me, only a much better version of myself. Sometimes the self-imposed limits we put on ourselves is the leading of the Holy Spirit to get us to a place of right relationship with that thing. But that doesn’t mean it will always be that way.

The opportunity to shop and enjoy it is something that I never expected to have again. Make no mistake, if God asked for it back in exchange for a simpler life somewhere more remote, be sure I would jump at the chance. But right now He’s put all of us in the exact place and time He wants us. The challenge is to do it well, and He is showing me that a life lived well is a life that is lived in collaboration with the Holy Spirit.

What are some examples of the sweetness of God in your own life? It can be as silly as shopping or as mundane as housework. Make no mistake: God is intimately involved in absolutely every area of our lives. Thank goodness.

 

The Natural State of Things

I have talked before of my  lack of domestic skills. One of those would be the growing and keeping alive of plants. Whenever there is a death in the family people send plants. It’s a lovely gesture, but hasn’t there been enough death already? Why add more, even if it is just a plant? I cannot keep them alive. I inherited my grandmother’s black thumb of death. To the utter shock of a store worker whom she was trying to explain this to, she walked past an artificial flower arrangement and the leaves fell off. That would be me.

There is one part of gardening, however, that I do like, and that is weeding. I don’t know why other than the fact that it involves purging and cleaning up, two skills I do have in spades. Running along our driveway is a patch of ground that really belongs to the neighbor, but since it’s behind his garage he ignores it which means I get to deal with it. I got lazy and didn’t mess with it for months. It became overrun with weeds. My husband wanted to spend $26 on weed killer to which I emphatically disagreed. We both have these amazing tools at the ends of our arms called hands. We could use those! Do you know what I can do with $26? Weed killer was not what I had in mind.

Had I listened to his gentle suggestion of purchasing the weed killer I wouldn’t have spent three hours in the hot sun like Scarlett O’Hara working the land! Some of them were so deep and prickly that they required the use of a shovel to get to the root. It occurred to me as I was pulling and yanking and sweating that this idea of weeding and treating weeds before they get bad is parallel to the ongoing battle between evil and righteousness.Not only does evil need no encouragement to grow, if not taken care of at the outset, it takes over and the results are devastating.

To take it a step further let’s have a little science lesson. Yesterday I had my van in to have a mechanical problem looked at before I spent $1000 having it repainted. The history of this van and it’s less-than-stellar paint job is long and painful. Suffice it to say, the recall is up, and if I want it painted, the cost falls on me. Normally this is not something I would invest in, but I’m trying to be a good little consumer and take care of what I have rather than buying new. So I asked the mechanic about rust and why must it take up residence on my van. He gave me all sorts of scientific explanations about metal and their natural state. Yada yada. I could feel my eyes glazing over the way they do in a math class. However, I did get this out of what he said which I found fascinating. Did you know (you probably did) that rust is metal’s natural state, and that most things will revert back to their natural state? Hmmm.

What is man’s natural state?

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, KJV).

Well, I think that’s pretty clear, don’t you?  Our natural state is wickedness, desperately wicked. As believers we are constantly fighting the sin nature. Though we are new creatures, this side of heaven the evil that is naturally a part of human nature will crop back up if we are not proactive in our faith. Were it not for the aggressive action of the Holy Spirit working in tandem with our own active compliance we would automatically default back to our natural state which is evil. Righteousness simply is not our normal state. I’m not suggesting a loss of salvation. I’m merely suggesting that there is a state that we find ourselves in when we haven’t been on guard against the enemy. What ends up happening is similar to the weeds in my patch of grass or the rust on my van. The natural state of who we are takes over, and the work it takes to get back to where we were and beyond becomes daunting. But Paul’s charge to Timothy is God’s charge to us:

“But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (I Timothy 6:11, 12, NIV).

Lest we think it’s up to us to accomplish this, be encouraged!

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6, NIV).

And the People Cried, “Barabbas!”

Why is freedom such a tough sell? In his farewell address to Congress on November 14, 2012, Ron Paul had these words to say in his speech entitled, Farewell to Freedom.

“I have thought a lot about why those of us who believe in liberty, as a solution, have done so poorly in convincing others of its benefits.  If liberty is what we claim it is- the principle that protects all personal, social and economic decisions necessary for maximum prosperity and the best chance for peace- it should be an easy sell.  Yet, history has shown that the masses have been quite receptive to the promises of authoritarians which are rarely if ever fulfilled.”

Read more: http://nation.foxnews.com/ron-paul/2012/11/15/last-speech-ron-pauls-farewell-freedom#ixzz2XoBqjBql

Though he was talking about the results of America’s decisions affecting it socially, economically and personally for each citizen, the principles can be applied to our spiritual lives. Why is freedom such a tough sell? Why is that Christians can’t seem to convince the rest of the world that faith in Jesus is the way to go? Those of the Muslim faith have no problem convincing multitudes of people that their way of thinking is the way of living despite the obvious proofs that peace is anything but the ultimate objective.

HIstory is laden with examples of the human race choosing captivity over freedom. The trial of Jesus is one of the most profound examples of this. As was customary during Passover a prisoner would be granted release. During Jesus’ trial Pilate had offered the crowd the option of releasing Jesus, the innocent, giver of life, or a notorious scoundrel, Barabbas, a known terrorist and the taker of life. I find the entire exchange fascinating as it brings to light the different players involved in the release of Barabbas over Jesus.

Motivated by one of the deadliest diseases in human nature, envy, the religious leaders couldn’t stand Jesus’ popularity. Just like Jesus refuses to share space in our hearts with anything or anyone, so Satan isn’t doing it either. Not without a fight. The chief priests were losing their hold on the people. This quiet meek individual was walking around the streets of Jerusalem preaching faith and salvation apart from the Law.

Though Barabbas represented a physical threat, Jesus represented a much bigger one: the minds and souls of the people. He came to bring freedom from the Law with its rules and regulations, and the chief priests simply couldn’t have this. Tradition was at stake. Barabbas could be controlled. He could only hurt one person at a time. Jesus on the other hand could affect many at once with His words, His ideas, His love.

To say Pilate was a wimp would be an understatement. During Jesus’ trial he sent Jesus to Herod hoping he would deal with it, implored the people on three different occasions to reconsider their insistence on His death, got a note from his wife demanding he walk away from the case, and finally washed his hands publicly of the whole thing. He chose Barabbas to keep the peace, appease Caesar and avoid a bigger uproar than what was already brewing. Pilate had the power to release Jesus but not the courage. What choices do we make out of fear rather than courage?

Finally, the crowd, a representation of every emotion run amuk. Some in the crowd were afraid to call for anything but Jesus’ death as a result of the Pharisees worming their way through the crowd persuading them to do so. Sometimes the right mixture of threat and manipulation from an authoritative figure  is all it takes to clamp shut the mouth of truth. I’m sure there were others in the crowd who were passive onlookers not realizing their passivity spoke just as loudly as the chanting around them.

Lest we walk around self-righteously as we read the story, I would like to suggest that every time we sin we have chosen Barabbas over Jesus. Think about it. He was a known killer. That’s what he did. He took life. Sin is the same. We are always choosing righteousness or evil, freedom or captivity.

“Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin'” (John 8:34, NIV).

Every choice we make represents a choice for the life-giving freedom that God longs to give us or the stifling chokehold of sin.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1, NIV).

As I’ve said before we can’t possibly hope to change anything around us if we aren’t first addressing the private sin of choosing Barabbas in our own lives. At one time or another we have represented one or all of the players of that day. Some days we align ourselves with the religious leaders and their refusal to die to self. At other times, we move with the masses knowing what’s right but not having the courage to do it. And finally we’re the crowd either insistent on our own way or quietly trying to live around the frustration of the culture, fussing about it and doing nothing, therein making our choice.

I have found in my own life that it takes courage to choose correctly. To choose to die to myself takes courage to believe that Jesus has my best interest in mind and has much better things for me than I have for myself. To stand for what is right despite the manipulation of authority or peers also takes courage. The higher the cost, the more courage it requires. It also takes courage to not be passive with sin, to not just accept that “it is what it is” and try to carve out the most comfortable existence within the circumstances.

What is your Barabbas? What motivates the choice? Do you have the courage to choose freedom?

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10, NIV).

And the People Cried, “Barabbas!”

Why is freedom such a tough sell? In his farewell address to Congress on November 14, 2012, Ron Paul had these words to say in his speech entitled, Farewell to Freedom.

“I have thought a lot about why those of us who believe in liberty, as a solution, have done so poorly in convincing others of its benefits.  If liberty is what we claim it is- the principle that protects all personal, social and economic decisions necessary for maximum prosperity and the best chance for peace- it should be an easy sell.  Yet, history has shown that the masses have been quite receptive to the promises of authoritarians which are rarely if ever fulfilled.”

Read more: http://nation.foxnews.com/ron-paul/2012/11/15/last-speech-ron-pauls-farewell-freedom#ixzz2XoBqjBql

Though he was talking about the results of America’s decisions affecting it socially, economically and personally for each citizen, the principles can be applied to our spiritual lives. Why is freedom such a tough sell? Why is that Christians can’t seem to convince the rest of the world that faith in Jesus is the way to go? Those of the Muslim faith have no problem convincing multitudes of people that their way of thinking is the way of living despite the obvious proofs that peace is anything but the ultimate objective.

HIstory is laden with examples of the human race choosing captivity over freedom. The trial of Jesus is one of the most profound examples of this. As was customary during Passover a prisoner would be granted release. During Jesus’ trial Pilate had offered the crowd the option of releasing Jesus, the innocent, giver of life, or a notorious scoundrel, Barabbas, a known terrorist and the taker of life. I find the entire exchange fascinating as it brings to light the different players involved in the release of Barabbas over Jesus.

Motivated by one of the deadliest diseases in human nature, envy, the religious leaders couldn’t stand Jesus’ popularity. Just like Jesus refuses to share space in our hearts with anything or anyone, so Satan isn’t doing it either. Not without a fight. The chief priests were losing their hold on the people. This quiet meek individual was walking around the streets of Jerusalem preaching faith and salvation apart from the Law.

Though Barabbas represented a physical threat, Jesus represented a much bigger one: the minds and souls of the people. He came to bring freedom from the Law with its rules and regulations, and the chief priests simply couldn’t have this. Tradition was at stake. Barabbas could be controlled. He could only hurt one person at a time. Jesus on the other hand could affect many at once with His words, His ideas, His love.

To say Pilate was a wimp would be an understatement. During Jesus’ trial he sent Jesus to Herod hoping he would deal with it, implored the people on three different occasions to reconsider their insistence on His death, got a note from his wife demanding he walk away from the case, and finally washed his hands publicly of the whole thing. He chose Barabbas to keep the peace, appease Caesar and avoid a bigger uproar than what was already brewing. Pilate had the power to release Jesus but not the courage. What choices do we make out of fear rather than courage?

Finally, the crowd, a representation of every emotion run amuk. Some in the crowd were afraid to call for anything but Jesus’ death as a result of the Pharisees worming their way through the crowd persuading them to do so. Sometimes the right mixture of threat and manipulation from an authoritative figure  is all it takes to clamp shut the mouth of truth. I’m sure there were others in the crowd who were passive onlookers not realizing their passivity spoke just as loudly as the chanting around them.

Lest we walk around self-righteously as we read the story, I would like to suggest that every time we sin we have chosen Barabbas over Jesus. Think about it. He was a known killer. That’s what he did. He took life. Sin is the same. We are always choosing righteousness or evil, freedom or captivity.

“Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin'” (John 8:34, NIV).

Every choice we make represents a choice for the life-giving freedom that God longs to give us or the stifling chokehold of sin.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1, NIV).

As I’ve said before we can’t possibly hope to change anything around us if we aren’t first addressing the private sin of choosing Barabbas in our own lives. At one time or another we have represented one or all of the players of that day. Some days we align ourselves with the religious leaders and their refusal to die to self. At other times, we move with the masses knowing what’s right but not having the courage to do it. And finally we’re the crowd either insistent on our own way or quietly trying to live around the frustration of the culture, fussing about it and doing nothing, therein making our choice.

I have found in my own life that it takes courage to choose correctly. To choose to die to myself takes courage to believe that Jesus has my best interest in mind and has much better things for me than I have for myself. To stand for what is right despite the manipulation of authority or peers also takes courage. The higher the cost, the more courage it requires. It also takes courage to not be passive with sin, to not just accept that “it is what it is” and try to carve out the most comfortable existence within the circumstances.

What is your Barabbas? What motivates the choice?

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10, NIV).