Conditions of Deliverance

097a4e3Joshua said to the two men who had scouted the land, “Go to the prostitute’s house and bring the woman out of there, and all who are with her, just as you promised her.”(Joshua 6:22)

“The prostitute.” Not the former, reformed, or repentant prostitute. Just “the prostitute.” Insert any other label that you want. The definition is likely the same: behaving outside of God’s will…but not exempt from His deliverance.

We must remember this as we share God with others we identify as being outside His will. They are worthy of deliverance. And they don’t have to jump through our hoops of behavior and change in order to receive His mercy. He knows their path better than we do. If He’s willing to meet them right where they are and bring them to a new place, even if they don’t change every way that needs to change, can’t we extend the grace and mercy and patience? After all, He’s delivering us despite our obstinance, too, including our inflexible approach to others.

When We Get Undeserved Protection

We can try to hide from God. We can wander away. But God can still put a mark of protection on us, even when we move away from His presence.

Cain killed his brother, then declared to God, “I must hide myself from Your presence and become a restless wanderer on the earth” (Genesis 4:14). God “placed a mark on Cain so that whoever found him would not kill him. Then Cain went out from the LORD’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden” (Gen. 4:15-16).

Cain suffered consequences to his choices, just as his parents, Adam and Eve, suffered consequences from eating fruit God had told them not to eat. Our disregard and disobedience to God always comes with consequences, although sometimes we’re more likely to make the connection than others. We might continue down the path that takes us away from God; in fact, we might be very intentional about wandering away from God. Yet God may still choose to be with us, knowing where we are and what we’re doing and thinking. He may still choose to protect us from something–something of our worst fears or something God knows we will need.

God’s protection doesn’t mean all goes smoothly in our lives. God’s protection is often specific. We wonder why we must endure something when a neighbor or family member never shares a similar struggle. We may wonder why we made it through something rather unscathed compared to someone else. God’s protection doesn’t have to be the same for everyone in order to remain His protection.

While that might make us feel cheated at times, it also makes us feel thankful and blessed much of the time.

We’re all done wrong. And God has responded with protection in some way for each of us.

Acknowledge Him with gratitude.

Full Dumpster…Emptied

As we served in Israel, we had plenty of stuff to cram into the dumpster. We cleaned the grounds of trash. We trimmed plants. We swept, cleaned, and raked. We threw bag after bag into the dumpster. By the third day, we couldn’t close the lids of the large dumpster. “No problem,” school staff said. “We’ll called for pick-up.”

Thirty minutes later…

©2014 PurePurpose.org
©2014 PurePurpose.org

“What? All you have to do is call, and the trash truck comes? That’s not how it works where we live!”

But that’s how God works. No matter if you are overflowing with trash, or partially full, you can trust God to pick it up…in an instant.

When we returned to the empty dumpster to throw in more bags of trash, we smelled the stench of the remnant of the messiest trash that had been steeping on the bottom for who knows how long. There were bugs crawling all over the goop. Maybe we should have called sooner. If we wait until our trash is too full, it stinks and attracts all kinds of unwanted creatures.

God cleans us up well, over and over, but we have to call Him. We have to trust Him.

Surely You desire integrity in the inner self,
and You teach me wisdom deep within.
Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones You have crushed rejoice.
Turn Your face away from my sins
and blot out all my guilt.

God, create a clean heart for me
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:6-10

Freedom Can Be Misapplied

Everything is permissibleFreedom is not getting to do whatever we want.

“Everything is permissible,” but not everything is helpful. “Everything is permissible,” but not everything builds up. (1 Cor. 10:23)

In these verses, Paul is speaking, and he’s quoting a phrase, “Everything is permissible,” the Christians in Corinth likely said. Plus, he added a correction and a challenge for them to consider what is helpful and what builds (others) up. Just because we ‘re free to do something doesn’t mean it’s what we should do. Just because we believe it’s something we should do (usually because it’s something we want to do) doesn’t mean we should.

How many times do you express the right or freedom to do something as a rationalization or excuse? You believe you are in the right because you have the freedom to choose. If it’s difficult to see in yourself, try looking around you. What do others tout as their “right” because of freedom, but you disagree? Why do you disagree?

Now, consider why someone else would use a similar disagreement for something you claim as a right or freedom? How is your rationalization similar? Are you starting to see the slippery slope?

As a Christ-follower, you might throw in the added power punch of “I do it because I know God wants me to. I’m just following and honoring Him.” But are you, really? Have you checked with Him on your motivation and your heart? And have you checked with Him recently, or are you on auto-pilot? Do you truly understand what He’s prompting you to do in a specific situation? Are you letting others sway you, and possibly seeing that influence as positive? Are you jumping on a bandwagon Jesus isn’t leading? Worse yet, are you using Him name and encouraging others to follow when He’s not leading?

Freedom can be deceptive. What you believe is freedom might be bondage. In order to be free, you need to know what to choose, and perhaps more important at times, what not to choose. You have to discern, which means you have to yield yourself. You have to be humble and set yourself aside. It’s counter-intuitive. We want to think freedom is really about us, that we get to step up and do more because of our freedom. Yes, but…only when we give up ourselves. We then get to walk all over the places God has prepared for us. We have full freedom within His boundaries. And when we live in His freedom, those boundaries don’t seem limited. They seem protective and…freeing.

We don’t miss out when we live in God’s freedom. We miss out when we don’t. We miss out on the region of freedom He’s prepared for us.

Be careful not to define your own freedom. It’s not yours to define. It’s yours to receive and savor. Open your eyes, hands, and heart. God has a grand gift for you.

Are You Willing to Be Set Apart?

For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator. (Colossians 3:10).

Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2)

setapartChristians are supposed to be set apart. Actually, we are set apart. But do we behave as if we are?

I’m not talking about perfection. We have struggles. We have sin. How we respond to struggles and sin speaks loudly about what we believe about God. God is God no matter what we believe, but people who don’t know and believe God see Him in and through us. If we don’t reflect Him well, if we don’t follow Him with authenticity, what message are we sending others?

I’ve watched Christians worry more than non-Christians.

I’ve seen Christians be less generous than non-Christians.

I’ve listened to Christians complain, gossip, and tear down others more than non-Christians.

I’ve seen non-Christians be more Christ-like in actions, just not in Jesus’ name. And it breaks my heart. All of those issues or weaknesses (and a plethora of others) are okay when we’re willing to release them to God and let Him work on us. We all struggle with something. But when they’re chronic, and we cling to them, either ignoring them or rationalizing, we send confusing messages. We say we reflect and follow God, yet our willingness to change betrays what we say we do. If you know you’re not supposed to worry, yet you continue to do so, at the very least, be honest about it. Let people know you struggle with worry but that you are committed to growing through the struggle. If you don’t give as much as you know you should, even though God has challenged you, wrestle with it aloud, sharing the process. If you complain, gossip, and tear others down, when someone confronts you about it and holds you to God’s standards, don’t rationalize your behavior. Be humble. Apologize. Be transparent.

Be willing to let God change you. You might struggle with some of the same issues throughout your life, but they don’t have to control you. Let God work through you, change you, and you will glorify Him as others see you struggle, see God show up, and see the effects He has on your life. If you trust God to change you and let others see Him change you, they just might not expect Him to change them either.

Rejecting Sin with Love

hateloveWe must reject what is against God’s will. He commands us to love one another. “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is a common phrase to describe how we’re to respond to people who are engaging in behavior contrary to God’s will. Most Christians have struggled with how to live this out in specific circumstances. It’s perhaps one of the most commonly asked questions: “How can I love the person without giving her the impression that I approve of what she’s doing?” You can’t do it with your own strength and love. God’s love is unconditional, but it’s also corrective. God loves you even though you don’t live every moment of your life exactly the way He wants you to live. Even when you’re seeking His will and intending to live every moment for Him, you’re going to make some poor judgments. You’re human. But God still loves you.

He also loves the person beside you. You might not know how to share your love, but you can share God’s love, because God says she’s worthy. You don’t have to have every detail of the relationship figured out. You simply must follow God’s lead. That means staying invested in the relationship as long as God leads you to stay invested—and not a moment longer or shorter. People are in our lives for seasons, so you will have limited impact on people. Following God’s lead means you’ll speak up in some situations and be silent in others. It’s how God leads. You have to be content that you don’t have the answers—God does. He knows how to express His love much better than you do. When you respond out of what makes sense to you instead of what God is directing you to do, you run the risk of not only rejecting the person or sending the wrong message but also of rejecting God yourself. When you ignore His lead, you’re putting others and yourself in front of your relationship with Him. And that’s certainly not ever His will.

But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, 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 17-25)

Living Forgiven

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, and perhaps that’s putting it mildly. Mistakes seem to be a bit less intentional, and what I’ve chosen has often been intentional. I’ve sinned—plain and simple. We might not like that word, because it makes us squirm. Some of us might not even really understand what it means, especially if we’re not confident God is who He says He is. If we don’t agree in God’s absolute standards and will, and sin is turning away from those standards, we can easily dismiss sin. And even when we agree that sin exists, we can compare and excuse our sin or someone else’s because we minimize what offends God by being outside of His will…even when we give His sovereignty lip service as unequivocally incomparable.

I’ve been outside His will, and there’s no spin I can put on it that makes it anything less. But just as God sets the standard in His sovereignty, He forgives in His sovereignty. He can do that because of who He is. He has the power, mercy, and wisdom…and I am thankful.

i-forgive-i-am-forgivenI haven’t always known what to do with God’s forgiveness. It wasn’t an issue about what God could and would do as much as about how I chose to respond. I didn’t always completely give everything to God, hanging onto just enough for…Comfort? Control? Punishment? Whatever the reason, because of my response and the remnants of sin, I didn’t feel completely forgiven.

I’ve been told it’s harder to forgive ourselves than to accept God’s forgiveness, but as I wrestled with that, I realized it was just one of those things we create to help us reach for an understanding we feel we need or to make ourselves feel better about something. But it’s a distortion of who God is. If my unforgiveness is more powerful than God’s in my life, the problem isn’t on His end of things. I can’t have it both ways—claiming His sovereignty, yet taking the reins when it comes to deciding who forgives when and how much. My job isn’t to forgive. That’s God’s job. My job is simply to yield—completely.

Yes, complete yielding is often a process. Even when we think we’ve completely yielded, we find more that needs to be uprooted and weeded. Yet when we surrender to God in each situation, we can trust that He receives what we offer—whether it’s all at once or a little at a time. His timing is perfect. Our obedience is not. But He works it all together…and I am certainly grateful.

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:5-10)