The iPhone Dilemma

My husband and I have 2 granddaughters, 5 years and almost 2 years. They have loved our iPhones for quite a while. Even the little one loves to have possession of a phone. While the baby had my phone, she seemed very frustrated and could not find the apps she usually uses. I looked at my phone to see what was wrong and realized all of my apps were wiggling. For anyone that has an iPhone you know that this means apps can be deleted.

Sure enough, I was missing quite a few apps and my apps were in the wrong place. Not only had she deleted my apps, she had rearranged them. Even though my apps were saved to the cloud, I ended up having to restore my phone to a previous setting. Thanks to my husband, I was able to recover apps from the cloud as I realized which apps were missing. My phone was a mess but it was back to the way it had been previously. Everything that was missing could be restored from the cloud. Even though the apps were deleted, they were actually still there. I could go to “the cloud” to find them. (When I say I could do this, what I mean is my husband/tech support could do it.) The apps were not really gone.

Thankfully, that is not the way forgiveness works. When God forgives our sins, he deletes them. God does NOT store our sins anywhere. When we ask Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, His blood deletes our sins. He restores us to the original created person with all of the plans he has for our lives.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” John 1:9 NIV

Psalm 51:10-12 ESV Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

He knows the plans he has for us. He orders our steps. 

Jeremiah 29:11 NIV “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

God not only forgives our sins, He throws our sins away. 

Psalm 103:12 tells us “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” 

How far is that? The further you go West, the further away East is. The further you go East, the further away West is. Our God is so forgiving. He would never go to “the Cloud” and download our sins for us to remember. Are there consequences for sin, Yes.  Just like my phone being “messed up”, we can mess up our lives but God is faithful. When we call on him, he is always there.

Romans 10:13 says, “for whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Isaiah 40:31 NKJV “But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.”

1 Peter 5:10 ESV “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

Don’t go fishing in the sea of forgetfulness to remember sin that God has forgiven. 

 

Invisible Bugs

I had the opportunity to accompany my husband on a recent business trip. He had saved up air miles for me, so I was excited about a week at the beach. Since his usual hotel choice was not located in this area, he spent extra time selecting the place for our stay. He knows I like to stay right on the beach whenever possible because I do not have access to a car when he is on a business trip. He chose an Inn for our stay.

I had never stayed at an Inn, well, except for the Holiday Inn. My mind flashed to Hallmark movies on Nantucket or some island paradise. I thought it was going to be a fun adventure. When we checked in at the Inn, we were told about the amenities available to us. I was so ready for some beach time. Then, I was given a bottle of insect animal-beetle-biology-1114318repellant. I was told about the tiny little bugs that I would not be able to see but were on the beach early in the morning and late in the evening. I thought “oh great!” Not only would I have to be coated in sunscreen but I would need to have bug repellant also. I am not a fan of bugs. I don’t like fat bugs, skinny bugs, walking bugs, flying bugs, big bugs, or little bugs, and especially bugs I cannot see.

As I sat on the beach I would see tiny bugs, but I would know there were bugs that were even smaller than they were. I saw some ants but knew that the bugs were smaller. I didn’t let it spoil my trip bug-hand-insect-1119264but I was very aware of bugs. As I waited for the onslaught of the non-imaginary bugs that were going to attack me at any moment, I was reminded of how what seems like the tiniest of sin can attack.

We think of sin in categories such as being a big sin or a small sin or a sin with a capital “S”. When God sees sin, it is sin. There is no big sin or small sin. Romans 3:23 tells us “For all have sinned.” The Bible doesn’t tell us that there are degrees of sin. God would have told us if that were true and would have defined sin very carefully. God’s Word does not do that. As I thought about the tiny bugs and sin, I compared the tiny bugs to sneaky sins that kind of creep into your life or slip in a back door. The kind that make you think “I didn’t just do that” or “I didn’t just think that.”  God has convicted me lately to be careful what thoughts jump into my head. I want my thoughts to be pure and uplifting instead of critical or mean.

1 Peter 5:8 ESV says

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

So, watch out for those tiny bugs that you cannot see that bite before you know what is happening. Stay aware of the thoughts and activities that start out seemingly harmless but move quickly into a dangerous place. To protect yourself from sin, be sure to wear your spiritual insect repellant every day. The only place I have found spiritual insect repellant is in God’s Word. 

Ephesians 6:10-11  ESV tells us 

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”

 

The Moral to the story:

As we were packing up to come back home, my husband asked about the insect repellent. I told him that since I had not been on the beach early or late in the day I had not used it. He asked if I had read the ingredients and I told him that I had not. He said that it contained Hemp which is another name for Cannabis Oil. 

The next time someone offers me insect repellant to protect from invisible bugs, I am going to tell them that I don’t need any weed. I will take my chances with the bugs.

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“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10

Back to Basics: Salvation

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“On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’Matt. 7:22-23

Grab your coffee this morning. Relax, and let’s have some serious talk.

We have been remiss. Looking back on this year of Back to Basics articles, we seem to have skipped over the most basic of all basics: salvation. In a recent sermon Pastor Kevin brought up something about salvation that really got me to thinking. He wondered aloud what we in the congregation might say if we were asked to explain salvation. That got me to wondering too. Is there confusion over salvation? Could it be true? Could faithful church members who have lived upright lives be confused about salvation? I pondered my own story and the many conversations I’ve had with women over the years, and I realized that “Yes,” even dedicated church members can suffer from skewed teachings in their past and confusion over the Gospel. Pastor Kevin explained, “Many people in the church … not outside the church, but inside the church … many church folk think salvation is by God’s grace plus good works.  Wrong!! If we could work our way to heaven then the cross at Calvary was a tragedy.” Woah! That is a stop-us-in-our-tracks comment.

So let us stop in our tracks and examine ourselves. Would you be able to tell another person how to be saved? Can you explain salvation for yourself: what it means in your life, how you know you’re a child of God, what steps a person takes to be saved? Can you say what salvation is and what it is not? It seems simple, yet so complex. If you were saved as a child, you may sometimes wonder, like I used to, if you did it the right way. Do you? Do you ever doubt your salvation because you prayed as a child, but don’t see much growth in your life right now, and so you wonder, “Am I really saved? What if I’m not?”

When we were younger, we may have gotten the message at church that we had to be perfect. We may have confused healthy admonitions to live a moral life with what it means to be saved. We have seen that people change after they encounter Almighty God, and the enemy or our souls may have twisted that to make us believe that a change in behavior or doing good works equals salvation. But it doesn’t.

What is salvation?

That is such a “churchy” word. But what does it mean? According to dictionary.com salvation is “deliverance from the power and penalty of sin; redemption.” And BillyGraham.org says that salvation is “an act of God. It is initiated by God, wrought by God and sustained by God.” And our own Pastor Kevin reminds us that, “There is only ONE way to the Father and that way is through His Son, Jesus Christ! There is no forgiveness of sins apart from the substitutionary, perfect, sinless, shed blood of Jesus Christ! It is God’s grace plus nothing, minus nothing!!”

Salvation. From the root word “save.” We are being saved from the penalty of our sin we said. But salvation is much more than avoiding punishment. Salvation is coming into relationship with our Creator, Father God. Yes, I will be saved from the penalty of my sin, but it is oh so much more than that. I will have a perfect father. A rescuer. A friend. A guide through life. A healer. A comforter. And I will become His bride, his friend, his daughter, his beloved, a new creation, a chosen one, a forgiven one, a work of art crafted by the Master Craftsman’s hands.

But how does that happen? How do we come into that relationship with God? He is drawing us. He loves us and wants us to come to Him while we are still wallowing in our sin, while we’re still in our selfishness, our addiction, our drunken reveling, whatever. He takes the initial action – He loves us. These verses say it all.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins…. We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:10,19)

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Let’s take a look at the facts of salvation.

So the first step of salvation is realizing that God loves us, even with the mess that we are. In fact, He loved you so much that He was willing to give His only son as a sacrifice for your sin to take the punishment you deserved upon Himself.

The next step is to understand that we sin and to repent of that sin (turn away from it), and ask forgiveness from God. We are sinners. Sin is simply missing the mark. Jesus set a high standard; he lived a perfect life. That is the mark; anything short of that is sin. Murder? Yes, of course. Lying. Yes. Immorality, greed, hatred, jealousy, selfishness? Yes, yes, yes, it’s all sin. We are each and everyone guilty and in need of someone to rescue us from the punishment we deserve because of our sin. The book of Romans has lots to say about sin. Chapter 3 tells us “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Chapter 6 reminds us that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 3:23 and 6:23) Sin demands a penalty payment, death. But that penalty has already been paid!

Third, we must realize that Jesus’ death and resurrection is the only thing that makes it possible for us to be made right with God. Jesus Christ is that sacrificial lamb, that sacrifice that paid the penalty for our sin. Romans 10:9-10 tells us that, “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. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

And that’s it, we come to Jesus bringing nothing. We let go and give Jesus authority over our life to do with as He will for the rest of our days. We raise our white flag in surrender. He redeems our mess and makes us into His new creation. It’s all on Him. He does the saving and the changing, His precious work of grace.

When we realize our sin and brokenness and our need for a savior, we have a choice. We can choose to believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, or we can choose to reject His gift of salvation and try to fill up our broken places by our own means. Jesus is tenderly waiting with open arms.

Have you done that? Have you accepted His love for you, realized and repented of your sin, believed that He is the only way to be made right with God, and given up the authority to rule your own life to Him? If not, now would be a good time. If you’re not sure what you did as a 6-year-old, now would be the time to make sure. All you have to do is pray.

We at Priceless would love to hear from you if you have given your life to Christ today. We encourage you to pray, begin to read God’s word each day, and find a local body of believers (church) near you to meet with. We’ve included a simple video below and The Bridge Illustration that express the truths of salvation in slightly different formats.

3 Circles Video

Bridge Illustration from The Navigators.

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His Love is More

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“It’s a fig tree.”

As nonchalantly as “the sky is blue” or “I love Minecraft.”

“It’s a fig tree.”

She was a few steps ahead of me, I watched as she rubbed her hands over the leaf and looked behind her to see if I was paying attention. I recognized the gnarly branches and distinct leaf shape immediately. I quizzed her, “How do you know?”

My oldest daughter, Charlotte looked at me and matter-of-factly said, “I can smell it.”

fig-sliced-plate-wooden-tableThe fig tree makes me always think of two things… cookies and the King. I love a Fig Newton, but I don’t love a fig. In my mind, the fig is the King’s fruit, well, sort of. The first Mom and Dad of this world covered themselves with fig leaves after they felt shame for the first time. A feeling that has been palpable through the ages. Shame compels those who are covered by it to make clouded choices and feel the lowest of lows.

It wasn’t until about 9 years ago that I conjectured that the fruit in the garden was a fig. After all why in the world would such an unruly and itchy choice be what one would choose to cover his or her lady or gentleman parts with? I reasoned simply, it was the closest option. Later the King cursed that same fruitless tree, it withered and died, almost as if He were demonstrating His feelings toward the tree that represented sin and death. The very thing that He was soon going to overcome. Perhaps not. Perhaps it is just an unfortunate specimen of botany and I have a bit too big an imagination to leave it as such.

Regardless, as my daughter stated the undeniable fact of the fig trees presence, I pondered what sin and death meant for my oldest, the first of my children, not born of my body, but of something much stronger, my soul. I pondered how sin and death were the very thing that brought her to me. newborn in incubatorBorn way too early and in poor health, she had to fight for her very life. A death sentence at birth was proclaimed over her before she could even contemplate the significance.

Jesus healed her, and she too overcame death. She understands as much as it is possible for a teenage girl to understand. I’ve often said she has an old soul… She is slow and deliberate. She loves a soup, classic rock, and frowns upon the frivolous. Perhaps it is because in the short years she has lived, she has a better grasp on the fragility of life, the beautiful things of this world, and has experienced the healing power and the love of a Savior that many adults do not.

There was a time when I questioned Jesus regarding His plan for her. I wondered why He had scanned the world over and picked me to be her Mama. He gave me her verse when she was desperately sick, and her future seemed unclear. His Word simply stated, He had plans for her, plans to protect her, plans for good, plans for her future, plans filled with Hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

He has confirmed time and time again that He trusts me, He has equipped me fully, and that He loves her more than I ever could. That fact right there blows my mind. Thankfully, the truth of that is not contingent on me understanding it. His love is immeasurably more. His love is more than my sin and mess ups. His love is more than my insecurities, inadequacies, and anxieties. His love is more than I was, I am, or I am going to be.

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Warts and All!

by Guest writer: Lauren Stovall

This is not a blog about warts. But it is. So nurses: lean in, and weak-stomached ladies: scroll away.

When I was younger, I had a wart on the heel of my foot. At first, it just blended in with my calluses and swirly footprint. (Who looks at the heel of their foot anyway?) Slowly it grew until it was obvious and even uncomfortable. Eventually it got so bad that I had a limp. I tenderly tried to live my life tip-toeing around the painful pressure in my foot. By the time I realized it was not going away, it was the size of a quarter.

You may not notice the symbolism of all this, or you may be a better person than I am and simply not handle your sin this way. But for all the weak humans here: you may notice that what I have just described is exactly how we deal with sin. We do not even notice that we have sin growing in our life. Temptation gradually spreads in our life until it seems impossible to get rid of it. Satan is a conniving genius. And I do not say that to give him fame, but to give you a flashing warning! As Christians, we often forget that Satan’s mission is to steal everything precious, kill our souls, and destroy every positive part of God’s Kingdom. The joy of this statement is that he can’t! It makes me want to laugh out loud as I sit at Cup’s coffeehouse. Satan so badly wants to tear down our lives, but ultimately he. will. fail. [For more on spiritual warfare, I recommend the book Fervent by Priscilla Shirer.]

As Christians, we often forget that Satan’s mission is to steal everything precious, kill our souls, and destroy every positive part of God’s Kingdom. The joy of this statement is that he can’t!

I mention Satan to remind us that the temptation we face is not going to be obvious at first. Sin creeps into your life slowly, leaving you completely unaware like a slow-growing wart hidden on your heel. For me, it was old British romances. At first, there was no shame in reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen or watching a classic movie like a red-love-heart-oldremake of Jane Eyre. It was subtle. It was sneaky. It was Satan. These innocent actions, though not sin at first, evolved.

As I type, my heart beats faster. Satan whispers, “You don’t need to admit this. You confessed this to God.” How tricky is that beast! Of course I have confessed my sin to God. Of course God has forgiven me! He cannot go against His own nature. God IS forgiveness, mercy, love, peace, redemption. Here it is though. Here is my sickening confession: I loved the romance books and movies so much that they became an addiction. I watched The Office to get to the kissing scene. I read cheesy Christian romance novels to get to the finale where the cowboy roped the girl and they had a dramatic kiss under the moon. It may seem innocent and harmless, but Honey-child, my heart was far away from innocent. Sin had spread so that I was accommodating my sin like limping with a wart on my heel.

For years, I allowed my dreams of love and romance to become an idol. This obsession festered uncontrolled and unconfessed. Every now and then my guilt would overcome me. I would ask God to forgive me, and swear off all romance “for the last time.” However, Satan always lured me back. The root of my wart was still there. I could not get rid of it on my own. I had no accountability and no motivation to air my dirty laundry so that it could be washed clean. I held the secret of my sin inside and let it contaminate my mind with dissatisfaction at the singleness God had given me, jealousy of different couples’ love, and lust for feelings or relationships that were not for me. I hope you are understanding the depth of my problem. I had sin: obsession that turned to idolization and lust.

Back to the wart: my mom, obviously concerned for my health, found out a dermatologist was the person to handle my problem. She scheduled an appointment. With much uneasy anticipation, we went to the doctor. I was fearful of going to someone who would probably hurt me while trying to help. However, I finally realized that I had to rid myself of the problem. So I went to the doctor. I decided that I really wanted to be healed. For good. Forever.

Full disclosure: It’s about to get gross. I was laid on the crinkly-papered doctor table on my stomach with the wart-infected heel sticking up in the air. Mom stood by with a grimace on her face. When you get a wart removed, they spray some cold, numbing chemical on your skin before putting the actual medicine in your foot. Frozen-skin spray on my heel. Then the needle. I hate needles. I only looked at it once, and that was too many times. The doctor began to repeatedly stab the needle into my still quarter-sized wart. The spray does not work. I can tell you, frozen heel or not, I felt those stabs. I did not count how many times the needle went in my heel, but afterward I had at least twenty visible needle-holes.

The process hurt. It was not easy. I did not enjoy the wart extraction, but it was necessary.

medic-hospital-laboratory-medical-40559Our sin must be handled the same. Once God has pointed out where the sin is and that it needs to go, we must submit to His Doctor hands. He is the One who pokes at our flaw and finds how far into our flesh the darkness reaches. He is the One who pries our hands loose from our sin. Because if I am being honest, I still do not WANT to be free from my sin. It is tough to let go of addictions. Their sinuous hold makes us believe that they are a part of us and our life will not be as happy or complete without them.

I could never take a needle and stab my own foot. It goes against human nature to attack part of your flesh. But it goes against spiritual nature to allow sin to coexist with our saved soul. As all Christians know, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24 NIV). Although this verse is talking about serving God or money, I believe the same logic applies to all sin. I cannot allow any idol to be in the same heart as God. Mostly due to the fact that God cannot be chill with sin.

One last medical bit: the wart did not magically evaporate that day. The medicine slowly killed the wart over a period of several weeks. Every now and then more of the wart would let go of my heel. I am no theologian, but I do not think God magically whisks away all our sin. We may have to pray for forgiveness and healing multiple times. Do not think for one moment that is because God is not big enough to remove your sin or even that you are too weak to really give up your sin. Instead, see this as a beautiful process. God is drawing you back to Him over and over again. Let Him hold your hand in the pain. Let Him hear your voice continually. Let yourself lean into His warm love. My eyes tear up at the thought.

As a fellow sister in Christ, I challenge you. Yes, you. Dear you, please let go of your sin. Stop trying to heal yourself with wart Band-Aids and self-help books that only patch the problem for an hour or a week. Go sobbing to God. Let Him take out your warty sin. Let Christ bleed all over your mess. Let the Holy Spirit drag your soul to God’s feet.

Praise Him. He IS healing. He WILL forgive you. He IS stronger than your sin. He IS a new life. He IS freedom from your addiction. He IS love.

I know this. I speak from experience. It may hurt. It may take time. You may go back to the Doctor for weeks and months. Oh Child, it is not easy to nod yes to a big needle of truth and separation from sin. But Honey-child: it. is. worth. it.

“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.” James 1:14-16