Sunday, January 29, 2012

No Condemnation

God did something really cool in small group tonight. It was one of those times when God shows up and something so beautiful happens that you can’t even talk or do anything but bask in His glory and might and love. His presence was tangible. He stirred in our hearts so we could feel the fluttering of angel wings. He opened up the eyes of our hearts just a little bit more so that we could grasp a tiny bit of what His love for us looks like and the only appropriate response is awe-filled tears of joy and humility. He loves me? Oh, yes, dear one, He loves you.

Our leader spoke tonight about Noah’s dad, Lamech. This story can be found in Exodus chapter 5. Lamech named his son Noah because it means peace and rest. Lamech thought Noah would be the one to deliver them all from the wickedness of the world. Lamech wanted Noah to be Jesus, the deliverer. As we all know, that didn’t happen. God unleashed His righteous judgment on the earth by sending a flood.

Our first discussion question asked us what it was we need rest from. It could be a sin struggle, a burden, a hurt, or a responsibility. Most of the girls were quick to say they needed rest from school, from the business and stress of every day life.

The next question asked us how we deal with these needs for rest. Most of the answers were to ignore it. That would not fix anything or give true peace. In fact, the girls admitted that it only made their work load seem more daunting, like a dark cloud constantly hanging over them.

Question three asked us what emotions stir up in us when we think about God’s judgment. Very quickly, we veered on to the topic of our sin, of condemnation, of Heaven and Hell, of the end times, of judgment day.

“What if I do something that sends me to Hell? What if I do something wrong? I’m so afraid. I imagine Hell like that feeling of knowing you’re falling but not being able to do anything about it forever. I am so afraid. I have so many doubts! What if I do something that sends me to Hell?”

I am here on this earth to declare exactly two things: that Jesus is the one, true, living God, and that He loves you.

That voice of accusation you hear in your head, that’s the devil. He’s lying to you. He wants you to believe that God couldn’t possibly love you. How God hates it when Satan tells you that lie! Can’t you see? Satan whispers that God doesn’t love you, that He will punish you, but Satan has no physical evidence to back up that theory. On the other hand, God says, “I love you,” and He does have actions to prove that! He sent Jesus to die on the cross, He came to propose to you, to bring you back, to rescue you. The crucifixion is the grandest public display of affection anyone could ever give you! “This is how far I will go for you!” Jesus is crying out as He hangs there. “I will cross the universe for you! I will travel through this world for you! I will put my life on the line. I will throw myself over top of you and cover you so the whip will fall on My back instead of yours. I will be tortured and I will do it with a smile in My heart because I’m thinking of you. I’m seeing your face in My mind’s eye and praising God because you and I will get to spend eternity together. Oh, My beloved. I will go through Hell for you. I will risk your rejection for the chance at holding you in My arms…these arms that placed the moon into the sky…for you…these hands that molded the stars…for you…”

Because of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, it is IMPOSSIBLE for God to punish you. Jesus took all the punishment. He stands before you and declares that He has taken the punishment and that no sin can be held against you. Jesus stands in front of you and stretches out his arms, blocking you, shielding you from any punishment because He takes it on Himself. Romans 8:1 declares there is NO CONDEMNATION for those who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Colossians 1:22 says, "But now He has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you HOLY in His sight, WITHOUT BLEMISH and FREE from accusation."

You are PURE. You are BLAMELESS because of Jesus' death. God does not punish you, ever. There will be natural consequences for your actions but it is not punishment from God. When God looks at you, He sees you walking down the aisle, clothed in a white wedding gown, radiating beauty. When He hung on that cross, He was thinking about that moment: you, walking down the aisle to Him, pure as can be. He faced death and He did so with joy because He knew that He'd get to spend eternity with YOU, His bride, His beloved. You are the princess of the Prince of Peace. He will satisfy all your needs. He will overwhelm you with His love. Oh, how He delights in you!

Zephaniah 3:14-17 says this, "Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away your punishment, He has turned back your enemy. The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm. On that day they will say to Jerusalem, 'Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.'"

And so, we lift the cross, lift it high, lift it high. That is where we fix our eyes – on the love Jesus poured out. For His love is higher than the mountains we face, His love is stronger than the power of the grave. On and on and on it goes! It overwhelms and satisfies my soul! His love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me…His love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me!

It is not rest from schoolwork we need. It is rest from guilt and condemnation. And who better to give us that rest than the Prince of peace, Jesus?

Jesus, help me come to You first and only with my needs. You are my Prince of Peace. Who would be better to go to than You?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Passion Conference 2012

I was blessed to get to attend Passion Conference this week. People have been asking me how it was and what happened. Even as a writer, I'm finding it very difficult to confine it to words! It was simply something so power that you have to experience it for yourself! However, I will do my best to share some of what God taught me. To share everything would take a dissertation...or a dinner date :) hehe.

Q: Why did you want to go to Passion?
A: Actually, I didn't. I did not want to go. I thought I was fine with God. I thought I knew enough. I don't like being in big crowds; the uncertainty scares me. I was tired and I was having a bad attitude. I had every intention of making up a lie about falling ill so that my friends would go without me. I went, thinking I would just give it a try and probably bail after the first day. I can't even begin to say how grateful I am that God got me there. What I found was that He completely obliterated my fears and anxieties. He put a thirst inside of me that made me want more and more and more of Him.

Q: What did God show you while you were at Passion?
A: God taught me four main things through the Passion Conference.
Number One: I want to read the Bible more. We had the privilege of hearing a speaker named Francis Chan. He said, "If you don't read the Truth over and over and over again, you won't be able to tell what's true and what is a lie." I want to know what God has to say about my life and what is going on in the world because I think He's pretty cool and I value His opinion. I was reminded how ridiculous it is that I don't spend more time reading the Bible! If a smokin' hot guy came up to me and handed me a love letter, I would want to read it immediately! I would read it over and over and over again because I would want to remember everything he said! Well guess what! That's what the Bible is! It is a love letter written to me! If I was in the middle of the most gruesome, bloody fight and my commanding officer came up to me and said, "I just want to let you know that you are doing an awesome job out here! I am so proud of you! I have this letter for you. Inside is everything you need to know in order to win this battle and get home alive." Wouldn't I rip that thing open and memorize every tactic and promise of success? Of course I would! Well guess what! That's what the Bible is. It is a battle plan that God wants me to have and know.
Number 2: I want to be fearless in sharing the news about Jesus and completely unashamed. My prayer is that whenever I open my mouth, God would give me the words to fearlessly proclaim the news of Jesus and that His holy name would spread! What is there to be afraid of? Jesus has already conquered everything! Even death! There is no reason for me to be afraid of what Jesus has already conquered.
Number 3: I can do something now. People try to tell me that once I've done this, this, this, this, and this, THEN I'll be able to do something significant. But Jesus says, "I'm the One who's going to do something significant! I'm going to raise you from the dead! And the day that happens is the day you start proclaiming the power and mystery of the gospel and that's the reason you're alive! So go and do that with everything you've got RIGHT NOW!" Therefore, wherever I am, whatever I'm doing, I can do that in Jesus' name and for His glory! I can do that because Jesus is King of whatever, whenever.
Number 4: Y'all, I can't wait to get to Heaven. I mean, seriously. I can't wait to be able to praise God all the time, surrounded by tens of thousands of believers, and hold my arms up and them not ever get tired, my voice never fail. I can't wait to be in the presence of my Jesus and absolutely weep for the joy of finally being complete...of finally being Home.