Frightened of Sin?

Halloween is this week: Television stations air scary movies. Businesses decorate with cobwebs and spiders. Kids dress up like ghoulish monsters.

When I asked my family what frightens them, my husband responded: “You.”

I don’t blame him.

Last week, our family was working in the yard. I was in good spirits, shoveling gravel with my teenage son and my daughter’s boyfriend. Then I turned around and saw my twelve-year-old Japanese maple lying on the ground. My husband and daughter thought the tree was too close to our house and chopped it down.

Steam didn’t come from my ears, but profanity spewed from my lips. My face didn’t turn red, but if looks could have killed…

Throwing my rake on the ground, I blasted them with my words like bullets from a Tommy gun, and ran away in tears.

Even Jonah from the Bible could not have been more outraged when God appointed a worm and wind to destroy his shade tree.

Why the public confession?

Because a butchered tree may be upsetting, but it does not excuse an ungodly response.

My family apologized profusely; they had no idea. And before the sun set on my anger, I asked them to forgive me. We laugh about my crazed behavior.

But sin is no laughing matter.

It frightens me to know sin lingers in my heart, waiting for an opportune moment to rear itself.

“For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander” (Matthew 15:19).

Isn’t it easy to walk in the Spirit instead of the flesh when there’s no agitation? But add a pinch of stress, a pound of unmet expectations, or a felled tree and suddenly I’m staring at my flawed humanity.

My hope: “If we confess our sin, God is faithful and willing to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 John 1:9).

My consolation: “Karen (my emphasis) was washed clean (purified by a complete atonement for sin and made free from the guilt of sin), and Karen was consecrated (set apart, hallowed), and Karen was justified (pronounced righteous, by trusting) in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11, Amplified version).

My assurance: God uses even this…a felled Japanese maple…to teach me I’m a work in progress, relying on His grace.

God’s Grace is Enough

It’s Communion Sunday. A time of repentance, remembrance, rejoicing.

Repentance ~ Silver plate passes in front of me. I take the bread, symbol of Christ’s broken body. Next comes the fruit of the vine, poured in thimble-sized, plastic cups.

Lord, I don’t deserve this. I’m not worthy.

But still, God loved me enough to send His Son, Jesus to ransom me

So I eat and drink in….

Remembrance ~ For this is My blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28)

Can’t comprehend the magnitude of God’s love, can’t fathom the cost.

But still, I raise my hands and …

Rejoice ~ that God’s grace is enough. I’ve been purchased with His own blood. (Acts  20:28)  and “nothing can separate me from the love of God.” (Romans 8:38,39)

It’s a truth I’ll need to cling to because

That same day, I’m on a walk when a turkey vulture circles overhead; in search of death, a hearty meal.

I think of my “adversary, the devil, who prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to destroy.” (1 Peter 5:8)

Not knowing, that someone is me.

While the sweet fruit of the vine lingers on my lips, I trespass once again. And in a blind moment, God’s grace and love appears dim as I listen to the enemy’s accusations.

Karen, You are not worthy. 

I weep, knowing my best can’t close the gap between my filth and God’s holiness.

But still, God loves me. And His Spirit that dwells within me, because I am purchased by His blood, guides me to a passage that confirms His benevolent grace.

In Zechariah 3:1-4, Satan accuses Joshua, the high priest of Israel, who stands before the angel of the Lord wearing filthy garments. Instead of defending Joshua, God says, “Remove the filthy garments from him. See, I have taken your iniquity from you and will clothe you with festal robes.”  

God’s grace is enough.

Tears cloud my vision, as I read verse 8 aloud, “Behold, I am going to bring in My servant the Branch…and I will remove the iniquity….”  

“The Branch,” Jesus the Messiah, who “was crushed for our iniquities” (Psalm 53:5)

Crushed for MY iniquities, and brought

Reconciliation ~”God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them…. “ (2 Corinthians 5:18)

Defeated, the enemy slinks away in silence; his tail between his legs.

Elated, I rejoice once again that my perfection is based on my relationship with Christ and not my petty performance.

I Love the Imperfection

Last week, I went into an antique store to browse old furniture. The man who worked there showed me a handmade fireplace mantel. He pointed to the scratches in the wood, and the uneven design along the front. Then he caressed a round, black stain on top of the mantel where a wet glass or candle had stood.

“I love the imperfection of it,” he said.

“What did you say?” 

“I love the imperfection,” he repeated, “because that’s what makes antique furniture unique and have character.”

Unique is not a word I’d use to describe the queen-sized bed frame I recently bought. It was manufactured in China, came in a cardboard carton, assembled by yours truly, and seemingly without defect … unlike the reflection of imperfection that stared back at me from a hazy, antique mirror.

I combed my hair with my fingers and left the store asking myself, do I love the imperfection in myself or others?

Absolutely not! I’ve been programmed from birth to look my best, be my best, and do my best.

Imperfection, the flawed condition of humanity, hides behind good intentions and exasperation. “I’m sorry, but I’m doing the best I can!”

But my very best falls short of the commandment to “Be perfect just as my Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

Why would a holy, perfect God love me; the poster child of imperfection?

I try to wrap my mind around His love and grace, but imperfect emotions distort my vision. I return to His Word where truth resides:

And put my faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”(2 Corinthians 5:21)

Earthly perfection is impossible this side of heaven. But like the Apostle Paul, I can be “confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in us will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 1:6)

IF I rest in that knowledge, I can stop striving to be perfect, and instead, “fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith….so that we will not grow weary and lose heart.”(Hebrews 12: 2,3)

Since my visit to the antique shop, I have enjoyed the warmth of a crackling fire on a winter’s day. The polished wooden mantelpiece is smooth to my touch; it is not old or unique. But the words of a stranger, “I love the imperfection,” stirs my heart because it shows me how God “whose way is perfect” used even this to bring Himself praise.