Banished by Grace

To have the knowledge of good and evil without the perfect judgment of a wise and all-knowing God is a dangerous thing.

To attempt to understand the truth of sin and of righteousness without the flawless mind of the Creator can lead to irrational and insufficient declarations of good and bad.

It’s no wonder God banished Adam and Eve from the garden once they had sampled the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. To live in this muddled state of confusion forever would have been a disastrous story, indeed.

This is why a Savior was necessary — to repeal and to revoke the license of evil and to free us from an eternity of its presence hovering near.

Only a perfect God can sort through this delicate balance of good and evil perfectly.

Only a perfect Savior can ransom the souls of imperfect men perfectly.

This is why I now view Adam and Eve’s banishment from Eden as an act of grace instead of an angry response from a frustrated Creator.

As I ponder the mercy extended alongside this exile, I can’t help but wonder how many other acts of grace have been granted me in this life. Acts of grace which I have mistakenly viewed as Father’s disappointment, or as disapproval, or as let downs seen as unanswered prayers.

Like Adam and Eve, my understanding is skewed from Father’s complete wisdom. That is why His grace poured out sometimes appears as neglect toward my desires when, in truth, that is never the case.

No matter how often I am tempted to believe otherwise, I am not left on my own. My Father notices every detail of the whole of creation, including each nuance of my seemingly insignificant life.

Not one breath is taken without His awareness.

Not one thought skips across my mind without capturing His attention.

And whether I believe it or not, not one prayer goes unanswered.

It’s just that sometimes the answer is simply grace.

A grace all too often misinterpreted by my faltering faith grasping for miracles of a different form.

While I still may wonder at the perfectness of a paradise with so many opportunities for human error, today I choose to see banishment as a blessing.

Some of my dreams banished . . .  for a better way.

Some longings displaced . . . for a higher purpose.

Some prayers left hanging . . .

Because grace has come.

Sometimes in disguise, but always present.

And always, always framed with Father’s perfect love.


To Set the World Aright

Jesus’ disciples went out and “turned the world upside down” in order to set the world aright. But all the orthodox folks of the day stared at them with consternation and frustration, and perhaps a healthy dose of fear, as they faced off with men whose faith proved to be unstoppable.

Some things never change.

Today, we still face off with the ways of God, scratching our heads in bewilderment as we try to make sense of a kingdom so backward to our way of life.

God’s kingdom winds through a maze of oxymoron-ish twists as it calls us to lay down our life in order to live it to the full. With baffling truths, we are challenged to experience things in a manner that runs counter-culture to the world in which we live.

It is better to give than to get.
Humility is where true power lies.
Persecution brings favor and blessing.
The greatest fulfillment is found when you give up your own desires.
A willingness to surrender everything reaps the largest of rewards.
Our strength is greatest when Another bears the load.
And grace is found along a bloody trail leading through suffering and death.

No wonder we humans are confounded by Spirit rules.

In a show of sovereign strength, Jesus lays down His life for His enemies. God in flesh, overcoming flesh to declare the splendor of Spirit reign. The ultimate upset as mercy triumphs over judgment in the blackest of human souls, and Spirit descends to take up residence within the likes of you and me.

Spilled blood becomes the bedrock of heavenly kingdom as Majestic King rises with healing in His hands, embracing all who dare to believe in this love amazing and full.

With human mind, I cannot grasp the why’s and how’s of Savior’s ways, and yet I trust in them. After all,

If I could wrap my mind around you, then I know you would most certainly be too small to wrap new life around me. (excerpt from Steven James’s A Heart Exposed)

And so I continue to cling to what I cannot fathom and simply say “yes” to the wonder of it all. Come, Lord Jesus, and set my world aright . . . even if it means You must first turn some things upside down in me.


An Unalterable Truth

Given the present turmoil of our society, truth seems ambiguous. A floundering concept too shifting to readily grasp, let alone hold onto, as it slips through groping fingers like grains of sand. Solid as granite one minute, then morphing to vapor once a person attempts to take a stand upon it. But the catchword of this falsity is found in those five little letters that spell out “seems.”

Like it or not, the reality of truth is set in just that . . . the reality of truth, regardless of how things “seem.”

No matter the temptation to believe otherwise, truth is certain. Unalterable. Unthreatened by the changing tides of political correctness which could mean one thing today and another tomorrow.

Truth stands even when things my eyes behold make me wonder if it hasn’t upped and packed its bags, moved on to greener pastures — pastures mysteriously devoid of the manure of the masses. At least that’s what I would do. Pack up and move to a place where all is sunshine and rainbows without the acid rain of a world replete with sin’s toxic fallout.

But, thankfully, truth chooses to stay. Standing secure, day after day. Unaffected by the changes occurring all around it. No matter that I am.

Truth continues through the messy and the undefinable. Boldly taking its stance when I’m filled with more questions than answers. Daring me to believe its rightness even when it must go to war with my emotions. Because, let’s face it, truth doesn’t always match up with one’s feelings. But thankfully, it is tenacious enough to withstand them. And to conquer them, albeit sometimes with what appears to be agonizing slowness, as it confronts and overcomes fallacy after fallacy with its relentlessness.

Though life is fleeting, I live with a truth that is timeless. Wrapped in the blood-drenched package of Calvary’s sacrifice, purchased with pierced hands and wounded back of a Savior determined to thrust me from harm’s reach at the expense of His own. A sprawling truth stretching across continents, reaching deep into the worst of cultures, into the blackest of human souls, and extinguishing darkness with the torch of grace. Illuminating the hearts of sinner after sinner and calling them into the light as saints.





Perhaps most astounding of all is the keeping power truth exerts, despite our best efforts to discard it.

Truth holds steady when everything within and without trembles and quakes. In this place of too much and not enough. In the quiet and the clamor. Through the calm or the chaotic. When faced with too many options and not enough filling.

With every cry of “Who am I?” the world is hungering for one answer . . . Truth.

My own cries join with the masses as I continue to pen question after question. Tentatively wondering when the answers will come, and if I will recognize them when they do.

Yet still trusting enough to voice them.

Trusting Father hears when my heart is prone to doubt.

Resting in the calm assurance that He has not turned His back on a world that has seemingly turned its own on Him.

I wonder.

I pray.

I trust.

I choose.

Hanging my hopes beside a crown of thorns.

Waiting in the shadow of Cross beams for a glimpse of resurrection’s final dawn.

I side myself with truth and stand with lifted eyes.



To Live as Ones Remembered

I, Peter, am an apostle on assignment by Jesus, the Messiah, writing to exiles scattered to the four corners of the wind. Not one is missing, not one forgotten . . .

Such begins the first letter written by a man on mission, a friend determined to turn the world upside down with his faith in the One who turned Peter’s own life upside down with amazing love. A man bent on sharing the Good News of salvation in Jesus, God’s Son. A man unwavering in reminding his companions that they are not forgotten, no matter how desperate the circumstances in which they find themselves living.

Not one is overlooked.

Not one is missing in action.

Not one is beyond the Savior’s eyes nor past the reach of His gracious goodness.

Not one is forgotten.

This letter is a timeless call to remembrance for Christians everywhere.

In remembering, our faith is strengthened and our resolve to continue on is renewed. It is here we are fortified to look toward the future with hope in our Lord’s coming, and to believe we will be held firmly until that day.

Jesus is the Keeper of our faith. The Constant Companion when our hearts seem as dust scattered to the four corners of the wind, with no way of being pieced back together. We may not have been displaced like the early disciples, fleeing from our homes for our very lives, but sometimes our souls can feel like refugees.

Exiles in a land not our own.

The aches and pains of living press upon us, crushing us from the inside out, pushing us beyond our limits of rest and comfort. Sometimes we feel pursued, anxiously looking over our shoulder for the enemy lurking in the shadows, determined to take us out when we least expect it. And sometimes we falter beneath an enemy of our own making, bending under the weight of burdens we were never meant to bear on our own.

No matter the source, thoughts gone astray can carry us far from truth’s dwelling, tempting us to feel alone and abandoned.



This is why we need the reminder of remembrance.

As Peter states: When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of His victory.

This victory does not hang on our own accomplishments or the riches we’ve attained in this life, nor is it contingent upon our own power to persevere. Jesus is both the Giver and the Keeper of our faith. This faith is His victory trophy to flaunt before Satan and all of hell’s demonic hordes. A total win of blowout proportions! A salvation that is complete and final in the grandest of all upsets!

So then, let us live as ones pulled into a way of life shaped by our Savior’s own. Given over daily to the One who gave it all to hold us steady through it all. Surrendered body, mind, and spirit to this God-life freely granted.

May we celebrate our salvation, even when we seem distanced from our final destination.

Even when hope hangs precariously in our grip, dangling by a thin thread of frail belief.

May we look to the One whose gaze has never wavered, whose hand has never loosened its hold on the assurance of our victory. And who even now is preparing for a celebration, the likes of which humanity has never known.

Here in this scattering, may we live as ones remembered. . . by the One who never forgets.


A Perfect Blend

One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that You, O God, are strong, and that You, O God, are loving.  — Psalm 62:11-12

God is a perfect blend of strength and love. He is powerful enough to overcome every trial and temptation in my life, and the tool He wields to thwart it all is love.

It is His love that holds me steady and gives me hope to rise above every circumstance before me.

It is His love that arms me with strength for the battle . . . one more time.

It is His love that draws me near, assuring me all is well when by appearances life is anything but.

Choosing to believe in the goodness of Father’s love is what changes me day by day. Trusting His love will always win out over me and my stubbornness. Even when I struggle and pull against His will. Even when I feel inadequate and depleted. Even when I fail utterly. It is the strength of Father’s love which tugs me back to His heart, bridging this gap of separation. Forgiving my sin and covering my flaws with the perfectness of His grace given again.

God’s love is strong, and God’s strength is love.

This is the freedom I walk in as His child. Not a list of dos and don’ts to which I cannot possibly adhere. Not a continual striving to be good enough or deserving enough, nor the constant fear of never being good enough. But an invitation to rest in a grace that convicts without condemnation. A beckoning to bend toward a love that is patient and long-suffering while it waits for me to come to my senses and turn my wayward heart toward righteousness. A bidding to yield to a perfect Father who welcomes me to change my ways and conform to His, while giving me the very strength to do so.

God is the epitome of 1 Corinthians 13 because God is love personified.

God is love that resides in the power of being patient with His children, wooing hearts with kindness instead of demanding in anger.

God remains unflinching in His gentleness, continually forgiving offenses incurred against Him.

He keeps no record of wrongs. (Are you awed by that fact as much as I am?!?)

My Father rejoices when I come to grips with truth, slow learner though I may be.

God’s powerful love never gives up on me. He never loses faith that I will become all He has created me to be.

God remains hopeful about everything concerning me. Period.

Nothing can dim His affection for me.

Nothing can separate me from the mercy of a God who died to lay claims to my life.

This is the freedom in which you and I are invited to live — abundantly and without end — this perfect blend of love and power poured out on our behalf.

Open your ears and hear His word, then grasp the truth of it with all your heart: You, O God, are strong, and You, O God, are loving.

May we rest in the strength of His fierce love today . . . and always.

I’m including a link to Jeremy Riddle’s song Furious. It’s one of my personal favorites, and a wonderful reminder of God’s powerful love. If you need a bit of spiritual CPR, be encouraged. His love is fierce, His love is strong — and it’s waking hearts to life.

May yours be the next in line, my friend. Go ahead, take a deep breath and enjoy the awakening.


Our Bad Banished for Good

“Mommy, why do they call it Good Friday when it’s the day Jesus died?”

I’m sure I’m not the only little girl who’s ever asked her mommy that question. I still remember her response in telling me that the “good” was meant for us. That without Jesus dying on the Cross for our sins, there would be no way to save us from them.

While I accepted the simplicity of my mom’s statement those many years ago, the question continued to roll through my mind for many more years’ worth of Good Fridays to come.

Sometimes the simplest answers give birth to the deepest of life’s truths.

Sometimes the deepest of life’s truths take a lifetime to prove their legitimacy.

And sometimes those same questions continue to be asked.

Today I lean toward Calvary’s whispers and once again ponder that long ago question as I wonder why it had to be this way. Why does God demand the outpouring of life and love partnered alongside suffering and blood?

And still I find myself resolving to believe my mom’s simplistic answer. I admit I’ve yet to come to grips with understanding Father’s ways, Oh, I could study the theology behind the meaning of the “blood” or the “fulfillment of the Law” and determine to throw my hat in with any number of theories of religious academia. But I think I’ll just stand by my wise mother’s words and trust that “Good” Friday happened because of me.

And you.

And every person on the face of the planet who will accept this amazing gift of grace extended through nail-pierced hands.

Instead of getting caught up in the “whys” of Calvary’s cross, I will content myself to accept its mystery alongside Resurrection’s triumphant shout. The two blend so completely there is no separating them in my heart’s declaration of love anyway.

One cannot stand without the other.

There would be no victory over the grave without the sacrifice of death. Nor would there be hope for death to be conquered without the shattering of sealed tomb.

Both are saturated with a goodness all their own.

Good Friday was for us.

Easter Sunday was for us.

And every moment in between our understanding of the two extremes continues to be for us, too.

May our hearts burn with longing for the One who embraces the intricacies of a love so great as Calvary’s suffering and so powerful as to rip temple veil and conquer earth’s tomb. A love that stretches heavenly hands to sear us upon Father’s heart through the scars of His only son.

Our bad banished for good.

Perhaps that is the real treasure of Good Friday.

So come as you are, dear one. Come again into the shadow of the Cross and allow yourself to be emptied and consumed by its suffering on your behalf, then walk with uplifted head in the light of a deserted tomb declaring your freedom.

For now.

And for forever.

And for all those in-between moments when doubts seem to be speaking louder than faith.

He is good, beloved.

And His goodness is for all who will believe.



Undo and Remake Me

The sad truth is, we want a God to save us without changing us.

No expectations of growth, no undue responsibilities tugging us toward maturity. Just salvation that costs us nothing, a free ticket to heaven without the transfer of holiness within.

But acceptance without sacrifice is not the way You work.

Salvation is free, but it is not cheap.

Being Your disciple is the best way of life, but not necessarily the easiest.

Lord, help me to receive what You offer on the terms You set instead of trying to barter my way through Kingdom-living. Make me more aware of You than my own infantile wants. More given to Your desires than constantly giving in to worldly cravings that leave me empty.

To not only live with You, but to live within You, wrapped up in Godhead deity. To press against and toward, leaning more upon Your word of truth than the frailty of my own understanding. Consumed with the servanthood of Jesus, mapped out for me to follow steadfastly.

Let me be fluid enough to turn easily, swayed by Your wisdom which wars against the policies of society’s pull. Keep me dependent on mercy, reminded always that my need for it is great but never beyond Your capacity to give. Let nothing entangle my heart more than this captivity of grace and truth working hand-in-hand to raise redemption high.

May the banner of Your love not just cover but conform me to Your image as You draw me further into Your presence day by day. Rescue me from the arrogance of thinking I am somehow good enough without Your perpetual intervention.

Unravel the lies within me to stitch a miracle of glory to Your name alone.

Undo and remake me.

But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God — truly righteous and holy . . .  And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. (Ephesians 4:20-24,30)

Do you ever find yourself making excuses for sinful habits in your life? I’m not talking about mistakes that you may fall into occasionally, but rather, a habitual bent toward an ungodly attribute that lingers even though you know it should not. Something that runs contrary to God’s will even if it might run according to society’s say so.
When we choose to accept the gift of salvation, we should also choose to align our lives according to its policies — the fact that we are given a new life in Christ. A life no longer under the authority of sin, but one given power to overcome the lust and deception to which we previously caved. If you are in Christ, you are a new creation. May you turn to God’s grace to live as such and find help in your time of need, a help to overpower the temptations that once drew you into godless living.
Let this new mind of Christ take over your old way of thinking about things as you surrender your desires to the Spirit’s sway. What habits do you need to turn over to Him today so you can walk in the freedom found in His life alive in you?