Thursday, March 10, 2011

Perfection Desired...Not Yet Attained

I was pondering today how perfect I am. (Why are you laughing?)

OK. Well I was a perfect child/teenager. (Ask my siblings. They hated me for my perfection. Well I could at least act perfect most of the time.)
(The loud burst of laughter that just exploded from your mouth is totally unacceptable for a post with this level of seriousness!) ***raising my eyebrow at you***

Alright, alright! This blog was intended for honest reflection, so here it goes. I have been perfect a few times in my life. I was sleeping.

ALRIGHT!! The truth is that I was banging my head against the wall in despair over the fact that I am getting as old as I am and am still not nearly where I want to be! The really scary part is that I am starting to see my sinful nature reflected in my son. He is already displaying my tendency towards selfishness in a terribly scary manner. (No, I am not coming out of the bathroom just because you have a piece of fuzz stuck between your toes! ((He has a few strange compulsions. He gets that from his dad.)) )

I continue to ponder the fact that deep in my heart I truly do desire perfection, it just always seems to elude me. As a Christian I have the perfect example to attain to in the person of Jesus Christ. I am constantly amazed at His grace and the way He loves me and my heart's desire is to reflect that love to others. Only one thing stands in my way: sin nature.

There is currently a saucepan sitting in my sink with a horrible scorch stain gracing the bottom of it. I have tried multiple ways to remove that stain. I soaked it in dish soap and water, but it still wouldn't come off. I tried to cover it up (out of sight, out of mind) but it was still there when I needed the pan. I tried to scrub it off with my dishcloth, but it just wasn't strong enough to remove the stain. I even in desperation had the brief thought cross my mind to use the pan as is, but I am a little too particular about cleanliness for that! This stain has plagued me for days!! I have finally realized that without the right tool, this stain is never coming off. I need an SOS pad. Disappointingly, I don't have one. I have a multiple choice decision here. I can:

A. give up in complete despair.

B. continue to fruitlessly attempt to get rid of the stain under my own power and waste hours of my life in complete futility only to find that in the end, it will still be stained.


C. I can find the only tool that will ever remove the stain and work to get rid of it using that tool.

That tool for my pan is an SOS pad. That tool for my sin is the blood and continual purification of Jesus Christ. For the sake of continuity lets call it

S anctification
O nly by
S acrifice.

(You didn't know I could be that clever did you? :))

The awesomeness of Christ's sacrifice never ceases to amaze me. As a stained pan, I was never going to be worthy for His use on my own. Out of His love and desire for me, He provided a tool that would rid me of my stain. However,I do still have responsibilities. I still have to constantly purify myself through the "washing of the water of the Word" and keep myself clean by constantly choosing to turn my back on sin and actively "walk in the Spirit".

Alas, in spite of my childhood delusions of perfection (I really was close), through my own efforts I will never grow beyond my sinful tendencies. Now though I can constantly strive for it through the way He has made for me. I frequently wonder how he can love a stained pot such as I. That love is what gives me the desire to submit to my scrubbing so that I can be a shiny pot that is not only useful to my Master, but that can reflect His beauty-and maybe someday reach perfection. :)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Letter to My Single Sisters

It was recently brought to my attention how difficult it can be to be single. I am not so far from that stage in life to have forgotten how frustrating it can be to be on the lookout for the perfect soul mate. Someone brought to my attention that statistics have shown that married people are happier than single people, but I have a theory about this (of course!) Perhaps single people are not as happy because they are lead to believe that they shouldn't be as happy until they are married. This letter is meant to be an encouragement and also a challenge to my sisters who are still in the single stage of life. I want to also say that anything I write here does not mean that I am unhappy in my marriage. I love being a wife and momma and wouldn't trade it! However, I want to use the fact that I have been single and am now married to challenge my sisters to a new way of thinking.

First, you are not in a waiting stage of life. You need to realize that you are living right now! You have an opportunity in singleness that you will never have again and you need to use it to the fullest. You will never be able to serve God in the same capacity that you can now. This is what Paul meant when he said that the single person is focused on the things of God and the married person is focused on the the needs of their spouse (that is completely my paraphrase!). If you and your spouse are totally focused on serving God together than you will be able to serve God in ways that you cannot as a single woman, but in reverse you will never be able to serve God the same as what you can when you are single.

This thought is mostly for fun! You need to enjoy your singleness because doing the fun things that you can do now will be a lot harder when you have other people to think about! Again, there will be so many fun things that you can do as a couple (or family!) that you couldn't do when single, but it works in reverse as well. Being a wife and mom is so much fun, but don't waste the fun opportunities that you have now by thinking that you are just here to pass time. We were not intended to be married the day we were born. Does that mean that you are supposed to "wait" your first twenty some years away? Use this time to make deep friendships, have lots of coffee, travel, find creative ways to serve God and others and learn to use your time to the fullest right now. Relish your singleness!

I want to say a few things now to challenge you. The truly beautiful essence of marriage is learning to lay down your life for the other person. It is a lot harder done than said. So many of us spend our single years looking for the perfect marriageable partner, but how marriageable are you? You have an opportunity to use this time to refine your character into one that will be an asset to a truly beautiful, God-honoring marriage. I am not saying that you are required to become a trampled nobody, but I am saying this: I never realized how truly selfish I am until I got married and had a child. When both you and your spouse truly lay down your own wants and needs and strive to bless the other at all times than you have found the beauty of marriage. Let me tell you, it is not easy! And being a momma makes life even more challenging! As far as my son is concerned, Rachael Dornbirer no longer exists. I am "momma" and my sole purpose is to feed, clothe, change and play with him on his timing. :) It is the most beautiful, rewarding, challenging and scary position I have ever held and you have the opportunity to prepare for that.

Who do you think about when you come home tired from work? Are you able to forget what you want to do in lieu of what needs done? Or on what someone else needs? How often do you ask "What about me?!"? Is there anything in your life that may be a stumbling block to a God-honoring marriage such as ungodly ambition, selfishness, celebrity idols, or mixed up priorities?As a side note: if you think that having celebrity idols (singers, actors, movie or book characters etc.) is not going to be detrimental in a marriage allow me to challenge your thinking. If you idolize these people who appear so perfect you will end up, whether consciously or unconsciously, comparing your husband and marriage to a fantasy that will eventually have bad consequences on a marriage. You may also find that you are looking for a man that has the character qualities you see in these idols only to find that it is not what you wanted after all.

Living for God and others will become even more challenging when you are married. If you are the one sitting on the throne of your heart than you may have a rough wake-up call when you get married. Self-sacrificing does not come naturally the day you say your vows. If you take this time now to make sure that God is the one sitting on the throne of your heart than you are on your way to being ready for a truly beautiful, God-focused marriage.

If you are constantly in a stage of waiting than you will never be content even when you think you have arrived. You will constantly be waiting for the next thing and you may never learn to enjoy the current time until it is gone and you regret it. If God has you in a stage of singleness now than that is where you are the most blessed and if you were married out of his timing, you wouldn't be happy anyway. You have an amazing opportunity to look at yourself, prepare for the future and enjoy your life in the stage you are in now. Marriage is a beautiful thing. Singleness is just as beautiful if you learn to live it as such. If you learn the beauty of your life now, it will carry over into when your road combines with that of another and you are no longer an individual but half of a whole. And that will make your life now and your future marriage all the more beautiful.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Barrier of the Law

The topic of this blog post is rather controversial but has much bearing on the way we live our lives. I am not attempting to convince anyone of one way or the other of thinking especially since this is a topic I am still currently exploring. My husband and I have made a diligent attempt to learn to read God's word for exactly what it says in the context of all that is written, without using the influence of our own or other's worldviews to interpret the meaning of the Scripture. We have used this approach as we have begun to explore the following topic which is if we as believers are obligated to follow the law. The following post will be multiple Scriptures that we have studied and a few thoughts mixed in. I highly encourage anyone reading this to study what God's word says for yourself and ask Him to teach you what you should conclude. I will put Scriptures in black and my thoughts in green. I will then sum up my thoughts at the bottom of this post. Please bear with me as this is a topic I am still exploring and feel free to let me know any thoughts you all might have!

Matthew 5:17-19 "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. "

I want to make two points here. One is that fulfil does not mean to get rid of. It means to accomplish, to obey, to do, to satisfy. He came to fully satisfy what the law could not do, which is bring we imperfect people to complete righteousness in order that we may be children of God. The other point is that the only Scriptural commands that Jesus would have had would have been the Old Testament or the Torah.

1John 3:4-10 " Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother."

IF ("if" being the operative word) we are abiding in him, we will not live in sin. This does not mean that when we become believers we will no longer ever sin, but rather that as long as we are totally walking in the Spirit we will not walk in sin since sin is contrary to the Spirit of God. But what is sin? Sin is the transgression of the law.

John 14:15; 21 "If ye love me, keep my commandments.....He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him."

Revelation 12:17 "And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, AND have the testimony of Jesus Christ." (emphasis mine).

I put an emphasis on the "and" to point out that these people in the end times have the testimony of Jesus Christ, but they also keep the commandments of God.

1 John 5:2-3 "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, AND keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous." (emphais mine)

Notice again that we love God AND we keep his commandments. It also says that His commandments are never grievous.

1 John 2:1-5 "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. "

Romans 2:13 "(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified."

Habakkuk 2:4 "Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith"

I have to comment on the above two verses as I learned something specific about these two verses. Paul quotes the verse in Habakkuk in Romans and also later in Galatians 3 which I quote later in this post. The word "just" means righteous or saved. The word "live" means not only pertaining to a lifestyle but it also means "perfected". Therefore the righteous man shall be perfected or completed by his faith.

Galatians 5:1-4 "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace." (emphasis mine)

If you read the entire chapter (or book as most of Galatians is on this topic) Paul is not saying that the law is bondage or that if we follow one law we are in debt to do all of it. Paul's point seems rather to be that those who think they are saved by following the law are still in bondage to the curse of the law which is that we will always fall short and deserve death. Christ is the fulfillment of that law by giving us the grace we need to get to the Father. It is not bondage to do the law, but rather it is bondage to think we can be perfect enough to do the whole law or to be justified by circumcision which was a sign that they were of the chosen people of God. They would still fall short and still needed Christ. This however does not appear to be an excuse to ignore the law.

Romans 3:29-31 "Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law."'

According to this verse which appears pretty cut and dry to me, we do not void or obliterate the law through faith but we establish it. Establish: to cause to be accepted or recognized; to show to be valid or true; prove; to enact; to bring about permanently; to bring into being on a firm or stable basis. He justifies, or makes us completed, through or by faith, but this does not void out the law.

James 2:14-18 "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body: what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works."

Do we prove we have faith by living God's word in our everyday lives? With works, which we can never be justified or saved by, but that prove that we are children of God?

Galatians 3:10-13 "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree."

This verse is one that I especially want to elaborate on as it is one that has specifically stood out to me. I was always led to believe that the law is the curse that we have been freed from, but if you read this Scripture very carefully you will notice that it is the curse OF the law. It says right at the beginning of this scripture that those that do not obey the law are cursed. Therefore the curse is not the law itself, but rather the curse is what is brought by the introduction of the law, which is death. The law was established to show us what sin is. Breaking the law is sin. Sin causes death and permanent separation from God. That is the curse. Christ came to be made a curse for us which redeemed us from death, separation from God, and sin; NOT from the law itself. We are still obligated to not walk in sin, not to justify ourselves, but rather because we are God's children. We love Him therefore we keep His commands and it is a sign to unbelievers that we are saved. Since breaking the law is sin does that mean we are still supposed to follow the law?

Galatians 3:21"Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus."

I want to use this Scripture to go ahead and summarize my thoughts. The law is our schoolmaster to show us what sin is. We can strive to live sinless lives, but we will always fall short. Christ came to fulfill the law by bringing about what the law was sent to do, but could never accomplish: making us perfect and righteous enough to become children of the holy, living, righteous God. We learn of our shortcomings through the law; we are perfected by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ; we then establish the law and walk in the Spirit living lives that honor God and flee from sin. Sin is the breaking of the law.

In conclusion I wonder if this means we are still supposed to obey the law. I also want to point out that when Jesus summed up the law with loving God and loving our neighbor, that this is not an abolishment of the law, but rather He is taking the entire law and summarizing it in a few words: Love God, love your neighbor (which by the way means laying down our lives for Him and others). Not out of obligation or to justify ourselves, but rather to live lives that honor God, to show His love to others and ultimately to love Him. I also would like to propose a thought: Is it possible that if we truly love God and walk in His ways that following His laws will not be a yoke of rote, heavy rules, but will rather be an expression of the love, joy and devotion that we owe to a God Who has given us more than we even realize ourselves?