Category Archives: choices

The Shack

I read the book “The Shack.”  Twice.  I also saw the movie … with a friend who also read the book.  We both teared up watching God’s love in action.  For one broken man, lost in his grief and drowning in his anger.  A man who lost much, including his faith.

The Shack

A fictional story.  But one I believe is totally possible.

 

Now let’s stop here for a minute.  Because you may want to argue and fuss and disagree with me.  To convince me I am wrong.  To badger me into changing my mind.  But you won’t.  So please save us both the headache.  I am not asking you to agree with me.  I am not asking you to affirm I am right (or good).  I am only asking you to respect my faith as I respect yours.  I know who I am, and I know who God is – and these deeply rooted truths cannot be swayed with any argument or persuasion.  So if you don’t agree with me about this book, please, let’s agree to disagree – respectfully.

 

Yes, I know “The Shack” is a work of fiction.  But I believe “The Shack” can happen.  Today.  To anyone.  Because I believe in an all-powerful God who performs miracles all the time.  I believe in an agape-loving God who loves us more than we will ever know and works us toward maturity within that love.  I believe in an omniscient God who knows all and therefore knows how to get us to the best version of ourselves.

 

I believe He is a loving Father who meets us exactly where we are.  In our mess.  In our anger.  In our suffering.  In our pain.  In our fear.  In our hardheartedness.  In our apathy.  In our indifference.  In our carelessness.  In our selfishness.  In our angst.  In our hopelessness.

 

And none of this scares Him away from wanting to be with us.  None of this causes Him to leave us or walk away from us.  None of this effects how much He loves us.

 

In fact, I think any of these things compel Him to pursue us.  Because He knows we need Him.  Because He knows only His love can fill in our gaps.

 

Which is, again, why I believe “The Shack” is possible.  Because Mack was lost.  Mack was angry.  Mack was hurting.  And Mack was so wrapped up in his great grief that he wouldn’t let God’s love, mercy, and hope in.  Mack was so consumed in his great anger that forgiveness would never be an option.

 

And Mack’s darkness and anger were so great that he was stuck.  He was clinging to the past and slowly destroying his family in the present.  He was constantly reliving his grief, slowly massacring hope and peace in the present.  He was refusing to forgive and let go, slowly eroding his sanity and compassion in the present.  And as he ruined his present, he was also ruining his future and that of his children.

 

And here is the brutal truth – we are all Mack.  We all have at least one person, place, or thing that has hurt us deeply.  Possibly shaken the core of our faith and caused us to doubt God’s love.  We have all come to the intersection of pain and truth and had to choose which way we would go.  We have all had to wrestle with our feelings that were pulling us away from God.  Just like Mack.

 

And eventually, like Mack, we come to the place where our pain is so great that we have no choice but to face it.  We return to the shack, the place or event that broke our spirit, and we wrestle with truth in the quest to find it.

 

And there we find ourselves.  For we are the shack.  A broken place more prone to darkness than light, with an air of desolation and unworthiness.  A place of pain and sorrow – whether self-inflicted or at the hand of someone else.  A lost place in the middle of a forest, stuck in isolation and separation.

 

And just as God met Mack at the shack, at his lowest point, so too He meets us.  He invites us back to our place of pain – and mixes our tears with His love to sprinkle it over our desert-laden heart.  Where He plants the seeds of love, joy, peace, hope, forgiveness, endurance, steadfastness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness within us – cultivating out the weeds one at a time as we accept His work in us.  And the whole time He whispers “I am especially fond of you” to us, encouraging us to (once again) believe in His love and surrender to His grace.

 

God wants us to love at all times.  Just like He taught Mack.  The man whose hardest moment was having to say, out loud, “I forgive you” toward the man who killed his youngest daughter.  It was so painful for him, having held on so tightly to his anger, to even consider opening his heart a little to let love in.  But he had come to the place, with God’s help, of wanting to be free of the pain that was eating him alive.  So he said it.  And with every step he took from the cave containing his daughter’s body back to the shack, he repeated it.  Praying with each declaration that it would take root in his heart and he would be able to say it and mean it and finally be free.

 

And the best part of the story is that Mack does find freedom.  He does come to embrace the love God so openly and graciously offers him.  The love that he realizes never left him.  The love that inspires him to go back and live life to the full.

 

And so too can we.  As individuals.  And as a group of believers.

 

Because we are each part of God’s story.  We are included in His chapters of love, grace, hope, and forgiveness.  We are worth redeeming.  Just like Mack.  Just like the shack.

 

So if you didn’t read the book or see the movie, here’s my takeaway – God loves you.  More than you can ever imagine.  Mack is proof.  His story may not be real, but God’s love always is.

 

Marie Fremin.  6/4/17

God’s Best

God keeps bringing my thinking back to His best.

 

When I at look at my choices, He nudges me to ask “what is My best for you?”

When I decide on my reactions to people, He nudges me to ask “what is My best for you?

When I consider my actions, He nudges me to ask “what is My best for you?”

 

Because God’s standards are high – but never impossibly unreachable.  They are perfectly complete to fulfill us, to fashion us, and to reform us.  He doesn’t want less than His best for us.  Because then we are less than the image of Jesus and off course from His perfect purpose for us.

 

God is the author of best.

God is the definer of best.

God is the maintainer of best.

 

And so He keeps bringing my thinking back to what He considers best.  Reminding me that He knows best.  That He plans best.  That He thinks best.  That he says best.  That He loves best.  That he does best.  That He forgives best.

 

That he knows best.  Oh, wait, I already said that one.  But it is so important that I need to repeat it.  Over and over and over to myself, until it starts to sink in as unshakable truth.

 

When God asks us to do, He means we need to move, to go, to do.  And He knows best.  When God asks us to forgive, He means we need to let go, to release, to move on.  And He knows best.  When God asks us to pray, He means for us to seek Him, to listen to Him, to choose His will (over our own).  And He knows best.  When God asks us to give, He is asking us to spend for His purposes, to give into His will, to donate toward His love.  And He knows best.  When God asks us to listen, He means to stop talking, stop formulating a response (lame reason), to actually hear the Word being spoken over us.  And He knows best.

 

Best.  Not justifying our (wrong) choices to Him.

Best.  Not rationalizing our (bad) behavior to Him.

Best.  Not denying the mistakes (will errors) we make to Him.

Best.  Not ignoring the tug of the Spirit within us.

Best.  Not hoping God isn’t paying attention or watching us do as we please.

Best.  Not reasoning God will be alright with our (selfish) choices.

 

Best is being on board with God.  Especially when you don’t want to because it is hard and requires sacrifice.

 

Because we all struggle with something outside of God’s best for us.  And that struggle is real and painful and hard.  But in letting go of what we want and reaching for His best instead we could experience the beginning of something amazing.  Going through the struggle – and overcoming – could open the door for us to know and experience His best.  And it always starts with a choice.  MY choice.

 

Ask the sinful woman in John 8.  “Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?’” (John 8:3-5)

God's Best

First, stop.  Stop judging her.  Stop criticizing her in your head.  Because we all have adultery in our lives.  We all have something wrong, to varying degrees, that we are choosing to do.  We are all this woman, standing in front of a judgmental crowd with little to nothing to cover our sins.  The only difference is this woman got caught – and shamed – in a public setting to trick Jesus into a corner.  So stop judging her this minute.

 

And find compassion on a woman who made a mistake.  Who was most likely set up to make this mistake.  And who had such a serious mistake brought into a very public arena.  Where she had to stand, possibly only in a bed sheet clutched tightly around her, and not flinch at the harsh gleam of judgment in people’s eyes.  With loud voices crying out for her demise all around her.  And probably trembling, with tears glistening in her eyes, she probably pondered her life.  How one wrong choice led to another in (rapid) succession – and trying to figure out how exactly it led her to this public square.  Deserving of contempt but secretly desperate for compassion.

 

And Jesus holds her life literally in His hands in this moment.  She assumes her end is near, and she probably tries to make peace with God.  When she is startled back to reality with a surprising statement – “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7).

 

What?  He will not condemn her?  He will not convict her?  Could that be a spark of hope renewed in her?

 

It was too much for her to believe God’s best could be for her.  Not after all her choices.  It was too impossible to believe God could forgive her.  Redeem her.  Release her.  But God’s best was present, and it was ready to do all this for her.

 

Because as she stood in amazement, the miracles kept coming.  One by one her accusers slink off, silently sullen and self-convicted.  And soon she is alone with Jesus.  The unbelievable man who refused to throw any stones at her.

 

She is still scantily clad.  She is still a broken woman.  She is still wrapped in the shame of her sinful choices.  So now, when there were no witnesses, would He pick up a stone?  Surely now the pretense would be over.

 

But God continues to pour His best over this woman.  Still more than she could have hoped for.  “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8:11).

 

Go in the flow of My best.  Which frees you from the shackles of your past and the shame of your choices.  Go in the freedom of My best.  Which has given you the opportunity to go back into the world a different woman who can and will make better choices.  Go in the force of My best.  Which includes a love unconditional and unshakable and undeniable.

 

And I choose to believe she stood up straight and made a few new life choices.  I think she realized the power of God’s love and let it bring out the best in her.

 

So what is your adultery?

Where are you stuck?

How far are you from God’s best?

 

Is it unforgiveness?  Is it criticism?  Is it revenge?  Is it selfishness?  Is it gossip?  Is it stinginess?  Is it coldness?  Is it harsh words?  Is it judgment?  Is it lust?  Is it impurity?  Is it impure thoughts?  Is it overspending?  Is it addiction?

 

It is never too late to start again or anew.  It is never too late to choose His best.

 

Maybe we can both start today.  By putting down our defenses and letting go of our excuses.

 

So we can be open and free to find and receive His best for us.  He is waiting eagerly to give it to us!

 

Marie Fremin.  6/3/17

Resentment

Am I the only one this week who feels the loving elbow of God nudging itself somewhat forcefully into her ribs?

 

It’s OK if I’m the only one.  Because I am in a season – or I guess more specifically a valley – where God and I are wrestling out another piece of my broken human spirit.

 

And as of today, this piece now has a name.  Resentment.

resentment 1

Getting to work this morning, the first thing I encountered was a message that exemplifies the spirit of my office – “that’s not my job … that’s your job”.

 

And upon reading that, the dark cloud hanging over my head for a few days (OK, maybe weeks), gloomy yet unnamed, suddenly had a name.  And that name is resentment.

 

What is weighing me down is resentment.  That darkness that creeps a few steps deeper into my consciousness is resentment.  And it is an overall ugliness of mind, tongue, and attitude that wants to consume me like the cloud that covers Pigpen in Peanuts cartoons.

resentment 2

So I never see clearly.

So I never think rationally.

So I never speak grace-fully.

 

And there resentment hangs a black cloud over my head, slowly blowing its breeze of depression and oppression over me.

 

And since I accept the breeze and breathe it in, I am slowly becoming a walking epitome of resentment.

 

I am angry.

I am mad.

I am furious.

I am upset.

I am anxious.

I am frustrated.

I am sad.

I am honestly a little disgusted.

 

I am all kinds of levels of crazy and messed up.  Because I have fed into the spirit of resentment.  I have given it a place.  I have allowed it space.  And therefore it is hindering my race.  I am off-track of God’s purpose and off-course of God’s grace.

 

Because I am letting “it is not my job” and “that is not my problem” attitudes affect me.  I am allowing resentment to come in, sit down, and participate in the day.

 

And this is the boom God dropped on me in just in a few minutes this morning.  God and I had a serious moment when I started seeing all of this clearly and when my angst was given a name.

 

And there was actually a moment of celebration.  Yes, really.  No joke.  Why?

 

Because now I can tame what has been named.  Because now I can claim God’s grace over what has been named.

 

I can now tame – and completely stop – the influence of resentment in my life.

I can now tame – and completely still – my agitated thoughts and careless tongue.

I can now tame – and completely silence – my bad/ugly/hostile attitudes.

 

Because my angst has a name.  And because it does, it is subject to God’s authority.  Philippians 2:9-11 – “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  Everything on earth is subject to His glorious name.

 

Including resentment.

 

So now the challenge becomes how do I deal with it.

 

What’s the battlefield?  Every minute of every day of human life.

More narrowly?  The hours spent at work.

 

What’s the victory?

Not letting resentment consume me.

Not letting resentment define my emotional state.

Not letting resentment guide/influence my choices.

 

Because resentment is a valley.

 

And we aren’t supposed to live or stay in the valleys.  We aren’t supposed to bunk down or camp out in the valley.  Because the valley is only a testing ground.  It is the place of decision where we have to decide to put our faith into action.  It is the passageway from one victory to the next.  It is the place where we are strengthened by truth and encouraged by progress to continue our journey.  The valley is where we decide – and then declare – God is faithful and true.

 

So why am I stuck, mired down in resentment?  Because I have forgotten that we have to do what God says and to move in His direction when we are in the valley.  We have to keep moving toward the given way out instead of standing still.  We have to be like David and run in faith with the great hope of grace (1 Samuel 17:48).

 

But I have not been trying to get out of the valley of resentment.  Instead, I have been building walls and stacking them as high as they can go.  I have not been walking through.  Instead, I have planted my feet firmly and refused to move.  I have not tired to be or do better, in any way.  Instead, I have chosen to embrace resentment and wallow in her ways.

 

So what’s the hard truth this time?  Resentment is NOT God’s best for me.  It never will be.  Because resentment keeps me stuck, unmoving and unchanging, in its deadly quicksand-like vise.  Because resentment keeps me from letting go of what does not promote God’s goodness or propel God’s plans.

 

Hebrews 12:1 – “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

 

I am not running toward God.  I am clinging to resentment.  I am weighing myself down with foolishness and trapping myself in resentment’s sinful web.

 

And I own this.  Fully and completely.  Therefore, God’s grace can begin its healing and restorative work.

 

Because resentment cannot hide in the shadows or stay cloaked in darkness once it is named.  It has a name now.  It is known now.  Its effects are seen now.

 

Romans 5:3-5 – “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

 

Now hope can invade all resentment’s spaces and fill me up with grace.

Now hope can begin a new work.

 

Yes, I am still in the valley.

Yes, I am still finding resentment in spaces within my heart.

 

But God is with me.

God is for me.

God loves me.

 

So one day very soon I will be able to triumphantly declare my victory over resentment!

 

Marie Fremin.  5/18 and 5/21/17

Jonah

“This is what anger can do: shatter things – a relationship, a reputation, a promise, a hope.”  – Carol Knapp, Daily Guideposts 2017, February 15th

 

That’s what it did to Jonah.

 

Jonah, the prophet famous for trying to run and hide from God (Jonah 1:3,5) because he did not want to go to Ninevah.  The prophet who compelled the sailors to toss him overboard to save their ship from the violent storm destroying it (Jonah 1:12).  The prophet who “was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17) getting right with God before “it vomited Jonah onto dry land” (Jonah 2:10).

 

The prophet who humbly proclaimed “… But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit” (Jonah 2:6).

 

You would think the man who just went through all that would just go with God’s flow and accept His purposes.  But not Jonah.

 

Now this humbled prophet has wandered outside Ninevah and angrily prayed, “Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:3).  The same man who just experienced three days of compassion and forgiveness with a big dose of redemption is very upset at God (Jonah 4:1) for extending the same things to Ninevah after the entire city, including the king, heard Jonah’s message and truly repented for their evil ways.

 

The same man who just a few days before was begging for mercy – “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me …” (Jonah 2:2) – is now outraged that the city of Ninevah did the same thing – “ … Let everyone call urgently on God … ” (Jonah 3:8).  And it was right that God heard and answered him and gave him another chance.  But it was totally wrong for God to do the same thing for Ninevah (Jonah 3:10).

 

And when I think about it like that, it’s crazy.  I totally get Jonah’s point of view.  I can see him sitting there thinking, “God, are you serious?  You made me spend three days floating in every gross thing imaginable to get my attention and get my apology.  This city hears eight words about their coming doom, makes several grand gestures about being sorry, and You say ‘never mind’.  Are you serious?  They don’t deserve anything good.  I get the fish, and they get nothing?  I had to suffer for the grace you showed me.  Why aren’t you making them suffer too?”

 

And I’ve rowed that boat before.  In fact, I find myself often rolling my eyes over certain things at work.  Like hiring a new shop manager, a man, and offering him more money than I was currently making after being there 4 years.  And thinking it was okay on several levels.  But here’s what I saw – it was wanting the experience he brings at the expense of my 4 years of hard work, long hours, and extreme dedication.  And knowing I bring something to the company he never will – the ability to be able to do my job and his.

 

I could have been like Jonah.  He was “righteously” angry and chose to dwell there.  He set up camp.  He wallowed until he was covered in it.  And he threw a temper tantrum, begging God several times to just let him die.  He refused to extend grace.  He refused to allow grace.  He refused to accept grace in action.

 

And God in that moment could have read Jonah his resume and reminded him of his choices.  He could have rubbed Jonah’s nose in his running away as just page one.  But that’s not who God is.  It’s not who He was with Jonah, and it’s not who He was with Ninevah.

 

But despite personally knowing God’s love in action, he couldn’t accept it for anyone else.  He was convinced God would change His mind, so much so that “he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city” (Jonah 4:5).  Why?  Because “Angry people stir up a lot of discord” (Proverbs 29:22a).

jonah

He could not get past their reputation to accept their repentance.  When that was what God wanted.  His great concern was the people.  Jonah’s great concern was vengeance.

 

So what happened to me at work?  I didn’t seek vengeance.  But I did speak up.  In a somewhat joking manner with a serious undertone.  I wanted it to be known that I did expect to be acknowledged for my years of dedication and hard work.  And I was.  And I’m convinced it was because I was honest without being angry or hostile.

 

The choice was mine, and I think I chose wisely.  Just like the choice was Jonah’s, and he chose selfishly.

 

And today is a new opportunity for us to choose.  We can be Jonah, angry and pouting with our hands tucked securely under our arms and refusing to allow grace.  Or we can be like God, gracious and good and forgiving.

 

Who do you want to be?

Who will you choose to be today?

 

Marie Fremin.  2/15/17 and 3/5/17

Chasing Ghosts

Do you remember the scene in “My Best Friend’s Wedding” where Julia Roberts hijacks a delivery truck and is chasing her best friend Dermot Mulroney, who is chasing his fiancee Cameron Diaz?  Because she has finally come clean to him that she loves him and wants to be with him – just hours before his wedding to Cameron Diaz.  And Cameron sees Julia kiss him and takes off.  So he starts chasing Cameron, which upsets Julia because she expected his declaration of love.  In the middle of the chaos, Julia calls her editor, who makes a hard point – “who’s chasing you?”

chasing-ghosts

She’s so busy chasing Dermot, so focused on catching him and getting her way, that she fails to see the truth.  He didn’t stay with her.  He started chasing Cameron.  Immediately.  Without hesitation.  With purpose and passion.

 

And the realization that he truly loves Cameron is hard.  Because she has to accept that she has had ten years and many opportunities but didn’t take her chance.  And now the moment has passed.  She is chasing a possibility that isn’t available to her.  She has created a life and a future in her imagination that is literally running away from her.  She is chasing a ghost.

 

And I realized I was close to doing the same thing.  Again.  I’ve spent twenty years chasing a memory of a college friend, trying to bring it into my reality, because I remember the sweet girl who cried with me over something hard.  So it did not surprise me that as I planned to go to Murfreesboro for the weekend how I kept thinking how close I would be to my friend.  I could reach out and try to make contact.  But then I would just be Julia Roberts, chasing a memory of someone who was my friend years ago.  Someone who humored me with a quick conversation when I found her every few years but who otherwise never kept in touch.  Someone who called me unevolved and angry and then unfriended me from Facebook.  Someone who changed her phone number and moved without telling me.

 

Yet my first instinct was to try to make contact.  And I have to wonder why I would continue to chase her.  It has been twenty years of my Julia running after her Dermot for a relationship that was from another time and another place.  And I could continue to chase her, but I would be chasing someone who doesn’t want to be a part of my life.  I would be running after someone who isn’t looking back.

 

So I didn’t.  Granted, it’s a lot easier to make the decision with only one possible means of communication available.  But I could have tried.  And I might have, if I had not realized that I was insisting on reliving a sweet memory in the present it when it is clearly anchored in the past.

 

And Jesus has advice for me in these moments.  When He was preparing His disciples to go out, He gave them specific instructions: “11 “Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. 12 And when you go into a household, greet it. 13 If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet” (Matthew 11:11-14).

 

How is this applicable, you ask?  He is reminding the disciples that there are places they will want to be but they may not be welcome.  In those moments, don’t linger.  Don’t long to be accepted.  Don’t wallow and be wistful.  If you are welcome, great.  If you are not welcome, move on.  Don’t chase the ghost of what you think you think you want or think is right when everything is telling you otherwise.

 

Lot’s wife didn’t get it.  As she and her family are being dragged out of the city, they are told something specific – “… Do not look behind you …” (Genesis 19:17).  Don’t turn around and long for the corrupt city that God is about to destroy.  Don’t linger on the compromising life you were leading that kept you from your best relationship with God.  Don’t look back and wish for something that would never love you into fulfillment.  Instead, look forward.  God is saving you.  God is sparing you.  God is showering you with grace instead of brimstone.  Appreciate that.  Worship Him.  But she couldn’t let go of her life in Sodom, so she “… looked back behind …”, her desire to be in the city instead of being grateful obvious.  God knew, “… and she became a pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:26).

 

She was chasing the ghost of her happiness.  Julia was chasing the ghost of unrequited love.  And I was chasing the ghost of a long-lost friendship.  We all wanted something that we decided would make us happy – but none of it was ours to have.

 

So I can keep chasing the ghost of a friend from my early years.  Or I can give her the space she demands and walk away with my sweet memories.  So I choose to “shake off the dust” and trust God to help me remember the good times with a smile.  Which means I didn’t make contact, nor will I.  I can accept this season for what it is while appreciating the former seasons for what they taught me and brought me.

 

So do you have a ghost you are chasing?  Do you have a longing in your eye for something unworthy of you?  Are you holding onto something from the past that is keeping you from fully embracing the present?   Then it’s time to stop.  It’s time to let go.  It’s time to move on.  It’s time to say “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” to chase ghosts or linger in the past (Psalm 23:1).  So let’s stop running after our ghosts.  Let’s keep our ghosts where they belong and chase God instead.

 

Marie Fremin.  2/19/17, 3/3, 3/4/17

Compromise

I was having dinner with a friend last night, and we started talking about dating among singles.  And I mentioned that I find it interesting how we all have something we compromise about.  That one area where we rationalize behavior and thinking we know is wrong even though we know God sets a clear standard in the opposite direction.

 

And I’ll say the same thing here I said last night: I’m not judging anyone else for his/her choices.  I’m not pointing any fingers.  I’m not calling out any names.  I’m not questioning any specific behavior.  I’m just acknowledging what I see to be true: even though we call ourselves Christ followers and profess to love God, we all have at least one thing or one area where we toe the line of righteousness.  Where we know God says “no” but we choose to stop listening.  Where we preach to others how God says to act yet we choose not to let our walk match our talk.  Where we choose to do as we please instead of going the narrow way toward God’s best.

compromise

Ouch!  It would definitely hurt less to have this conversation if I wasn’t throwing myself under the bus too.  But I didn’t exclude myself then – or now.  Sure, I could brag and say I’m honoring Paul’s reprimand in 1 Corinthians 6:18 and am therefore a good Christian girl.  I could boast that I don’t take the Lord’s name in vain and regularly go to church (Exodus 20:7-8) and am therefore a good Christian example.

 

I could come up with a million ways to make myself feel good about the majority of my choices.  But there will still be that one thing or area where I turn away from God’s goodness to do what makes me feel good, happy, whole, or stable.

 

Because no matter how good I am – or how good I “behave” – if I choose to do life my way instead of God’s way, it is sin in the form of compromise.  And compromise is dangerous to my faith.  Compromise draws me away from God’s presence.  Compromise leads me away from God’s grace.  Compromise steers me to challenge God’s truth.

 

Compromise opens the door for me to sin bigger and bolder without remorse or regret.  Because compromise permits me to rationalize any and every choice according to my standards instead of God’s.  One wrong choice leads to a bigger wrong choice, and the cycle continues until we are living life without care of God’s righteousness and will justify everything we do.  Just like James warns us – “Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:15) and Solomon warns us – “There is a way that seems right to a man But its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 16:25).

 

But just because I can justify my choices to myself doesn’t mean I can justify my choices to God.  Because one thing about His Word is that it is clear – God determines right and wrong and tells us exactly where the demarcation line is.  Want to know if you living God’s way or justifying your behavior?  Go to the Word and look HONESTLY at your choices.  “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

 

So what conclusion have I drawn from all this?  Doing life God’s way brings the best rewards – but it requires the hardest and least likable choices (at times).  It requires saying “no” to your flesh, “no” to your emotions, “no” to your hormones, and “no” to your comfort zones.  It requires you making the difficult – or least pleasurable – choice now for best results later.  It requires being fully respectful of yourself, the people you are in relationship with, and the people around you – in actions, in words, in choices, in thoughts.  All of this plus more is what Jesus means in Matthew 7:13-14 – “13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

 

So compromise will come knocking.  You have the choice to answer with welcoming arms and seemingly harmless choices – which will crack the foundation of your faith.  Or you can slam the door shut and choose to live life God’s way – which will seal up your cracks and reassure you of His love.  How will you answer?

 

Marie Fremin.  2/23/17

Mark 5:19

Mark 5:19 – “However, Jesus did not permit him [to come], but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.’”

 

When the demon-possessed man was freed by Jesus and put again “in his right mind”, he was grateful.  So grateful that he wanted to pick up and go with Him whenever He went.  But Jesus said no, because there was something better he could do.  Go home, show off his miracle, and tell people about Him.  Spread the word about how good and gracious God really is, because you are living proof.  Convince your friends that God is loving and caring and compassionate.  They will hear about what happened to you, and they need to hear the truth.  Not what the scared villagers are saying, which is tinged with fear and misunderstanding.  But the truth – that “He has had compassion on you” and that He wants to do the same for them.

mark-5-19

And we each have the same opportunity.  To go.  To tell.  To share.  He calls us out, but then He gives us the choice.  To go or not to go.  And He always hopes we’ll go.

 

So you have the choice in front of you.

 

Don’t sit still.

Don’t hesitate.

Don’t wonder.

Don’t stop.

Don’t balk.

Don’t wallow.

Don’t ask a million questions.

 

Get up and go.

Go where He says.

Go to whom He sends you.

 

And be love.

Show compassion.

Share truth.

 

Because there you will find healing for yourself in soothing the hurts of someone else.

Because there you will strength to keep going in encouraging strength in someone else.

Because there you will find hope in sparking hope in someone else.

Because you could be the beginning of the miracle someone is hoping for.

 

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20).  And it can start with you.  Yes, YOU.

 

Hearing God ask you to go – and being humble and obedient to go.

 

You could be the difference.

You could be the light.

You could be the grace.

 

If you choose to go.

So will you?

 

Marie Fremin.  1/21-1/22/17