Lot’s Wife

When was the last time you had a big life change?

 

They can be tough.  Especially when they are unexpected.  When the solid ground beneath you suddenly opens up and swallows your security.

 

And you have to decide.

Trust God or freak out.

Settle into peace or pass out in fear.

Believe in something better or try to hang on to something not good for you.

 

And I believe God hopes we will settle into His grace and trust the unknown plans He is orchestrating.

 

Just like He hoped with Lot and his family.  When the city of Sodom and Gomorrah became too far gone with no remorse, God decided to destroy the city.  Except for one righteous man, Lot.  God asks that in exchange for their lives that they “Don’t look back …” (Genesis 19:17).

 

While I am drawing you away from danger and destruction, don’t wish to be back in your home or talking to your friends.  Don’t long to be part of that world anymore.  It has nothing of value, of substance, or of faith.  I am saving you from its destruction, so look ahead to the possibilities of the future.

 

But Lot’s wife could not let go.  That life had become more important to her than God.  So she “… looked back …” (Genesis 19:26), unable to believe the desert in front of her held any possibility.

 

And God saw where her heart was set.   So “… she became a pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:26).

Lot's Wife

It seems harsh and somewhat cruel.  I cannot begin to understand God’s purpose.

 

But I can see a valuable lesson – by grace she was saved, but she refused it.  She rejected all God offered her in the moment, believing He was stealing her from something better.

 

Even Jesus used her as an example – “32 Remember Lot’s wife! 33 Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it” (Luke 17:32-33).

 

Remember that wanting something outside of God’s best will eventually destroy you.

It will never bring lasting goodness or sustaining grace.

 

Don’t look back and long to be where you were scared, proud, insecure, or overly secure.

Don’t look back and want to stay in a rut that was keeping you from growing and changing.

Don’t look back and wish that you had the stress and joylessness that were destroying you piece by piece.

 

Trust God when He pulls you out of a job a relationship, a church, a house, or a city.  Believe with absolute confidence that He is going to take care of you as He brings you to something better.  Let your faith be grounded in His continuing goodness.

 

So consider where you are today.

Then consider where you were.

Now choose to believe God is at work for your good.

 

And you won’t want to look (go) back – except to thank Him for how far He’s brought you.

 

Marie Fremin.  4/29/18

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Drop Your Sword

Passover is done, and Jesus has gone off with eleven of His disciples to pray in the garden of Gethsemane to prepare for His final hours.  Then there is the moment when Judas shows up “with a great multitude with swords and clubs” (Matthew 26:47) and temple guards to arrest Him.  The soldiers surge in, pushing the disciples back.  The air is charged.  “And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear” (Matthew 26:51).

Drop your sword 1

Who was it?  Peter (John 18:10).  Quick to react, impulsive Peter … ready to defend his Rabbi who is being arrested.  But Jesus does not ask to be defended.  Jesus has made peace with what is coming, knowing He is within the perfect will of His Father.  So He asks His disciples to have peace too – “Put your sword into the sheath” (John 18:11).

 

There is a similar scenario in the movie “God’s Not Dead 3: Light in the Darkness”.  Pastor Dave picks up the sword of “justice” to defend his long-standing church against the school that wants to tear it down after a horrible fire.  He spends the movie wielding his sword in every direction, demanding to be declared right in the battle of church versus school.  And in the end, he realizes that Jesus was right in Matthew 26:52 – “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword”.  God has not called him to wage war, because war is affecting his influence and God’s goodness.  God is asking him to drop his sword – to give up his right to be right and feel right.  God is asking him to step back and choose love.  To show the students and the community what a true believer looks like.

 

And God is asking the same thing from us, just as He asked of Peter and Pastor Dave.  “Put your sword in its place”.  Drop your sword.  Stop holding onto your anger.  Stop demanded vengeance.  Stop holding onto bitterness.  Stop wallowing in jealousy.  Stop drowning in shame.

Drop your sword 2

God is asking us to open those fingers clasped overly tight around the sword in our hands (and hearts).  To lay down our need to be right or be vindicated.  To let go and drop the sword.

 

Because it is only in letting go of our sword that we find the peace we are ultimately seeking.

 

Pastor Dave was never going to find peace or win the ultimate battle of touching lives and sharing the light of Jesus by suing the school.  Peter was never going to accomplish anything but getting himself into trouble and possibly dying before his purposed time by being so reckless in the moment.

 

All our sword does is keep us down and hold us back.  It will never lift us up.  It doesn’t make us right.  It doesn’t give us hope.  It doesn’t bring us peace.

 

In fact, our sword is one of the things standing between us and peace.  The peace he promises us (John 14:27, Philippians 4:7) that surpasses human comprehension and possibility.  But we invade that peace when we insist on holding onto our swords.

 

So today’s the day to drop the sword.  Whatever you’re holding, whatever you’re carrying around, and whatever seems so important that you can’t let go.  It’s time to lay it down.

 

Because the cross is the ultimate sword.  It will overcome every battle we have fought, we are fighting, and we have yet to fight.  It will defeat whatever is coming against us.  And it is always for us.

 

So today, will you trust God enough to drop your sword?

 

Marie Fremin.  4/12/18, 4/15/18, 4/29/18.

Wide Open

What is wide open in your life?

 

Is it a desert filled with hopelessness, dejectedness, and resignation?

 

Is your heart a dry and empty plain defined by shame, blame, and pain?  Are there dark corners, shadowed paths, and an overall dim atmosphere to keep people out?

 

Is your heart a deeply rutted and overly bumpy plain defined by anger, bitterness, and resentment?  Are there excessive potholes and extending speed bumps to stop all connection?

 

Is your heart a lifeless and lightless plain defined by fear, dread, and panic?  Are there no sure paths, no true footholds, and no lighted way because you have no security?

 

A heart like any of these won’t lead to a life most successful or glorious.  Because we have no wide open spaces for His love to penetrate.  We’ve crowded out His grace with our own value and estimation of life.  We’re blocking His goodness from coming in and working good in us.

 

He wants us to live wide open to all the possibilities He can do.  And He showed us how.

 

Jesus spent 6 hours with His arms wide open on a cross to overcome the influence of sin over your life and to overwrite the pain of your past.

 

With His arms wide open, He showed you that He is bigger than your greatest fear and more powerful than your hardest circumstance.

 

With His arms wide open, He looked past all your bad choices and big mistakes to give you the hope and freedom of a new life.

 

With His arms wide open, He loved you.  Right where you are, in the mess of your life.  He saw the beauty of His divinely created child and died to adopt you eternally as His own.

 

With His arms wide open, He proved He was open about:

  • Romans 5:8But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners
  • Ephesians 3:18-1918 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
  • Psalm 103:12He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.
  • Matthew 19:26Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”
  • Ephesians 3:20Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
  • Numbers 23:19God is not a man, so he does not lie.  He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act?  Has he ever promised and not carried it through?
  • Isaiah 55:11It is the same with my word.  I send it out, and it always produces fruit.  It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
  • Galatians 6:9So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.
  • Romans 8:32Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?

 

And now He stand waiting, His arms wide open, for you to come to Him.  With all that you are.  With every hope and dream.  With every mistake and hurt.  To come into his open arms and be loved.  Fully.  Completely.  Sincerely.

Wide Open

And when you walk into His waiting embrace, those arms wide open will gently and lovingly embrace you in His supernatural healing love.

 

So will you open your arms to Him and choose grace over shame, forgiveness over anger, and confidence over fear?

 

He is waiting, smiling, with His arms wide open toward you.

 

Marie Fremin.  4/8/18

Judas is My Hope

Judas is my hope.

Of grace.

Of forgiveness.

Of potential.

Of life.

 

Because within each of us lies fragments of Judas.

A fragment of discontent with what we have.

A fragment of hard heartedness about the miracles we see.

A fragment of greed that wants the best for only ourselves.

A fragment of faithlessness toward the truth we know.

 

Judas walked with Jesus every day.  We live with Jesus within us each day.

But how often do we miss who He really is?

How often do we walk past His grace into something we deem more important?

How often do we shun His forgiveness to hold onto something stealing our life?

How often do we lose the joy of His love for the appeal of silver and gold?

How often do we miss the everyday miracles of salvation by looking at what we don’t have?

How often do we run past His open arms to run into the acceptance of the world?

 

Most minutes of every day.

If we’re honest.

 

But here’s the truth of the gospel.

It doesn’t matter to God.

Judas is my hope

Because His love is so deep that it renames all sins, all shame, all suffering.

Because His love is so wide that it reclaims all mistakes, all wrong thinking, all hard words.

Because His love is so long that it reassigns all anger, all animosity, all angst.

Because His love is so high that it redefines the past, refocuses the present, and reframes the future.

 

He hopes that His love will come upon us like Saul and radically change our lives (Acts 9).

 

He hoped that His love would penetrate the religious heart of Judas.  That the miracles he saw and the life changes he witnessed would create a new heart of compassion and care within him.

 

But Judas refused.

He refused to be transformed.

He refused to be turned.

He refused to trust.

 

So he became a traitor.  A decision he almost immediately regretted.

 

And Jesus knew this potential was strong within him.

Yet Jesus called him.

Yet Jesus allowed him to be near Him for three years.

Yet Jesus never pushed him away or sent him home.

Yet Jesus drew him close at the Passover table.

Yet Jesus washed his feet.

 

Because Jesus knew it was part of God’s ultimate plan.

And the best thing Jesus could do for Judas was to love him.

Through everything.

 

Just like He does for us.

He loves us through every bad decision, every moment of shame, and every fear.

He loves us through every heartache, every tear, and every sorrow.

He loves us through each time we deny His name or abuse His grace.

He loves us through every minute of every day of our life.

 

Because He wants to.

Not because He has to.

Because He thinks we are worth it.

 

He thought Judas was worth it too.

But Judas couldn’t let go of his confusion, his calculations, and his callousness.

 

Loving Father, help us today to be the person who refuses to hold on to his/her anger, unforgiveness, and cold-heartedness.  Help us to have eyes that see the miracles in the ordinary.  Help us to have ears that hear Your loving whisper.  Help us to have the courage to allow Your grace and love to penetrate every area of our broken heart.  Help us to let go of everything we hold so tightly to that is far from Your best.  Help us to find the freedom that You gruesomely died to give us – full freedom to let go and let God.  Thank You for walking with us through everything and guiding us toward Your redeeming love and unending grace.  Help us to become the people You have created and purposed us to be.  In Jesus’ almighty name.  AMEN!

 

Marie Fremin, 4/1/18

Jesus, You Did Know

At Christmas, we reflect on Mary and ask “Mary, did you know” (thanks to Mark Lowry).  Did the young virgin have any clue how her life would be impacted?  Thirty years she raised Him and protected Him, moving to stay ahead of the Roman executioners.  Then three years of Him being His true self in the world, being chased and persecuted by the religious leaders.  And finally a gruesome and tortured end.  Maybe she did know what was coming, to some degree.

 

But Jesus knew.

Definitely.

He knew every moment of His life on earth.

 

He knew every word He would teach.

He knew every disease He would heal.

He knew every life He would change.

He knew every test the religious leaders would give.

He knew the twelve He will call closest to Him.

He knew the one who would betray Him (and yet still called him).

He knew every doubt His disciples would have.

 

He knew the end.

He knew His final prayer would ask for another way yet would fully submit to His Father’s plans.

He knew the legion that would come for Him.

He knew the eleven would cower and run, abandoning Him.

He knew every false accusation of the religious leaders.

He knew every strike of the Roman whip.

He knew every taunt and slap of the soldiers.

He knew every pain-filled step to Golgotha.

He knew every strike of the hammer to pound the nails.

He knew every insult hurled by the criminal next to Him and the crowds below Him.

He knew every minute of the six hours He would spend hanging on the cross.

He knew His Father would forsake Him.

 

He knew all of this.  And He chose to go through it all.  At any point He could have saved Himself and walked away.  But He refused to waver from His purpose – “nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

 

That meant He took every insult, every slap, every lash, and every hour.  “He was oppressed and He was afflicted” (Isaiah 53:7) yet He refused to defend Himself or save Himself.  “… He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8).

 

Consider an innocent Man going through all that on behalf of someone else.  Why would He do that?

 

BECAUSE YOU ARE WORTH IT!

Jesus You Did Know

You are so special and amazing to Him that He wanted to make sure there were no barriers between you and God.  He wanted you to be part of His story.  He wanted you to know the new life, the new hope, and the new heart everything He went through brings.

 

So maybe today you will take a moment to say “thank You!” to the One who suffered greatly and died willingly to for you.  The One who proved His unconditional love in the most amazing way.  The One who thinks every minute of every day that you are worth His love and grace.

 

Marie Fremin.  3/25/18

Decisions and Grace

We are in the Easter season, and it is easy for us to say “don’t do that” as we read the reactions and bad decisions of the disciples after Jesus is arrested.  It is easy because we know how the story ends.

 

But, standing in the middle of everything, the eleven didn’t.  They thought their beloved Teacher was the answer to everything.  He had walked on water (Matthew 14:25) and then called Peter out with Him (Matthew 14:28-29).  He had cured numerous people.  He had brought several dead back to life, including His good friend Lazarus (John 11:43-44).  They had watched Him perform miracles and change the world around Him.  Then, He does something completely unbelievable – He allows Himself to be arrested by a large group of temple guards.  He does not protest.  He does not resist.  He quietly goes with them, proclaiming God’s purposes are being fulfilled (Matthew 26:56a).  And the disciples are stunned.  They can only react one way – panic and run (Matthew 26:56b).

 

When Peter is asked three times that same night if he knew Jesus, he repeatedly denied any relationship (Matthew 26:59-74).  Because if they took Jesus, whom Peter and his fellow disciples thought was untouchable, what hope was there for common fisherman and former tax collectors?  Their lives were in danger, and they each responded out of fear and desperation.

 

But if any of them had realized what would happen over the next week, how would their reactions have been different?

 

What would Peter’s denials have become in light of the possibility of His resurrection?  How would Peter have answered if he ever believed the truth of the resurrection Jesus told them about?

 

But Peter is much more relatable – and so are his fellow disciples – because he didn’t know what was coming.  And they all reacted exactly as we would when they had a difficult decision to make in the middle of a crisis.

Decisions and Grace

Decisions are so much easier to make when you have all the facts and a perspective beyond the moment.  But we often have little information and limited perspective.  Yet God trusts us to make decisions.  Even though we see very few things clearly.  Even though we don’t realize or even care about how much we will hurt people.  Even though we cannot understand all the possible outcomes and consequences.

 

Yet God loves us enough to let us choose.  We get to decide if we will help or harm.  We get to decide if we will lead or follow.  We get to decide if we will trust or turn away.  We get to decide if our words will be good or bad, life giving or life destroying.

 

Because if we didn’t get to decide, how would we understand the power of grace to completely change a life?

 

Peter decided to deny Jesus three times when confronted.  And Jesus decided to redeem these decisions at the Sea of Galilee by giving him the same opportunity to declare his love (John 21:15-19).  And Peter was able to redeem his decision and undo his previous denials by saying three times “You know that I love You” (John 21:15-17).  In that moment, Peter understood finally and fully the power of grace and the freedom of forgiveness for bad decisions.  Because after Peter was able to express his love and loyalty, Jesus commissioned him to take that love and go share it by helping people know God.

 

How do I know Peter got it?  Because Pentecost comes, and Peter stands up and preaches to the over 3000 people there about his beloved risen Savior.  He calls the crowd to repentance and baptized “about three thousand” (Acts 2:41) to celebrate their life-changing decision.

 

Yes, Peter made a tragic decision.  But Jesus didn’t leave him to wallow in regret and pity.  Jesus picked him up and gave him a great purpose.  And because Peter knew regret, he could better preach Christ and the power of His love.

 

So too will he do for us.  He doesn’t want us to waste our time wallowing in regret over the wrong things we’ve done.  He wants us to come to His waiting open arms and accept grace.  Because every decision can be rewritten to showcase His goodness, glory, and grace.  Just like Peter.

 

What decisions will you give Him today?

 

Marie Fremin, 3/25/18

Judgment

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1 NIV).

 

Do you know why Jesus commands us not to judge?  Because it HURTS.

 

Judgment is not fun, and feeling someone’s criticism, condemnation, or careless words can break our hearts and possibly falter our faith.  Because judgment goes to the core of who we are – our identity, our ideals, and our integrity – and proclaims we have failed.  And who likes to feel like a failure?

 

Don’t get me wrong.  We all make mistakes, and hopefully we all learn and grow from them.  They are necessary to help us see when we have done, thought, or gone wrong.  They should help us do better, speak kinder, and love easier.  We should not feel like a failure in these instances – because grace will come in and pick us up and point us in the right direction.

 

What I am talking about is …

Feeling the weight of someone’s (harsh) opinion pushing you down.

Battling the emotions of someone’s (careless) words defining your character.

Walking through people’s (uninformed) assumptions about your motives.

 

Judgment.

To be assigned value possibly contrary to your character and core.

To be pronounced not good (enough), possibly without insight into your motives and methods.

To be critiqued and found guilty, possible based on inconclusive evidence.

To be criticized as wrong, possibly based on impossible or unchecked standards.

 

To be judged.  When you feel its weight – when your character is questioned and your integrity is challenged – it can break your heart.

 

Like it broke mine yesterday.  When I found out my subordinate went to the owner because she was concerned I was acting irresponsibly over payroll.  No, she never came and asked me questions after our initial tutorial session.  No, she never voiced anything to me.  Instead, she processed and came to the conclusion that I was cheating our techs – for no good reason.

 

And my heart broke when I was asked about it.  My eyes watered at having my integrity so easily challenged.  My temper flared at being so misunderstood – and then reported as unethical.  And my office door slammed shut as the emotions wildly bounced around my brain.

 

I was not OK.  Today, I am still struggling.

 

Being judged is hard.  It makes you question everything you think to be true.

 

And then as I wallow, God taps me gently on the broken and hurting spots.  And He lovingly whispers, “So now that you feel the sting, what will you do to deal with how YOU are judging others.”  OUCH!

 

So now I have two issues to deal with – feeling judged and being judged.  Where in the world do I start?

 

There are a few key reasons I need to start with my own judgmental heart.

  1. We are not the one true Judge
    • Psalm 50:6 – Let the heavens declare His righteousness, For God Himself isJudge. Selah
    • Isaiah 33:22 – For the Lordis our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; it is he who will save us.
    • 2 Timothy 4:1 – In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead,and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge
    • 2 Timothy 4:8 – Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
    • Hebrews 12:23 – to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,
  2. We do not have a good perspective
    • Isaiah 11:3 – His delight is in the fear of the Lord, And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, Nor decide by the hearing of His ears
    • John 7:24 – Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.
    • John 8:15 – You judge by human standards …
    • Hebrews 4:12 – For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
  3. We are really no better at heart
    • Ezekiel 16:52 – You who judged your sisters, bear your own shame also, because the sins which you committed were more abominable than theirs; they are more righteous than you. Yes, be disgraced also, and bear your own shame, because you justified your sisters.
    • Micah 7:3 – That they may successfully do evil with both hands— The prince asks for gifts,The judge seeks a bribe, And the great man utters his evil desire; So they scheme together.
    • Matthew 7:3-4And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye?
    • Acts 23:3 – Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! For you sit to judgeme according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law?”
    • Romans 2:1 – You, therefore, have no excuse,you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.
    • Romans 3:23 – for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
  4. It will come back to us
    • Matthew 7:1 – Do not judge, or you too will be judged
    • Matthew 7:2 – For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
    • Luke 6:38 – Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
    • Galatians 6:7 – Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap

 

Then I work on forgiveness.  Because it is the key to life – “14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15).  And I realize that if I cannot look at her next week and find grace, I am lost.  I close the door on God being able to radically shower grace on me.

 

I have to work through the pain and betrayal … and allow peace to overwrite them.  I have to let go of the anger and frustration … and allow forgiveness to redefine them.

 

Today, I am not there.  Grace is still fighting the good fight to reclaim my heart for Him.  So what hope do I have?

 

Psalm 23 – The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.      He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,     he refreshes my soul.  He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 

He is with me.

He is comforting me.

He is pouring out His goodness on me.

He is giving me an abundance of peace and rest to calm me down.

He is loving me back to wholeness.

 

So thank You loving Father that this one episode will NOT define or destroy me.  Thank You gracious Father for Your goodness at work.  I know I WILL get through this – and then past it.  And I will be stronger, ready to the next battle.  Thank You for Your hand on me every step of my life!

 

Marie Fremin.  2/24/18