Losing Nothing ( by Carley Evans )

International Money Pile in Cash and Coins

(Photo credit: epSos.de)

“Every day, people seek profits for the investments they make in time, in effort, in monies. Every day, some people win — what seems to them — “the whole world.” I’m not sure Jesus equates winning the whole world with loss of one’s soul. Rather, I think Jesus implies one’s focus ought not to be on getting “the whole world”, but on getting a relationship with Him so as to keep one’s soul.” (Carley Evans — hey, that’s me!)

Do you make mistakes? Do even really small mistakes in timing have terrible consequences for you? I imagine your answer is “yes” – or “maybe” – to both questions.

I made a simple mistake this spring that is going to cost me a certain amount of money over the next year. The mistake was simply a momentary distraction that turned out to be extremely unfortunate financially.

Still, tonight I read my own words from GRACE PARTAKERS and realize that compared to sustaining a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, this loss of money is akin to the loss of nothing!

Jesus with the Wonky Eye ( by Carley Evans )

A 6th century icon of Jesus at St. Katherine's...

A 6th century icon of Jesus at St. Katherine’s Monastery on Mt. Sinai. The image depicts Jesus Christ with two different looks on His face: One is of a loving man, and the other is a fearful judge. From http://www.pitt.edu/AFShome/s/o/sorc/public/html/ocfellow/icons.html Category:Artistic portrayals of Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At Mepkin Abbey in Moncks Corner, South Carolina this weekend, I notice — as I always do when I am there in the guest dining room — the iconic painting of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ eyes are not symmetrical — His right eye looks more and less at you while His left eye looks off into a distance you can’t imagine. A single tear appears to be falling from this eye onto His cheek.

A young man across from me mentions Jesus’ “wonky eye” and speaks briefly of how strange it looks. He’s right. Jesus’ left eye can most definitely be described as “wonky.” I laugh, but later as I stare at Jesus’ face, I think: “How odd. Jesus looks at me with His right eye which appears accepting of me while He looks away from me with His left eye as if He can not look at me. He’s calm and accepting on one side; He’s crying and rejecting on the other side.”

Looking very closely, I notice the pupil of Jesus’ right eye is at the top of His iris — giving an impression of Jesus looking upward, perhaps toward heaven. The left eye’s pupil is dead center, but the focus of the eye is definitely not the viewer of the painting. Jesus looks off to His left into distance.

Whether true or not, my impression is that Jesus — in this painting — is both accepting and rejecting me simultaneously. He is offering me heaven and warning me of hell in the same moment.

God’s Work ( by Carley Evans )

Book Of Mormon

Book Of Mormon (Photo credit: More Good Foundation)

The young man’s words still hang in the air, “Yes, it’s [the preaching of the gospel] confusing isn’t it?”

I think and hear myself say aloud, “No, it’s not. Not at all. The good news is simple; it really is.” And I hear myself call the young man, “honey.” Oh my goodness! Still, the words flow.

“It’s a gift. It’s all God’s work. It really is. All we need do is open the gift. We don’t need to re-wrap it or put a bow on it or anything else! We only need to accept that it is a gift; and open it the same way we’d open any other gift.”

I continue, “Man’s pride is what hampers. We have such a hard time accepting that there isn’t anything for us to do to earn the gift. It is only a gift, a glorious gift from a loving God.”

I see his eyes water only slightly. He’s asked me to listen to the words in the Book of Mormon and tell him how the words make me feel. He’s read them carefully with total eye contact with me. I don’t look away. I listen to the words, and I know how much he wants me to feel what he feels.

But I don’t.

I tell him my story of the gift, and desire for this young man — and the other with him — to know.

Christ never says, “Feel the truth, and the truth will make you happier.” Rather Jesus says, “Know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

How Many Times? ( by Carley Evans )

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglican Church http://www.stjohnsashfield.org.au, Ashfield, New South Wales. Illustrates Jesus' description of himself "I am the Good Shepherd" (from the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 11). This version of the image shows a vertical section focusing on Jesus. The memorial window is also captioned: "To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of William Wright. Died 6th November, 1932. Aged 70 Yrs." (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The disciples want to know how many times they must put up with the offenses of others?

How many times, Jesus, do I have to turn my cheek so as to be struck again? How many times must I allow the thief to take my cloak or my shoes or my purse? How many times do You expect me to walk an extra mile?

Jesus’ answer is straightforward — an infinite number of times!

“Then Peter comes to Jesus and asks, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’

Jesus answers, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22, NIV)

Jesus also warns the disciples that if they are unwilling to forgive others, then they should not expect God to be willing to forgive their many sins against Him.

Think carefully on this — Jesus is actually saying that if we are capable of forgiving an infinite number of sins against us, God is even more capable and definitely more willing to forgive an infinite number of sins against Him.

Something More Profound ( by Carley Evans )

English: The typical zombie. Esperanto: La tip...

Is living just avoiding death? Watching AMC’s “THE WALKING DEAD”, you’d think that’s all life is — the avoidance of dying. Survivors of a massive ‘disease’ flee the resultant zombies, continually aware that at any moment death or living death may win out.

For those of us who reside in reality, at some point in life illness comes and we begin to fight to stay alive. Perhaps from birth to death, we live primarily to avoid dying.

But, didn’t Jesus say He comes to earth to give us life — and not only life, but abundant life? Is the abundant life only a life consisting of avoidance of injury and pain and illness and death? We may well attempt to avoid these events, but obviously we are not successful. Still, we may claim to have the abundant life despite the inclusion of injury, pain, illness and yes — eventually physical death. God tells us in His Word that death is defeated, having lost its sting and its victory.

This is the victory — resurrection from the dead and life eternal with the Lord. This victory over death is not akin to the life of the walking dead. We are not zombies. We are not angels. We are the children of God, chosen in eternity for eternity.

To God be the glory!

Never Denied ( by Carley Evans )

God the Father, Cima da Conegliano, Circa 1510-17.

“or if he asketh an egg [or if he shall ask an egg], whether he shall areach him a scorpion?” (Luke 11:12, WYC)

Have you given your child a scorpion — a creature capable of killing your offspring with a single strike — when she pointed into the refrigerator and reached out to the carton of eggs? If so, then you are considered an extraordinarily inept parent, perhaps an immoral one at that!

Therefore, when you ask God for a blessing in line with His perfect will, He is incapable of denying you that good thing. This denial of good goes against His very nature; and that nature is perfection.

Father God, we praise and thank You for Your perfect will for our lives. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Nine Days ( by Carley Evans )

Holy Spirit

(Photo credit: micmol )

For the past nine days, I’ve seen a marked drop-off in visits to Grace Partakers, and a bit – well, that may be stretching the truth — of an increase here at obsecrations. When things are going along merrily and then suddenly not, I take pause. Have I done something to displease others? Wait. That doesn’t really matter compared to the key question: Have I done something to offend the Holy Spirit? I can’t even imagine going through a full day without offending God’s Holy Spirit here and there, so the critical question: Have I done something to offend the Holy Spirit without confessing it? Yes. I imagine so.

Sometimes, it’s quite obvious what I’ve done to offend. Other times, I’m not so sure. Things that I believe offend Him most include: spiritual pride, arrogance, hatred, self-hatred, envy, jealousy, rage, depression, loneliness. I can almost hear you protest — depression? Loneliness?

I’m going to let that percolate in your own minds for a while before coming back to those ‘sins’ later; perhaps much later.

Oh — please forgive me.

Using Jesus’ Name ( by Carley Evans )

John says to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw a man driving out demons in Your Name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” (Mark 9:38, NIV) Jesus tells John not to stop the man. Jesus says, “No one who does a miracle in My Name can in the next moment say anything bad about Me, for whoever is not against us is for us.” (Mark 9:39-40)

Notice the man has been driving out demons in Jesus’ Name — not one demon, but many demons. He’s performed real miracles in the Name of the Lord, not once but many times. Yet, he does not belong to Christ, at least not according to the disciple, John.

Jesus says good performance doesn’t come from a man who sets himself against Him. If he is not against us, says Jesus, then he is for us.

“Whoever welcomes Me,” says Jesus, “does not welcome Me but the One who sent Me.” (Mark 9:37)

The Most Excellent Way ( by Carley Evans )

I’m always disturbed by Christians who denounce that God is primarily love — Christians who proclaim that God is primarily a being of wrath, retribution, punishment. God demands holiness, for sure. Our holiness, however, is due only to the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, who is, of course, God Himself. Without God within, we are not — in the least — holy.

Paul writes of “the most excellent way” in his letter to the church at Corinth. He says ultimately speaking in tongues, prophecy, generosity, even great faith and hope — if these exist in a vacuum devoid of love — then they are nothing; they gain nothing for us or for God.

The most excellent way is the way of love. Paul writes, “Follow the way of love.” (1 Corinthians 14:1, NIV)

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV)

Show Me the Father ( by Carley Evans )

Philip, of Bethsaida, doesn’t hesitate when Jesus finds him, saying: “Follow Me.” (John 1:43, NIV) Philip even goes so far as to find Nathaniel. He says to Nathaniel, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote — Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” (John 1:45)

Nathaniel doubts anything good can come from Nazareth. He questions Jesus, yet quickly comes to recognize Jesus is “the Son of God; the King of Israel.” (John 1:49) While Nathaniel calls Jesus the Son of God, Philip calls Jesus “the son of Joseph.”

Later, as Jesus is preparing for His own suffering and death by crucifixion, He tells the disciples: “I Am the way and the truth and the life. If you really knew Me, you would know My Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.” (John 14:6-7)

Philip says, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” (John 14:8)

For three years, Philip follows Jesus of Nazareth on His many journeys, recognizing Him only partially. Jesus asks, “Don’t you know Me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?” (John 14:9)

Father God, help us not to just follow along, a shadow in the crowd of true believers. Help us to really know You; open our eyes and our hearts to Your Majesty. In Jesus’ Name, amen.