If the Law ( or laws ) could make us holy, then Jesus would not have needed to die on the Cross. No state-appointed law is going to make us clean for Him. He is SO HOLY that we don’t stand a chance. If we could make ourselves holy, then Jesus died for nothing. I think Paul says that quite eloquently. At any rate, think on it. It IS extremely tempting to think that finger pointing and condemnation will make another person BETTER, but it doesn’t work. Only the BLOOD of JESUS CHRIST can make any one of us WHOLE again. Without Him, not one of us is CLEAN.

– Carley Evans, July 25th, 2013

No Matter How Small ( by Carley Evans )


U.S. Supreme Court Building, Washington, D.C. ...

U.S. Supreme Court Building, Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

Today I clapped my hand over my mouth and tears welled in my eyes as I heard the gay men’s choir burst into song. The song sung by the men was our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” I was in my car, driving home from work, listening to NPR as I usually do. Some reporter was defending the positive nature of the coverage of the historical moment when “a group of people came together to grasp” its rights under the Constitution of the United States. No matter how you view marriage, that people who live in the United States are constitutionally protected is undeniable. (This is why babies should not be aborted, by the way. They each have a constitutional right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Those rights outweigh any parent’s right to privacy!)

Every citizen of the United States of America has a right to pursue happiness. If you don’t believe this is the truth within our system of government, then you may be more comfortable in a different country.

I heard someone say that the Supreme Court was “out of control.” I wondered, “And whose control is that?” God is always in control, so that argument fails right there.

That the Supreme Court is not controlled by religious zealots ought to make us thankful. If only Christians controlled members of the Supreme Court, then the constitution would be at risk. So many Americans do not subscribe to the Christian lifestyle or to its core belief – that Jesus Christ came to earth from heaven to die on a Cross in order to save the world. If the Supreme Court was controlled only by the Christian Right – the conservative membership – then many people would be denied their right to pursue happiness.

Why is it that Christians ( not all of us, mind you ) want to throw stones at particular groups of people? Why the enormous focus on homosexuals?

I ask this because I find it hypocritical that Christians accept divorce and marriage to another person as part of the fabric of our lives rather than viewing the remarriage as adultery ( in many cases, at any rate. ) Before you protest that I am judging; I’m not. I’m only saying what Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin throw the first stone.” I don’t know about you, but I find I always wind up opening my hand and allowing that stone to fall to the ground.

And so, today, I cried when I heard our national anthem sung by men ( this was a men’s choir, by the way ) who have finally gained a measure of equality in this – our great – nation. A citizen is a citizen, no matter how small. Thanks to Dr. Seuss.

Who Can Say? ( by Carley Evans )


 

Image

 

“Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?” (Proverbs 20:9, KJV)

 

I’ve heard people say this; I must admit the statement always surprises me. I’ve never said this because I’ve never accomplished this feat. I’m able to say, “Jesus made my heart clean, so I am pure from my sin.” But, I can’t say, I never sin.

To believe you never sin — that’s equivalent to believing you are perfect. You never make a mistake, you never do less than your very best, you never strike back, you never take more than your share, you never speak ill of another, you never go to bed with worry or anger in your heart, you never fail to notice someone’s pain, you never fail to help, you never roll your eyes, you never look away, you never forget to care, you never turn your back, you never run away.

I can not imagine.

I can know that Jesus is such a person. Like the lamb slaughtered as a substitute for people who sin, so Jesus substitutes Himself for me. His death on the cross wipes away my sins, though they be as red as the tide befouled by algae. And so, I stand pure before His Father in heaven.

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.

Odor Eliminator ( by Carley Evans )


Listening to NPR last week, I heard a story about marketing failures and marketing successes. One product mention is Febreze which initially was a dud. Febreze is an odor-eliminator. People didn’t buy it even though it is effective in completely eliminating foul odors in the air and on surfaces.

So the makers of Febreze developed scents “powerful enough to overcome” (per NPR) its odor elimination. I venture to say they made it a less effective product. Otherwise how could a scent overwhelm its total odor elimination?

And guess what? People bought it, not a little but a lot!

Father God, help us not to settle or even desire the second best in life. Help us to see that Your Son’s blood is powerful enough and totally effective in sin-elimination. No flowery scents are necessary! In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Febreze

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.

Self-flattery ( by Jonathan Edwards )


“All wicked men’s pains and contrivance which they use to escape hell, while they continue to reject Christ, and so remain wicked men, do not secure them from hell one moment. Almost every natural man that hears of hell, flatters himself that he shall escape it; he depends upon himself for his own security; he flatters himself in what he has done, in what he is now doing, or what he intends to do. Every one lays out matters in his own mind how he shall avoid damnation, and flatters himself that he contrives well for himself, and that his schemes will not fail.” (Jonathan Edwards, 1741)

Sin So Easily Entangles ( by Carley Evans )


The author of Hebrews gives us a wonderful account of Old Covenant saints who followed God by faith, concluding that “the world was not worthy of them.” (Hebrews 11:38, NIV) Then rather abruptly, the author writes of our obligation — in light of “such a great cloud of witnesses” to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” (Hebrews 12:1) After all, this is what the Old Covenant saints did. They disentangled themselves from their sins, and “ran with perseverance the race marked out for [them].” (Hebrews 12:1) Their very “weaknesses were turned into strengths.” (Hebrews 11:34)

The author reminds us,

“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes everyone He accepts as a son.'” (Hebrews 12:4-6)

The author of Hebrews encourages us to endure hardship as proof of God’s acceptance of us, pointing to the Old Covenant saints who endured the mouths of lions, the fury of flames, the edge of the sword, torture, chains, prison, jeers, floggings, stonings, poverty and wanderings.

A favorite New Covenant saint of mine is Agapius:

Saint Agapius was a Christian martyr killed at Caesarea in AD 306. His martyrdom is recorded by Eusebius of Caesarea in his work The Martyrs of Palestine. Agapius was arrested in AD 304. He remained in prison for two years and was tortured on multiple occasions. He was brought out to the arena many times and presented to the judges. There he was threatened and reserved for later matches. The judges, Eusebius notes, must have been motivated either out of compassion or the hope that he might change his mind and renounce Christianity. Finally he was brought to the arena and presented to the emperor Maximinus. He was offered a pardon on the condition that he disavow his faith. According to Eusebius, he not only refused the offer, but he is said to have cheerfully rushed headlong into the bear. The animal inflicted severe injuries, but Agapius survived. Stones were affixed to his feet and he was drowned in the Mediterranean on the following day. His feast days are observed on November 20 and August 19.” (Wikipedia)

Obviously, Christians do resist sin to the point of shedding their blood.

Father God, thank You for the many examples of persons unwilling to deny their faith in You, even at the cost of their comfort or even their lives. Help us to resist temptation and to run our race with perseverance. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Confess Seventy times Seven ( by Carley Evans )


I’ve had interesting, sometimes frustrating discussions with two or three Christians over the past several years about whether or not Christians continue to commit sins after being reborn into the faith. One of these persons I consider a dear friend, although we have alarmingly different views of what God does in our lives. Another I gave up as an acquaintance on Facebook – something I’d never done before or since – because of constant insults – and the last is someone who apparently gave up on me. The only one of the three with whom I made a huge mistake is the second. Never turn away from a fellow believer, says our Lord. Well, that’s not entirely true, is it? Paul and Jesus command us to avoid the person who refuses to repent when confronted first privately and only later, publicly.

So, the question becomes: do we always obey God? Are we perfected immediately upon being sealed with God, the Holy Spirit?

Yes, it is true God gives us a new life, and He provides power. And if we avail ourselves of that power consistently, then it does follow logically that we would stop sinning completely. However, I believe scripture teaches us that we do not always allow God’s power to fully work in our day to day existence. Sometimes, we cater to our own desires. Sometimes we do not flee our adversary who entangles us so easily in sin, if you believe the Word of God anyway.

If this is not true, then why does James tell us to “confess [our] sins to each other and pray for each other so that [we] may be healed?” (James 5:16, NIV)

Why does James tell us not to “grumble against each other, brothers” if we do not at times deliberately step into sin? Why does he speak at length about the fire our tongues unleash if our tongues are not used to sin against each other? Why does he tells us “not to slander one another?” (James 4:11) Why does he warn us not to “speak against [our] brother or judge him?” (James 4:11) Why does he warn us not to boast about our plans to “carry on business and make money?” (James 4:13) Why does Paul rebuke the church at Corinth in regards to sins even pagans do not commit? Why does he rebuke those who call for circumcision? Why does he rebuke those who treat the communion table as a buffet? Remember, Paul is speaking to Christians, not to unbelievers.

“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” (James 4:17)

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

“Everything that does not come from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23)

Peter asks Jesus how many times must he forgive his brother who sins against him, “Up to seven times?” (Matthew 18:21) Of course, Jesus responds, “Not seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:22)

Through Grace ( by Carley Evans )


“For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace.” (Hebrews 13:9, KJV)

“It is good that our souls should gain their strength from the grace of God.” (Hebrews 13:9, NEB)

“For it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace.” (Hebrews 13:9, ESV)

“For it is good for the heart to be established by grace.” (Hebrews 13:9, HCSB)

“It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace.” (Hebrews 13:9, NIV)

“With grace,” says the author of Hebrews. “With grace” means “due to, owing to, through, because of grace.”  Through grace — by means of grace, our hearts — our souls are established. Our hearts are put on a firm basis; they gain full recognition and acceptance in a new favorable position with God. Our favorable position with God is not established through observance of ceremonies, rituals, rules.

Father God, thank You for Your grace without which we would remain in our sins. In Jesus’ Name, amen.