Everyone’s A Winner!

Did you buy a ticket in the recent mega-millions lottery? I heard that the odds of winning were somewhere in the neighborhood of being struck by lightning four times and surviving…It’s interesting that given those odds anyone would still participate! Apparently even the remotest possibility of us being a winner has a powerful draw on us. The siren song of the carnival barker seeks out such a hope in each of us. Playing on our vulnerabilities,our insecurities, boldly declaring that…

Everyone’s a winner!

But who are the real winners in life?

My guess is that we all know at least one person who based on our own specific criteria we consider to be a winner. There might be a number of factors that cause us to view them as such or perhaps just one thing that proclaims success to us. Untold fortunes have been made by authors, ostensibly trying to help the rest of us to achieve our potential’s and thereby enjoy the benefits of being a member of the coveted “winner” club.

I have my own theories as to what’s most essential, they go something like this. It occurs to me that all winners have one very important thing in common. They all know in the depths of their being that they are loved! The most successful young adults I’ve observed are those who’re able to remain focused on their life goals instead of being distracted by all of the misguided attempts engaged in by those around them to get this most important need met. Who can deny that this fundamental lacking is the source of many (if not all) problems in young peoples lives.

I’ve also noticed that people who have a winning attitude seem to fall into two distinct categories. There are those who believe that based on the merits of who they are see themselves as being quite deserving of the love they’ve received and then those who instead are humbled by the love which has been shown them despite who they are! What’s interesting about that to me are the ramifications of these relationship dynamics. One party,believing themselves to be worthy often operates from a place of insecurity while the other,believing the opposite, draws their esteem based on the unconditional love of another which relieves them of the anxiety and insecurity of living up to expectations.Being a winner by the worlds standards can be a very difficult task for most people. I understand that all too well! But what’s so wonderful to me is that I can be a real winner through my relationship with God The Father through His Son Jesus Christ! Because I know deep in my soul that I am loved! I’m not anxious about where I stand with Him because His love for me isn’t about my worthiness…it’s about His nature,it’s about who He is, Who once you have an encounter with will end your own misguided questing for love a love that grows more real and true with every passing day!

It’s also interesting to me that modern psychology teaches the former,

while Gods word teaches the latter…

I’m going to go out on a limb and make a few unqualified statements.

I believe that everyone wants to be a winner!

I believe that everyone IS loved!

Not based on transient things or superficial qualities,

but for no other reason than for just “showing up”

If only we could all know it…

That everyone IS a winner!

Even You!

 

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Emmanuel עמנואל, “God is with us” (part 1)

That seems to be the only possible title for a post that endeavors to describe the many ways in which God’s been faithful to me in the past year…I truly am the grateful recipient of His grace which is defined as the unmerited favor of God.

What else can I say?

He loves me!

It’s the only way I can begin to understand how my family has once again very comfortably “made it” through another year! Especially a year like this past one in which so many were negatively affected. As it draws to a close and I look back on the many ways Gods cared for us I feel many emotions. First of all I’m humbled,and then I’m bewildered at His love for me. It’s hard to truly understand what I mean unless you’re someone like myself who is at times perhaps a bit more “human” than most in that I have a history of making more than my share of mistakes and bad choices. Most people find it pretty easy to explain away the “near miss” or disregard what could’ve happened under slightly different circumstances but I can’t. I suppose that’s because I’ve seen it happen so many times or perhaps it’s because I’ve been “blessed” to see myself so clearly for who and what I really am without Him.

It’s been quite a year for me, the job I had at the beginning of the year ended when the teenage girl I was working as support staff for flipped out one day and took an overdose of her prescription drugs. It was quite traumatic for everyone involved, afterwards everyone was put under investigation by the department of mental health. I was cleared of any charges of neglect,which is a very big deal and I was extremely relieved. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong but I also know that people get wrongly blamed for stuff all the time.

Thank You God!

My next job was a blessing in it’s self. I worked over the summer for the Eleven Point River canoe rental outfitter in my hometown shuttling people down to the river to go on float trips!

It was a great experience for me to meet so many interesting people and to be able to play a part in their summer fun! Where I live is such a beautiful place and I never grew tired of introducing others to it’s wonders. Oh,and on top of all that I got paid for it!

God…You’re my rock,and you ROCK!

Among the things I’m most thankful for this year I have to include being invited to join a small study/worship group which meets at a friend’s home nearby. For a while prior to that I had stopped going to church. I soon found the groups emphasis on study and open discussion as well as the great time of fellowship we shared to be just what was missing!

It’s wonderful to come together with other Christian’s and really be the church to those in need in your own community. That’s what attracted me to become involved with an organization called One Hope Outreach located in my hometown of Springfield, Mo. They’re focus is helping homeless people find permanent housing and empowering them to make positive changes in their lives. This photo was taken at a fundraiser which was held at a local restaurant.

Thank You Father for meeting ALL of my needs, both physical and spiritual! Thank You for giving my life meaning and purpose!

FREE!

Galatians 5:13

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

If you’re anything like me you love that word, but it’s meaning can be rather confusing. The first rule of economics tells us that there is no free lunch, that it’s either already been paid for or the bill is yet to come. Knowing this, we’re more likely to be skeptical of things that are free, and even less trusting of the phrase “At no cost to you” I guess it just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

I said ring, perhaps I meant hook…

The difference between the two is subtle, “free” denotes  something we aren’t beholding to anyone for, that we might indulge ourselves in without impropriety, without feeling encumbered by any sort of obligation. That being thankful for is merely good manners on our part, not a requirement.

Whereas, “at no cost to you” suggests something else that most people aren’t as comfortable with. Just knowing that there was a cost to someone at some point registers with most people as something that’s “owed”. Even if it’s merely some due consideration such as being thankful, it’s seen as being a liability or as undesirable.

As I was thinking about what these words mean I wondered if there was a worthwhile comparison involving these two definitions and some of the ways in which the gospel is presented to people.  Peoples misconceptions concerning Gods free gift of salvation can be a stumbling block,  as an ambassador of Christ I feel it’s useful to understand them. I’ve always believed that if the gospel was presented to people from the perspective of grace they’d have no reason not to accept Christ!  Unfortunately, most of what I’ve heard seems to come across kind of like this,

“You’re a hopeless sinner on your way to hell! Accept Christ’s free gift of salvation, and then spend the rest of your life trying to be good enough to keep it”.

Yes! You are a hopeless sinner and Yes! salvation is a free gift, but once you accept it you’re NOT on the “Holiness” hook,

holiness isn’t the way to Jesus, instead it’s Jesus who is our way to holiness!

Yes, God wants us to be Holy, but it doesn’t count for anything if we’re just doing it to save ourselves! I think He wants us to be holy out of our love for Him, not to be coerced or guilted into it or be told that our salvation depends on it. That doesn’t sound like grace, which is the UN-merited favor of God, that sounds more like a doctrine of works or the “at no cost to you” type of free.

2 Timothy 1:9

Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,

The point I’m going for is that man has great difficulty accepting that salvation is a free gift, or in understanding what love really is. Perhaps because all he’s  known or experienced is the “strings attached” type,  it could be that the obligated version of “free” may be all he understands.  I feel like that’s pretty common in this world, but this is the greatest example of real love!  Even though man may be much more familiar with the worlds lesser examples of love or more comfortable with seeing himself as being “worthy” of salvation, that’s not the real gospel message. Many Christian’s also prefer variations of that perspective because they feel it somehow puts them above other people in Gods eye’s which is of course “dead wrong”, many non-Christian people want nothing to do with “it” or them for much the same reason!

My favorite saying related to this topic is,

We’re not saved BY works, But instead FOR works!

Love is always a choice! Serving the Lord is my greatest joy! Living a God honoring life is something I attempt to do out of my own freewill because of my love for God and other people, in response to a love that was first shown to me! It’s not out of any sense of obligation, my salvation is a done deal! Therefore there’s nothing to “earn” or no ongoing dues that I must pay, I believe that I was blood bought, not blood “pawned”! The only thing I owe is to tell others what Christ has done for me and that is absolutely no problem!  Some of what is preached by “Christians” is intended to stir up guilt and condemnation in people which tends to have the  effect of turning them into unhappy, self righteous, “religious” people!

I’m so not into that…and I can understand why the world isn’t either!

Why? Because it’s a game you’ll never win, forever comparing yourself to others caught in some sort of tail chasing spiral that either falsely puffs you up or brings you down…fun huh?

I’ve heard this preached many times,

“We could double the attendance here in a month, all we’ve got to do is tell people they can do whatever they want and still go to heaven”

Why not say that? It’s a bit of a challenge as I see it!

Go ahead and put that on the sign in front of your church and when the people show up we’ll tell them about the love of Jesus and how He chose to die for all of our sin’s. We’ll show them a little piece of that love in the Christian fellowship we’ll extend to them. We’ll be patient and supportive while the Holy Spirit works in their heart and their walls of resistance are broken down by the great love of Jesus!  And when that time comes and their ready to accept what Christ did on the cross as being for them and recognize it as being the only way to wipe away their sins we’ll pray with them that Jesus would come into their heart and be Lord of their lives! Then, If they’ve truly had a born again experience I think you’d be safe to tell them,

” Go ahead and do whatever you want! Do whatever your new best friend the Holy Spirit will abide!”

Why? Because they’ve been set FREE!

From my perspective either you believe that greater is He that is in me, or that greater is he who’s in the world…That there’s power in the blood of Christ to save us and keep us, and to forgive us, no matter what we’ve done or what we will do, or you don’t! I believe that coming to know Christ is a life changing experience, and even though there are times that we’re all going to fall short of the mark I’d put my faith the power of the Holy Spirit over that of the world anytime!

1 Corinthians 7:22

For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant.

I know that some of what I’ve written here could be easily misinterpreted. So just for the record let me state that in no way am I advocating using grace as a license for immorality or sin, neither am I saying that I don’t thoughtfully consider or that I take for granted the great price that Christ paid on the cross for my salvation.  Doctrines of works and of grace can both be taken to flawed extremes.  Personally, I feel as though I want to do my best in this life, to always choose love. But I know that I fail at it and that if it weren’t for the Gods grace I wouldn’t have any hope at all! I believe that because God is all knowing and loves us so much He made it very simple and totally free for us to be saved!

Thank You Father God!