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All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags…Isaiah 64:6a

the-ragmanAn eighty year-old friend of mine told me of a cruel joke her older siblings would play  on her when she was a little girl in order to prove their dominance. They told her they were going to give her to the “rag man”.

She explained a man came through the streets with a horse-drawn carriage collecting old rags and other broken down items people no longer wanted. He was the  precursor to the junkman. Her brothers and sisters were in essence telling her she was junk and unwanted.

Growing up in the 1960’s, it was common to see bumper stickers proclaiming that “God doesn’t make junk.”  That’s true. But we no longer live is the Garden of Eden. Sin has invaded our world and seeped into our lives. Hate to say it folks, but when our humanistic society tells us that we are all essentially good inside, it is lying. We are not. One of the first things babies learn to do is manipulate others, think of “me” first, and tell falsehoods.

We are junk, but that doesn’t mean we are not wanted. God wants nothing more than to restore us back to priceless. He has bought us from the rag man through His own death for our sake and washed our filthy rags to become garments of pure white. He make us sinless…over and over again. Jesus paid the price to buy us back on the cross when God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2Corinthians 5:21  

What does that mean?

Perhaps you once played with a commercially made Raggedy Ann or Andy — the cloth

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courtesy of peskybombolino

dolls with a red heart painted on their chests. Originally homemade rag dolls were sewn from leftover clothes, odd buttons and whatever stuffing was around the house. But the cool thing? Each was unique. Each took time and imagination to create. Each came from junk and were transformed into a gift of beauty by the labor of love.

 

God can take whatever has become ragged and junky in our lives due to sin and make it into something good and of worth. We will never be thrown into the pit or garbage pile once we agree to become His child. His love for us makes Him pursue us so eventually, even if we fight it, we will yield to His restoration process.

No one likes change. It can be scary. But God loves us enough to accept us as we are yet, in spite of our raggedness, still wants to change us into His likeness– stitch by stitch, just like the rag doll.

So climb onto the rag man’s cart. God is not finished with you yet. Deliver yourself into the hands of the Master and watch your beauty being restored from the inside out. It may take a while, perhaps a lifetime. But God is a patient, slow to anger, and compassionate. (Psalm 103:8-9)

I’m another rags to riches story in the making. How about you?

 

 

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A local Christian radio personality relayed how she was driving down the road when a cop flashed his lights and motioned her to pull over.  She admitted her blood pressure rose and her teeth clenched because she wasn’t speeding. How dare he?!

Then he told her that around the blind curve was a huge obstacle in the road and the road was very poorly lit. At highway speeds, she’d have careened into it. Other policemen were removing it now. Would she mind waiting about ten  minutes.

After she sputtered and nodded, the officer jumped in his car, and with lights flashing, swirled around to block the road for the oncoming vehicles behind her. She publicly thanked the policeman on the radio and apologized for her initial reaction.

It made me wonder how often God blocks my path and I MP900444553[1]grouse about it. How often does He detour me from danger and I complain because things are not happening “my way”? How often were those irritating moments that delayed me –like the cat hacking a furball in my shoe just before I went to slip it on, or a button snapping that I have to quickly repair, or the moving van blocking my exit from my apartment complex for a few minutes– actually work to my advantage without me knowing it?

 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Lord, forgive me. Let me publicly say thank you to You for putting obstacles in my path and delays in my day. Thank you for the story on the radio today that stepped on my spiritual toes a bit. Next time, I will try to be more patient and praise You in all circumstances. Through Your Son and by Your Spirit I pray, Amen.

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wool-1142177_640You want to pull it, but you know you shouldn’t. That dangling thread on the seam of your clothes is bugging you. Does that describe your life?

I looked down and saw it. Arghh. Now would everyone see it? Would it snag on things through the day?  A broken strand of thread dangled out of the seam. And I was running late.

Do I pull it? Is it worth the risk unraveling the whole hem?

Tape it? Most likely it wouldn’t hold very long.

Snip it? A temporary fix, but that wouldn’t solve the issue of the broken thread unraveling again. I knew the integrity of the stitch had been compromised. But it might give me time to deal with it later…when I get the chance.

Things in our lives can feel as if they are starting to unravel. What we have carefully hemmed together is starting to tear. What do we do about it?  Do we yank at the problem to get rid of it quickly and take the chance of it all falling apart? If we tug, it might reveal more and more that has become untied.

Do we tape it and hide the issue from others, hoping it will stay beneath the surface. Then go one about our business as if it is fixed?

Or do we snip at it each time it appears, never really investing the time to dealing with it properly?

Do we rush to discard that piece of clothing, put on something else, and toss it in the to-be-meded pile?

Or do we actually stop, take time to tie it, stitch it back, and secure it so it doesn’t happen anymore?

I once heard that a day knotted with prayer at both ends won’t unravel. Paul says it this way:

The lines of purpose in your lives never grow slack, tightly tied as they are to your future in heaven, kept taut by hope. I Colossians 1:5 (MSG)

When something snags in our lives, we need to deal with that equilibrist-1831016_640dangling thread lest it unravel us. Hope, bolstered by prayer, is the best way to re-anchor our faith.  We need to allow our Lord to be the needle which can guide the wayward thread and knot it so it doesn’t affect the rest of the hem that is our life.

That may mean stopping what we are doing in order to handle it. It may involve a few pricks of our conscience as His needle deals with the transgression, anger or guilt. Perhaps it will cause us to halt in our tracks and not go further until we are sure it is dealt with properly.

But unless it is resolved correctly, that dangling thread tickling our conscience will bother us over and over until we are forced to deal with it. And by that time, the things hemming our lives might be starting to unravel enough that it shows.

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There are many posts, blogs, articles and thoughts about the New Year. Make a resolution or not. Turn over a new leaf. Find a meaningful word. What is our focus?

ID-10018835If it is on us, then perhaps it is why we seem to fall short each year. After all, Paul reminds us that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

I once heard that both SIN and PRIDE have “I” in the middle. In today’s “me-ism”  world of selfies and all-about-me introverted thinking, our society suffers from too much of a focus on ourselves and not others. Whether we meet our goals or not, the focus is still the same…it is on us. How quickly that can absorb us, right?

In contrast, the Christian is supposed to strive to be more other-focused. Paul also told the Philippians, and tells us –

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!  (2:3-8)

ID-10024045Perhaps, instead of focusing on how we should change, become more aware, adjust our weight, habits, etc. we need to shift our focus to the Cross. Not rely on our own strength, or even ask God to give us strength, but for Him to be our strength. May we choose to be other-orientated and open to being used to His glory. Let God set the path, and be pliable enough to be molded in the way He wishes so we can be His hands and feet in this world and point others to Him, not ourselves.

Who knows. In the process, we might discover by the end of 2017 we met our original “goals” after all. I personally pray I will have done infinitely more than just that – because my actions and reactions will have eternal consequences either way.

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Blessed Christmas

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:11

May you find God in your life today, and every day.

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Pray for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.                  1 Timothy 2:2 NIV

vote-1319435__180I always took the first part of the passage as an action. In my church, each Sunday we pray for the president, governor, Congress, city council and mayor. Over my life there have been times I gritted my teeth, but prayed anyway, out of obedience. After all, that is what Scripture tells us to do, right?

But God brought the second half of the verse into focus for me today. Perhaps because of the anxiety people are feeling over the presidential election in a few weeks.

So how we can live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness…not at the elected officials’ hands, but in assurance we have placed them in God’s hand, our ultimate authority.

We cannot totally depend on humans to handle or solve our national, state or local problems, no matter what they promise.God Bless America  But we can act out what our coinage states and place our elected officials and this nation’s people under God’s care, trusting in Him.  In other words, pray for them.  We may not see a change in their attitudes or beliefs, but we may see one in us.  Our hearts may become more palatable to loving our neighbors and our enemies. Our anxieties or frustrations may minimize. Hope may bubble up a bit more in our souls.

Then and only then will we find peace and quiet, godly living and His holiness.

 

 

 

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