Clothes make the man?

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Barbie

1 Peter 3:3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.

rather….1 Peter 3:4 You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.

Our granddaughters visited this past week, eager to open the toy/book closet and bring out our one and only Barbie.  Thinking about her and the many outfits Mattel has launched over the years caused me to reflect about inherent versus infused versus imputed righteousness.

Since the Fall our essence is no longer inherently righteous;in other words, righteousness is not part of our nature. But some people try to dress themselves, like Barbie, in good works, thereby APPEARING righteous.  Then there are those who believe that the righteousness obtained by Christ’s death on the cross and His perfect obedience can be infused in us, thereby altering our nature. But that is not what the Bible teaches. In fact the 16th century reformers emphasized the historic, original biblical teaching that our righteousness  is by faith alone, through grace alone because of Christ’s work alone.

Since this reckoning or crediting of justification comes from Christ, it is an ‘alien’ righteousness, from outside of us. It’s more akin to an outfit that Barbie’s owner dresses her in.  Just as the doll’s garments cover her, so too Christ’s works cover us. It’s a false conclusion to think then, that ‘as are the clothes, then so too are we‘.  The clothes don’t make the man or woman, they COVER us.  Similarly, Christ’s righteousness cancels our sin in God’s books.

Even with the Barbie example in our minds, we can still be self-righteous and be unaware. Pleasure in any of ‘my’ obedience or good works weakens me so I succumb to pride and all of Satan’s other ploys.

As protection, I try to remember to ask the Holy Spirit to remind me of ‘the truth’.  Daily I mentally don the kind of apparel that my heavenly Father prefers, what Peter teaches:

  • a quiet and complete trust in God that eliminates all fear despite desperate circumstances.
  • spiritual armor that both protects and strengthens my faith, my most valuable God-given gift
  • my attitude towards us, specifically dressing myself as per Paul’s instructions: Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Col 3:12

The question that puts me in my place, as a dependent creature is this:

Maria, what are you trusting in this day to guarantee your salvation and eternal life with the happy, holy Triune God ?

How easy it is to lie and steal

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I didn’t lie yesterday, but God showed me how very easily I could have and what a pickle I would have been in.

Lowe's

Mike and I were at Lowe’s to look for a new kitchen trashcan.  We found one we liked, but it was the floor model and had a small dent.  In talking with the sales associate I inquired about a reduction in price due to the dent.  He thought that would be likely.  We found another small defect and I suggested, “We should get 50 % off this floor model then since there are 2 issues and no box to boot!”  He agreed.

We had to wait while he sought approval first from customer service, then from a floor manager who had to check with his supervisor by phone. The supervisor advised him that 20 % is the max discount in such cases, not the 50% I had asked for. In the end, as the floor manager completed the ‘sale’ price, he informed us:

  • “Lowe’s never gives 50 % off for a damaged floor model.”
  • I replied, “But the sales guy said it was likely!”
  • He asked, “What’s his name?”
  • “Bill”

The floor manager THEN informed Mike and me that he was going to have a serious talk with Bill, because all Lowe’s employees know NEVER to offer a discount like that to customers and that Bill could possibly be fired!

I was horrified.  What if I had ‘lied’ about Bill mentioning the 50% off reduction?  I would have had a SERIOUS crisis of conscience on my hands.  I would have had to admit to Mr. Floor Manager:

  • Oh…no, uhh,….. he didn’t really say that.  I just said that…..about the 50% off.  Don’t hold that against him!

My stomach felt the same blow to the gut as THOUGH I had lied.  Maybe God gave me a glimpse of the ‘wages’ of sin!  Whew – I didn’t enjoy looking into the precipice.

**

Then there was a moment last June when I came close to the edge of sin.  I was at school and was putting something back in my desk drawer when I recalled that I needed sticky name tags for a church seminar I was facilitating.  The stash of labels was front and center, lying in that desk drawer at school.  But something kept me from what I’ve done in the past – ‘availing myself of’ a school provision for home use.

Would my using work-provided supplies be considered stealing?  If not, it certainly pointed to something worse: UNBELIEF!

unbelief  How so?  Because lickedy split my inclination was:  I DON’T want to spend  $2 at the store to purchase what I need when I have some tags right at my fingertips.  But who provides me with all my needs, my daily bread?  Is my God THAT miserly in what He gives that I can’t afford a small office supply from the money He provides through our work?  God pointed out the larger sin that underlay my temptation to sin: to steal. I was ashamed and well taught in the moment.

Phil 4:19 – And my God will supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

But lest you think that I always stop right before this kind of sin, I don’t. Frequently I know what I am doing AS I move forward, yielding to the shortcut of sin. Remorse immediately follows afterwards.

So why do I lie? Why do I tell someone what I think he/she WANTS to hear?  Because I don’t want to experience the:

  • annoyance
  • anger
  • disappointment
  • dress down of the person to whom I am lying

What struck me during a recent post-lie conversation with God was how misplaced my fears were, how little respect I had for God.  Rather than avoiding the possible displeasure of my interlocutor, I should GREATLY fear lying to God who is holy, who has given me life AND shown me nothing but love and mercy.  Is this how I treat my Father?  What does THAT say about how much I value Him?

One hears in Christian circles that as one gets closer to divine light, as God’s holy flashlight penetrates the dark recesses of sin in the heart, one FEELS more sinful. As the years go by, I grow increasingly aware of my sin, daily and I am shocked.  I don’t know why, except I thought ‘I was BETTER than that’.  Ha!

I am learning (through lots of pop quizzes) to thank God FOR his gentle training rebukes that follow my failures.  It means I’m a daughter,

“……because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Hebrews 12:6

 

 

The power of wives and wrong decisions

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I almost pulled an ‘Eve’ on my husband. 

Eve and the apple

Standing in front of a cage at Sarge’s Animal Rescue, Mike held Jason, the kitten he had previewed earlier in the week.  This orange tabby had been brought in with his litter brother a few weeks earlier. We had made the rational decision to seek just one kitten to bring home to lonely Luther.  In the space of 3 months, Luther had lost Leia, our feline matriarch AND Calvin, his brother from whom he had not been apart in 8 1/2 years.

For the past 2 months, Luther has cried and cried and cried.  (Mike works from home, so he has been the one to witness this constant plaintive and ‘annoying’ expression of cat grief.)

We’ve had the pattern of adopting cats in pairs, but had arrived at the conclusion that we should bring home only one kitty this time.  Money considerations as well as a fear of overwhelming poor Luther were good reasons.

But when I stood in front of that cage and thought of the poor little gray kitten who would soon be left behind, I put Mike on the spot by asking, “Are you sure it’s the right decision to adopt only one? We’d be separating the brothers.”

And Mike reacted like Adam, “I’ll let you make the decision”  (aka:  whatever makes you happy)

Now maybe a husband who just wants to please his wife sounds ideal to some women.  But it’s wrong if it’s used as an across-the-board principle.  What SCARES me is that I came really close to letting an emotional reaction arbitrate and replace a rational decision we had made together.  What ALSO is frightening is the degree of power we wives have available to us, vis à vis our husbands.  Women know how to play on a husband’s antipathy to standing up to possible emotional pressure from us.  They call it, ‘pleasing their wives‘.  Of course men are to be considerate and love their wives, but that doesn’t mean ALWAYS giving in. Men are called to be wise but firm leaders.  And that can be painful as men have to weather female drama.

In the end, an ever so slight whisper from the Holy Spirit pushed me away from the brink and I came back to my senses and said, “No, we made the decision just to select one. And this little one seems the calmer of the two.  He’ll be a better fit for Luther.”  I then turned to the volunteer hovering to help us.  “Will Jason’s brother be adopted soon, do you think?”

“Without a doubt,” came the reply, “kittens go quickly.”   And with a sigh of relief, I felt affirmed in sticking to our original decision.

I pray that next time, if I am tempted to push Mike in a similar situation, I’ll flee before I even flirt with that apple, no matter how tasty it looks.

Jason on the sofa - 8 Mar

I surrender

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My new acronym to stop me before I sin again is MMAASS – Maria’s motives are always sinfully suspect.  When I was growing up my father would warn me and correct me by remarking, “Maria, you like to pull wings off of flies!” He meant that I deliberately enjoyed and would engage in saying something to hurt someone.

The other day, I did it again. Emailed someone with the intention of making them feel stupid and making myself look smart and logical in my reasons.  I’m getting sick of my same sin, yet….it lures me and holds out the promise of future payoff.  And I’m a sucker.

This ongoing sin lures me in my on-line (mostly uni-directional)  dealings with a couple of family members.  Frequently I send them and forward on postings/ essays to make them think, “Oh, Maria is so right about X!  I should change how I think.”  At least that is what I fantasize will happen.

Why do I need to do A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G to make myself look better in the eyes of someone?  (and why do I  assume I will look ‘better/more superior’? – maybe I am flattering myself!)

Isn’t it enough to know that the triune God……

-planned for me before creation

-with a joyful heart came to earth to live a perfect life and suffer a painful death for my sins

-forgave and rescued me

-has linked His power and name with mine forever

-works on my behalf even now, as personal intercessor and trainer in holiness

-offers constant access to the King and happy Sovereign of the universe

-is keeping a spot prepared for me in heaven

Isn’t all that enough?  Why do I need to work to get other people to look at me with awe?

All smelly sin.

So, with Christ’s help and the promptings of the Holy Spirit, I renounce that sick hobby, this day, 25 November 2012.  Amen!

PS:  Knowing me, I’ll succumb again, but there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.  So I will depend on the future grace and gift of repentance and forgiveness.

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