God Doesn’t Grade on a Curve

When I was in school it was popular to ask a teacher after a test:  “Will you grade on a curve?” The hope was always that since it was unlikely anyone would get a perfect score, the brackets would be moved downward.

cartoon grade on a curve

Very few of us like absolutes.  We prefer to be judged one against another instead of against an unbendable standard.

It’s no different with morality.

If you asked me to judge myself on a scale from Hitler to Mother Teresa, I would definitely put myself closer to her rather to him.

As long I measure myself against other humans, I am comfortable saying I fall in the top 50 percent.

Trouble is, that’s not the standard.

The standard against which my actions and heart attitudes are measured is unchangeable and inflexible.

It is perfection itself-the holiness of a holy God.

And when I place myself next to that measuring rod, I am woefully short.

Jesus shocked His followers by telling them that unless their righteousness exceeded that of the Pharisees (considered the most upstanding and holy in that day) they would never enter the kingdom of God.  He expounded on every aspect of the Ten Commandments by addressing not only outward conformity (which, in truth, was impossible) but also motive and intention.

By that standard, even my “good deeds” are inadequate because they are often done with a wrong heart attitude.

I give because I want someone to think I’m generous.

I volunteer because I am a people pleaser.

I work hard because I want a raise.

Paul wrote in Romans “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23)

I can never “measure up” to the perfect standard of a perfect God.  And while my flesh may be happy with “good enough” the holiness of God demands absolute perfection.

Truth is, I am a sinner-I miss the mark, I step outside the boundaries, I do what I shouldn’t do and don’t do what I should do.

Just like our first parents, I listen to my flesh and the evil one and question God’s goodness and His wisdom.  I want to plot my own course, captain my own ship.

And also like our first parents, I find that I cannot do it.  

I fall woefully short.

I am naked and ashamed, exposed in my sin and without hope for redemption by my own efforts .

In any other story, this would be the end-no hope, no second chances.

But God….

Two of the most beautiful words in the world!  

God has not left me without hope.

He has not left me in my sin.

He has not abandoned me in my desperate state of alienation from my Creator.

He Himself has provided the Sacrifice,

the Perfect Lamb,

the propitiation for my sin.  

lamb of god with crosses

 

 

How Can I Trust My Child Is With Jesus?

There are many burdens bereaved parents bear in addition to the heaviness of living with child loss.

Some had unfinished business,

some were estranged,

some had harsh words

or no words at all before their child left them.

And some are oh, so afraid that the child that made a sincere profession of faith in Christ might not be in heaven because he or she was living outside the will of God when they died.

I can’t offer words to undo or soothe some of the other burdens, but I can offer hope from the Word of God to assure any parent afraid for the eternal salvation of their child that he or she is safely Home.

If your child made a genuine profession of faith in Christ, then no single impulsive decision or even a series of bad choices, can undo what God has done for him or her through the blood of Jesus.

If Satan is not strong enough to snatch us from God’s hand, our feeble human choices are certainly not strong enough!

Jesus declared those whom the Father had given Him could in no way be snatched from His hand:

28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

30 I and my Father are one.

John 10:28-30 KJV

The circumstances of a child’s death do not negate his or her profession of faith in the blood of Christ Jesus!

42 Then he [the repentent thief on the cross] said, “Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom.”

43 He said, “Don’t worry, I will. Today you will join me in paradise.”

Luke 22: 42-43 MSG

I realize that various denominational traditions teach different things, but I am utterly convinced that it is God Himself Who calls, Who saves, Who keeps and Who is keeping at this moment our precious children who put their trust in Jesus:

For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God;

Ephesians 2:8 AMP

I also rest satisfied that He Who began a good work in our children is faithful to complete it. If salvation depended on our good works, or our own faithfulness-ALL of us would be lost.

began a good work

We are hid in Christ. His righteousness (and HIS alone) is our righteousness.

For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

Colossians 3:3 KJV

Our sins are flung as far as the east is from the west. They are hid behind God’s back-unviewable (have you ever tried to see something on the small of your back-without a mirror?):

AS-far-as-the-east-is-1024x651

Dominic was not at the height of his Bible-toting, church-going, praise-song-singing days when he left us.  He was an adult student in law school, living in his own apartment and making his own choices.  He made some I didn’t like.  But that doesn’t change the FACT that he belonged (and STILL belongs)  to Jesus.

Your child who trusted Jesus is safe, dear parent.

He is in his really, truly Home.

One day there will be great joy when we are reunited. Until then, we rely on the promises of God in Christ to see us through.

wipe every tear 2

I pray for every parent reading that God overwhelms your hurting heart with His love, grace and mercy and assures you of His faithfulness.

And may He give you strength for each new day.

❤ Melanie

Don’t Dare Hope

My prayer list is very short.  It’s been whittled down to the basics.  I don’t ask for much and I expect less.

But today I will be waiting with bated breath to find out if a prayer that’s been lifted up for months will be answered.

It’s risky business to ask when the answer may be “no”.  If I’m honest, I’m not sure my heart can take it.

I am confident that I will see Dominic in heaven when I get there.  My heart rests assured that the blood of Christ is sufficient and my salvation sure.

BUT….

I do not dare hope anymore that when I pray specifically for someone or something it will come to pass.  Oh, I believe God HEARS my prayer, that He knows the desire of my heart, that He COULD grant my request.  But I no longer rest my head on the pillow of peace, settled in my spirit that the “effectual fervent prayers  of a righteous man or woman availeth much.”

I will be the first to admit that to hold both thoughts simultaneously seems impossible and contradictory.  Yet I do.

Because I’ve learned the hard way that my prayers are not God’s “to do” list.  He is sovereign, not me.  His plans may or may not conform to mine.  His work in my life may very well include pain and sorrow and disappointment.

Sometimes I just want that old naive hope back.  I want to erase this dark knowledge from my heart.

Especially when someone I love needs my prayers.

I want to believe.  I want to trust.  I want to rest assured that not only is my prayer heard, but that it will be granted.  But it is oh, so hard!!!!

So I offer the only prayer I can still lift up with absolute confidence:  I plead mercy and grace.

I pray that God may have mercy on my fragile spirit, that He may grant my desire and strengthen my faith.  And I pray that regardless of the outcome, He will give me the grace to accept it.

It’s the best I can do.

 

 

 

 

 

Repost: Remember: Why Good Friday Matters as Much as Resurrection Sunday

“On the one hand Death is the triumph of Satan, the punishment of the Fall, and the last enemy. Christ shed tears at the grave of Lazarus and sweated blood in Gethsemane: the Life of Lives that was in Him detested this penal obscenity not less than we do, but more.
On the other hand, only he who loses his life will save it. We are baptized into the death of Christ, and it is the remedy for the Fall. Death is, in fact, what some modern people call “ambivalent.” It is Satan’s great weapon and also God’s great weapon: it is holy and unholy; our supreme disgrace and our only hope; the thing Christ came to conquer and the means by which He conquered.”  C.S. Lewis,  Miracles

Bury a child and suddenly the death of Christ becomes oh, so personal. The image of Mary at the foot of the cross is too hard to bear.

Read the rest here:  Remember: Why Good Friday Matters as Much as Resurrection Sunday

Repost: Making Space for the Broken at the Table of the LORD

These days are especially difficult for me because Palm Sunday and Easter are markers on the road to remembering the worst days of my life.  Dominic left us the Saturday before Palm Sunday and was buried the Monday after Resurrection Sunday.

I hate death.

We shouldn’t rush past it’s awfulness.  If we do, we miss the glory of the finished work of Christ.

As we enter the week on the Christian calendar when most churches celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I am reminded that often we race past the road that lead to Calvary and linger at the empty tomb.

But to understand the beauty of forgiveness and the blessing of redemption, we MUST acknowledge the sorrow of sin and the burden of brokenness.

Read the rest here:  Making Space for Brokenness at the Table of the LORD

Good News

Reading through the Sermon on the Mount, it’s easy to feel defeated.  

Jesus ripped off the Pharisees’ masks. He gave people a peek behind the curtain-unveiling the sin that hid beneath a facade of outward obedience and seeming righteousness.

Jesus also strips away any pretense that I can follow the “rules”.  

Sure I may not murder anyone, but hate and malice-how am I supposed to get through this life without calling someone “fool”?

Line after line of impossible standards-righteousness that goes way beyond the Ten Commandments!

I am hopeless and helpless.  

Jesus makes just that point-on my own, in my own strength, dependent on my own efforts, I’m lost.

That’s what makes the Gospel the Good News!  

john-3-16

God in His mercy and grace has offered the only true hopethe righteousness of Christ, the Perfect Sacrifice and atonement for sin.  

When I walk into church and pretend I “have it altogether”, when I refuse to display my brokenness and my need for forgiveness, I obscure the beauty, value and truth of the Gospel. 

I raise a barrier between those who need rescue and the very means by which they may be saved.

brokenness-is-the-gospel

We are all broken.

We are all lost.  

Our only hope is Jesus.

May we be bold enough to be honest.  

 

 

 

Forgive Us Our Trespasses, As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us

There are lots of opportunities for offense surrounding the death of a child.

Once your heart is broken open wide with great sorrow, there’s no defense against the bumps and bruises that are a natural product of human relationship and interaction.

  • Friends and family that didn’t show up.
  • Friends and family that showed up but said or did the wrong thing.
  • Friends and family that abandoned me as soon as the casket closed.
  • People that make me feel guilty for grieving or question my sanity or my “progress”.

But I’m learning to let go of offense.

Not only because it is too heavy to carry in addition to my grief, but because the Lord has commanded it.

I grew up reciting what’s commonly called, “The Lord’s Prayer” without much thought to the individual phrases or their meaning. It wasn’t until adulthood that I read it in context and continued on to the rest of the chapter.

What I found there was chilling.  

These are some of the hard words of Christ that most lay persons and many theologians prefer to gloss over.

“For if you forgive other people their failures, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you will not forgive other people, neither will your Heavenly Father forgive you your failures.”

~Jesus (Matthew 6:14-15 PHILLIPS)

WOW!  The plain reading of this text tells me that if I refuse to forgive others, I place myself outside the forgiveness of my Father.

It makes sense though-if my sins were borne by Christ on the cross, then so were yours.  

If His grace covers me, it covers you.  

If I want to be seen through the eyes of mercy, then I must be willing to look through those same eyes at my fellow man.

At first this feels like bondage instead of freedom.  

But the truth is, forgiveness is liberating.  

It sets me free to operate in the fullness of who I am in Christ.  It forces me to trust Him with my pain, with my sorrows, with my offenses and with balancing the scales of justice.

forgiveness-quote-charles-stanley

Forgiveness opens the path to relationship and community.  It testifies to the mercy and grace of God.  

It shines like a beacon of light in a dark world.  

It is the power of Christ in me.

To forgive another person from the heart is an act of liberation. We set that person free from the negative bonds that exist between us. We say, “I no longer hold your offense against you” But there is more. We also free ourselves from the burden of being the “offended one.” As long as we do not forgive those who have wounded us, we carry them with us or, worse, pull them as a heavy load. The great temptation is to cling in anger to our enemies and then define ourselves as being offended and wounded by them. Forgiveness, therefore, liberates not only the other but also ourselves. It is the way to the freedom of the children of God.

~Henri Nouwen

forgiveness_is_the_fragrance_that_the_violet_sheds_on_the_heel_that_has_crushed_it-385646