Are You Ready To Drop Your Fig Leaf?

“Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”  John 14:6

There is not a good deed, a job well done, a self-sacrifice, or a self-condemnation that can cover our sin.  There’s not a fig leaf fancy enough that can atone.  It is God alone.  His boundless love for us propels Him to relentlessly pursues us.  He can’t help but to call for us.  Our job, our sacrifice, is to humbly accept His offer of forgiveness and allow Him to restore all that we have forfeited.

He can & He does!

Moses murdered a man.  David had an affair, got the girl pregnant, and then had her husband killed.  King Nebuchadnezzar, of Babylon, was an arrogant and bloodthirsty man.  He liked to watch people burn alive!  Peter walked side-by-side with Jesus, his friend, and still denied Him when things got a little scary.

BUT GOD!

God passionately pursued them all.  When a heart repents and turns from wrong, God restores.  God gives new hearts.

After 40 years of living a quiet hidden life, stripped of all titles, Moses was chosen to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt.  God even allowed Moses to see His glory.  God sheltered Moses in the cleft of a rock, because our physical selves cannot handle the weight of His full majesty, but God still allowed Moses this intimate moment.  He was Moses the murderer, but now he is Moses the forgiven and the redeemed.

There were some tough consequences for David’s sins, but there was also amazing redemption.  When David repented, God continued to bless him with many victories.  David, a mighty king, was named by God with an honorary title, “a man after God’s own heart.”

God loved the wicked King Nebuchadnezzar so much that He stripped him of every earthly blessing, all his social status and his power, to get his focus on what is truth.  Through the storm of losses, God already had a plan in place for Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom to be restored.  After 7 years of eating dirt this earthly king lifted his eyes to heaven, and then his “understanding returned”.

“My reason returned to me…  Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.”  Daniel 4:36-37

Can you see now?  Do you realize that you and I are not so special that God cannot redeem us too?  It’s pure arrogance to think we’re beyond His reach.  But do you also understand just how uniquely valuable we are?

“Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?””  –Genesis 3:9

God came walking in the garden like He did every day.  God already knew the choice that Adam and Eve had made, the choice to ignore His warning, the warning any loving parent would give a child, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat,”.  God tried to protect them from harm, but instead they chose to listen to the voice that led them to believe a lie.  Thinking God was holding out on them, they reached for what appeared better than what they already had, and they ate.  Their eyes were opened.  That voice did not tell a complete lie, because now they did understand more than they had before, now they knew the weight of shame.

So often we trade the whole garden for the knowledge of shame.

Shame’s voice always sounds just like the voice that reasoned us away from God in the first place – the voice of the thief.  The thief’s voice also mocks us after we concede to his tempting.  Why does he temp us?  It is his hatred for God not his want for us.  God loves us, so the thief reaches to take from God what God holds so dear – YOU!

BUT GOD!

But God already had a plan in place to free Adam, Eve, and all of us who’ve been tempted and shamed.  The very moment He comes calling, “Where are you?”  He’s ready to show us the way back to fellowship with Him.

“But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Rom. 5:8, (amp)

“Where are you?”

At one tree we picked shame up.  At another tree we can lay shame down.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” ~ Jesus

Are you ready for a new heart?  Are you ready to drop your fig leaf?

Fig Leaf

It doesn’t cover much anyway!

God already knows where you are.  Nothing is hidden from Him.  Love stands waiting for you.  Are you ready to follow the voice of truth?

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” – John 3:17

Jesus left heaven for you!

We’re not so special yet we’re so uniquely valuable.  So let’s drop our fig leafs and come home.

Are you ready yet?  Are you ready to allow God to restore all that’s been forfeited?

~ Shannan

~ A big thank you to my editor, Kimberly Wyse.  I could not be so clear without her.

Do You Want?

inside a rainbow - Johnny Austin

Do you want to be a light of hope in a dark world?

Do you want to be a faithful friend?

Do you want to lead your children well, or love your neighbor as yourself?

How about sincere intimacy with your spouse?

“The greatest weapon at our disposal is our intimacy with Father. Our dependency on Him. Taking time to soak and wait on Him is vital so we get to know Him and hear His voice. Yes He will use us to do mighty deeds but it’ll be as we’re first and foremost laid-down lovers of God.” -Adele Richards, God’s Waiting Room.

We can love if we spend time with Love. Our countenance will radiate Him.

“When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD.” – Ex. 34:29

Whatever we want to be, we will learn to be it well when we spend time with God.

What do you want?

~Shannan

Learning To Lean, 2013

I’m Marching! But Which Way Do I Go?

I’m beginning to think that the journey God has taken me on over the last few years is a tiny bit on the crazy side.  Actually, after talking with a friend today and sharing most of my childhood story I am just about convinced.  I’m reminded of the irrational battle plan He gave to Joshua regarding the city of Jericho, only I’m not sure I even have the “plan” yet.  I do know God is at work in every aspect of my life, and I feel He has me already in the process of marching, but He’s only allowing me to see one precious step at a time.  In certain areas of my life I feel like a small child just learning to how to walk.

I remember teaching my niece to take her first steps.  I would always make sure her path was clear of things that could cause her injury.  I stood behind her with my hands perfectly positioned at the right height for her to reach up and grab hold of my fingers.  I would wrap my thumbs just above her tiny wrists to support her, and have my other free fingers loose but ready to grab her at the first sign of harm.  Her face would brighten with a huge smile that literally stretched from ear-to-ear with every successful wiggly step.  She was gaining strength and confidence in her wobbly little legs with my support and by my willingness to be patient with her.  As my niece was focused on getting her not so cooperative legs to move forward, she was unaware of how I kept watch of everything around her – behind and ahead.  What lies ahead is usually most important, but I also wanted to be fully aware of where the dog was, along with the cat and anyone else who chose to come pouncing into the room.  There were times that I had to allow her to tumble slightly, so she could learn it was okay to fall and that she could get back up, but there was absolutely no way I was going to allow lasting harm to come to her.  She knew that “Mommy Shannan” had her!  Her confidence in my presence and her memory of my arms catching her in the past, allowed her to focus on learning her new ability.

As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him.  For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” – Psalm 103:13-14

I do not doubt that my niece would have eventually learned how to walk on her own, but I cannot imagine the fears that could still grip her heart today had she had to face that lesson alone.  Who knows what her tiny little feet could have stepped on, or what harm she could have tumbled into? Even our feet have memories that can carry upward to our heart and mind.  These thoughts all fall into the “What if?” category, it’s just how my mind is operating today.  But if I, a flawed human being, can care about these tiny little details, how much more does God care for us?

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!“ – Matthew 7:11

Joshua was given a battle plan.  He was told to march around Jericho once every six days and do nothing else.  That is until the seventh day, when God commanded the priest to blow their trumpets and had all the people shout.  I can only imagine what Joshua might have been thinking and feeling during his seven-day parade.  I’m sure he felt a sense of urgency as he set out on his first day to march around Jericho’s city wall.  I can almost bet that his urgency turned to anxious thoughts that carried from his tired feet to his pounding heart.  His pounding heart would have caused his mind to scream questions like, “Is this really Your plan?”  Did I hear my thoughts or Your voice?”  I’m sure he battled moments of doubt.  “God, what are You waiting for?”  But Joshua continued to march in complete obedience to God’s command.  He chose to trust God even when He appeared to be a little crazy with His plan.  Joshua’s obedience led him to absolute victory.  When the trumpets sounded and the people raised their voices to shout the city wall fell flat and the army marched straight into the city and conquered it.

God’s ways may seem strange or impossible, but He is the God who causes a bush to burst into flames yet never burn.  He is the God who causes iron to float, seas to part, and storms to cease.*  How often do we forget that this same God who flattens cities with a shout is also the God who raised Jesus from the dead?  He knew before our time began all that we would need and He’s cleared our path.  Today as I wrestle with the anxieties of reality, as I know reality to be, I will choose to trust God.  I’m just waiting for the “seventh day” to see God shine.  Until then, I know God has a firm grip on me and He is keeping watch.  I know and trust that God will never allow me to fall into harms way without making a way of escape first.

…I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, and not forsake them.” -Isaiah 42:16

If we really believe God is all we confess Him to be, then we should be able to rest on His promises.  If we truly believe He is Holy and above all others and just in His ways, then we must be obedient to all His commands.  This will determine whether or not we have absolute victory or absolute defeat.

Just as my niece knew from past experiences that I was trustworthy to lead her in her new adventure of learning how to walk, Joshua also had many memories of God’s credibility.  God told Joshua that He would lead them and that He would give them “every place that their foot tread upon” (Joshua 1:3).  What God did for Moses at the Red Sea He also did for Joshua at the Jordan River.  God parted the water and dried up the earth underneath for all of Israel to safely cross over.  Joshua chose to remember what God had done then and chose to trust God as he stood before the walls of Jericho.  Will you trust God as you stand looking at the impossible wall before you today?

Yes, I’m Marching!  I will go forward in the way God leads, even if it’s baby step by precious baby step!

~Shannan

2011, Keeping It Real!

* Burning Bush – Ex. 3:2, Iron floats – 2 Kings 6:5-6, Waters part – Ex. 14, Joshua 3, Calms the storm – Matt. 8:23-27

Jordan’s Parting

“I AM THE LORD.
I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians,
I will rescue you from their bondage, and
I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.”

“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a SPECIAL TREASURE to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.  You shall be to Me a kingdom of priest and a holy nation.” (Ex. 6:6, 19:5-6)

God had already prepared and commissioned Moses at the burning bush before the people of Israel cried out for His help.  God had already set in motion the answer to their prayers before they even asked Him.

God walked Israel through plagues and sea and sustained them through the wilderness, but the focus we must keep is His absolute deliverance.  God gave a promise that seemed to be empty words for 40 years, “You shall be to Me a kingdom of priest and a holy nation.”  The wilderness sure does not feel like priestly dwellings, but God was not through with His plan.

God is not through with the unfolding of your life’s plan.  What seems to be, is not what is.  God is carving out the final details in the future so that they are ready for you when you arrive.

You have walked through the ten plagues and your feet have felt the dry ground in the middle of the Red Sea, but now your Jordan is parting.  The words of your testimony are for those who follow behind you, they are your gathered stones.  Be sure to build with them and God will do the rest.  God is faithful to His promises – He is mighty to save.

“Then he spoke to the children of Israel, saying: “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ Then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’; for the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over, that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.” (Joshua 4:21-24)

Joshua was born a slave in Egypt but became a conqueror in Canaan.  He was obedient in faith, courageous, and dedicated to God and His word.

“Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the LORD of hosts.” (Zech 4:6)

~Shannan

2011, Keeping It Real!

I Would Have Missed It!

"More To The Story" -John D. Austin

A few weeks back I found myself running way behind schedule.  I had so many things to accomplish on my list.  Walking through a huge hardware store to quickly grab a few things, I paused to look at another item.  While seeking something very specific, one of the store’s employees stopped to check on me.  He was a sweet older gentleman, a tender grandpa type, with silver hair and a soft disposition.  He tried to help, but they did not have anything like what I was hoping for.

As our conversation continued, he told me he was a pastor who had left the church completely.  He had been so hurt and beat-up by the people, he just never went back.  Sadly, I have seen this happen too many times.  I listened for a long time as he openly shared his story and handed me his heart.  He acknowledged that he too had made mistakes along the way and knew he should not have allowed people to keep him away so long.  With all the things that transpired over the years, he knew God would forgive him, but he could not forgive himself.

As he came to the end of his story, God spoke to me in a way He had never done before.  God said, “Ask him if he’s bigger than Me.”  To which I replied, “What?”  Again, God’s voice was so clear, “Ask him if he’s bigger than Me.”  Here I am, standing in front of a total stranger who’s opening up some very deep personal things, and God wants me to ask him a smart-alack question?  After wrestling with the thought internally for a few moments, I knew not to ignore this command, so I waited for the man to pause.

I took a deep breath and softened my face as much as I could, “Are you bigger than God?”

He asked me then to repeat my question, as if he didn’t completely hear what I had said.  I asked the question again.  “Are you bigger than God?”.  His eyes began to fill with tears, and he wanted to know what made me ask this particular question.  I told him the truth.  “God told me to.”  More tears filled his eyes as he shared that I was the second person to ask him that very question in the last two weeks.

Sometimes God pours words through me, and I too begin to learn the lesson being relayed to others.  I know it is completely God and not of my own knowledge.  This was again the case as I began to speak.  “To deny ourselves forgiveness is like telling God we’re bigger than He is.  If God cannot forgive my sin, then I must be God.  To say to God, I know You forgive me, but I cannot forgive myself, is saying Jesus is not enough.”

I suggested to the gentleman that God must care very deeply for him, and wanted him to grab hold of the forgiveness extended his way.  It was time to leave the past behind and choose to allow God to fill his life today.  He called me a few months later to tell me that he went back to church and re-dedicated his life to Christ.

I did not want to stand there that day and hear his story.  I was so full of anxiety over it being just me now (since the loss of my husband), and the weight of the never-ending to-do list on my shoulders.  I simply wanted to get things done and get home.  Look at what I would have missed!

As I read through Exodus, I see how bad things got for the people of Israel while Moses was being obedient to what God asked him to do.  Moses even questioned God.

“So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Lord, why have You brought trouble on this people?  Why is it You have sent me?  For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done evil to this people; neither have You delivered Your people at all.” -Exodus 5:22-23

Why did God delay bringing the children of Israel out of Egypt?  He promised He was going to set them free in this way, so why allow all these plagues to happen first?  Moses pretty much told God He didn’t make any sense.  Moses could not see beyond where he was standing and the situation he was in.  He could not see ahead to what God already knew.

“And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the children of Israel from among them.” -Exodus 7:5

for at this time I will send all My plagues to your very heart, and on your servants and on your people, that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth.” -Exodus 9:14

The Egyptian Pharaohs believed they were themselves a god.  God revealed to the Egyptians His absolute power and reign over the earth and man.  God always has a purpose.  Our delays are nothing less than God being right on time.

God cares for others with the same love and compassion He cares for me.  If my being in this place is to benefit the kingdom as a whole, then I am exactly where I should be .  My comfort level is not the issue, my obedience and trust in God is.  How much do I trust Him with my life?

There’s a bigger picture to unfold.  God is painting a beautiful masterpiece and will reveal it only when He is finished.  I am nothing less than self-centered to think my delayed request, or God’s “Wait”, has everything to do with me.  He has a master plan and many whom He hears and loves and is leading to Himself.

I would have missed a beautiful portrait had I continued to rush through my day, and would have missed seeing God touch the heart of that dear soul in the hardware store.  No doubt, this journey of life has lead me down a few roads of pain, but God has been guiding my steps to the exact places He’s needed me to be.  That’s a beauty that can only come from His brush strokes.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”  ~ Albert Einstein

Will you share a story with me?  Do you have a time when a delay changed your mindset?

May You Walk In Boldness and Love Today,
Shannan Parker
copyright Feb. 2 ‘2010

Dear God, Please keep our minds and our hearts focused on You.  Guide our footsteps.  Let not one be taken in vain.  Father, help us to see others around us, and be ready to respond in times of need.  In Jesus name, amen.